Abu Dhabi: More than 2,000 participants have already registered for the sixth session of the Liwa Date Festival's Date Competition, which this year is offering a total of Dh5 million in monetary prizes.
Other prizes will include various 4x4 vehicles, it was revealed by Engineer Mubarak A. Al Qusaili Al Mansouri, who heads the competition's judging committee.
The festival is being held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.
"Every year, awareness about the competition and requests to participate increase. We receive questions and visitors from all around the region and world, but to be a part of the competition, you must have a farm in the UAE," Al Mansouri said.
Once a farm is successfully registered, a team of two to three experts is sent to examine it, and half the total points are awarded for factors such as the overall hygiene of the farms and its methods of irrigation.
"It is not enough to simply present your dates to the competition," Al Mansouri said.
"Because the government and the committee are constantly encouraging our farmers to be efficient and manage their resources effectively, 50 per cent of participants' overall points for the competition goes towards observations on their farms," he said.
"But if a farm is awarded first place from the observations but its dates are not, then the overall score is averaged," he added. The competition's "ratab" (date) categories are: Khallas; dabbas, abu maan, fardh, nukhba and a new addition to the festival, the khanizi.
In addition there will also be a competition for mazayin al ratab (half-ripe dates), considered to be the most important in the festival because of the precision required to collect the dates.
"Each competitor is only allowed to present 20 baskets in each category, which are given barcodes to prevent cheating," Al Mansouri said.
"Of those, 50 dates are selected and placed on a measuring tray and weighed. Afterwards, the results are sent to a computer and the winner is announced." Al Mansouri said the festival's growing popularity and demand for dates produced in the UAE had provided farmers in Liwa with an opportunity to participate in international festivals.
These included the Riverside County Fair and Date Festival in California in the US.
"Liwa has always been known for its dates, especially the dabbas dates," he said.
"They are actually quite popular outside the UAE, not only in the region, but even around the world. "Some of the reasons why include the fact that they take a long time to ripen so can be preserved for long journeys.
"This festival is a great opportunity to showcase not only our heritage but our traditional produce as well."
What: Liwa Date Festival
- When: Saturday, July 17 - Monday, July 26
- Time: 10am - 10pm
- Travel: Buses leave from Abu Dhabi Mall and Marina Mall at 9am and return to Abu Dhabi at 8pm. Visit www.liwadatesfestival.ae
If you would like to take part:
• Participants must bring dates from their farms and provide proof by the deadline specified.
• Dates must be from the 2010 season, in a suitable state of ripeness, free of infections or insects; of apparent defects and free of sand impurities.