The Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) will host a three-day specialised scientific conference on date palm culture in the UAE.

Announcing the details of the centre's eighth specialised conference, Dr Ali Ghanem Al Arai, Deputy Director for Community Services and Head of Conference Department at the ECSSR, said more than 20 local, regional and international experts and scholars will present their papers and studies on date palm culture.

The conference, called 'The International Date Palm Forum: Date Palm Culture in the United Arab Emirates' will begin at the Inter-Continental Hotel in the capital on Sunday.

"The conference is being held under the instructions of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who has continuously stressed the importance of sustaining a sound environment and has given particular attention to the cultivation and preservation of date palm trees," said Dr Al Arai.

He also announced that an exhibition will be held alongside the conference.

"There will be the Date Palm Exhibition, where participants will display the cream of the UAE-related institutes, companies, and bodies such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the UAE University, Women's Federation, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Municipalities, Al Ain Department of Agriculture and Zoology, Emirates Dates Factory, and others," he said.

Dr Al Arai said a documentary film, Feast of Dates, produced by the Ministry of Information and Culture, will be screened.

He said the country has more than four million date palms, with over 120 varieties. The conference will look into the prospect of date products' contribution to the country's diversifying economy.

The other topics include the history of dates and their consumption in the ancient Arabian Gulf. "The conference consists of five sessions, including 24 lectures addressed by the distinguished panel of speakers from the prestigious local, regional and international institutes," he added.

Some of the key institutes taking part in the event are: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Germany; Date Palm Research and Development Programme from the UAE University; Agricultural Science Unit from the College of Science at the University of Qatar; Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS); University of York in the UK; Middle Eastern Archaeology Division at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Archaeobotany Sciences at Sorbonne University (Paris I) in France; Bio-Control Project of Red Palm Weevil from the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development at the UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Environmental and Biological Research Programme at the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research; Horticultural Sciences at the Hassan II Agronomic and Veterinary Institute in Morocco; the Research Station on the Date Palm and Arid Land Farming Systems in Spain; the Agricultural Projects of the Namibian Development Corporation and other African and European organisations.

The key speakers at the conference include Hama Arab Diallo of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, who will present a paper on the role of date palm culture in combating desertification, and Dr Mark Beech of ADIAS, on the archaeological evidence for early date consumption in the Arabian Gulf.

The other speakers include Dr Daniel Potts, who speaks on date palms and date consumption in the Gulf Region during the Bronze Age, and Dr Hassan Shabana, a date palm expert at the UAE ministry of agriculture and fisheries, will speak on the varieties of date palms in the UAE.