A variety of dates on display. Activities at the Liwa festival span more than 20,000 square metres this year, and 220 prizes worth Dh6 million are on offer. Image Credit: Courtesy: Liwa Date Festival

Abu Dhabi: A prolific display of dates, the UAE’s most loved fruit, has been greeting visitors to the ongoing Liwa Date Festival in Al Gharbia (Western Region).

The 10th edition of the festival, which began on Saturday (July 12), is expected to attract up to 70,000 visitors before it wraps up on Friday (July 18), Obaid Al Mazroui, the festival’s director, told Gulf News.

“This annual event is the most important in the Western Region town of Liwa, and provides a perfect opportunity to learn about the cultivation and preservation of the palm tree, as well as different varieties of the fruit,” Al Mazroui said.

This year, festival activities span more than 20,000 square metres, and the number of competition prizes has been increased to 220 awards worth Dh6 million, compared with 205 awards with a value of Dh5 million last year. Like last year, the event coincides with the month of Ramadan, which sees a spike in the demand for dates because the fruit is traditionally eaten by Muslims when ending the fast.

The festival is held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

In addition to the traditional market that offers dates, date products and items produced from fronds and other parts of the palm tree, there are also a slew of competitions to engage and interest farm owners.

Two new contests have been launched this year, including one that will pick the most hygienic farm. Titled the Model Farm Award, it will look into methods used by farm owners to get rid of harmful pests and plants, as well as waste disposal, fertiliser use, infrastructure maintenance and soil quality preservation.

Festival organisers will visit the participating plantations, and three cash prizes worth a total of Dh825,000 will be awarded to the best entries.

The aim of the contest, which is expected to include about 100 farms in Liwa, is to encourage owners to improve the quality of produce and enhance soil quality and general hygiene. According to organisers, the assessment of winning farms will also continue throughout the year, with the jury making three random visits to ensure that winners are still committed to their high standards.

Another new competition encourages local agricultural production, and offers a total of Dh100,000 in awards. The Fruits of the House segment will recognise farms with the best production of fruits such as grapes, figs, pineapples, pomegranates and grapefruit.

Like previous years, the mainstay of the festival includes other competitions to select the best traditional artwork, a date beauty contest, and other contests for the best mangoes and the best lemons.

The festival is open daily from 8pm to 1am.