Officials during a press conference shared details of the upcoming 19th edition of the event Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The latest edition of the Liwa Dates Festival, which will offer Dh8.3 million in prizes for the best products, will run from July 17 to 30 in Liwa City in Al Dhafra Region of Abu Dhabi emirate.

The Festival is organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi and Emirates Heritage Club, under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of the Presidential Court.

During a press conference today at the Mohamed Khalaf Majlis in Abu Dhabi, the organising committee revealed the details of the upcoming edition. The event witnessed the presence of dignitaries, including Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Director of the Planning and Projects Administration at the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi; Mubarak Ali Al Qusaili Al Mansouri, Director of Mazayna at the festival; Samira Omar Al Ameri, Head of Media Department at Emirates Heritage Club; as well as other officials, sponsors, media representatives, farmers, and heritage enthusiasts.

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Al Mazrouei highlighted the significance of the Liwa Date Festival in line with the vision of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in supporting the agricultural sector, reinforcing food security, and boosting the national economy.

Al Mazrouei emphasized the festival’s role in honouring the legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who laid the foundations for the agricultural sector and its development. The event also aims to foster interest in palm trees, their products, and the traditional handicrafts associated with them, thus preserving the UAE’s rich heritage.

Al Mazrouei acknowledged the continuous success of the festival over the past 19 years and expressed gratitude for the consistent support and patronage of Sheikh Mansour, who has played a crucial role in making agriculture a vital part of the Emirati culture.

Al Mazrouei also extended his appreciation to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, for his dedicated guidance and supervision in developing and promoting various events and festivals in the region.

He added that the festival serves as a platform to bring together professionals, business owners, and investment institutions engaged in the palm tree industries. It garners the participation of numerous government and private organizations involved in agriculture, with a particular focus on palm trees and their derivatives.

The festival aims to showcase Emirati heritage, support local products, promote the culture of agriculture in society, highlight the UAE’s efforts in sustainable food practices, and encourage community participation in national sustainability strategies.

Contests and prizes

Al Mazrouei disclosed that this year’s edition, coinciding with the Year of Sustainability, will feature 23 main competitions offering a total of 293 prizes worth Dh8.3 million. The competitions encompass various categories, including the best dates (rutab mazayna) competition, best fruits competitions, model farms competitions, the most beautiful basket competition, best heritage model competition, and a host of other cultural and heritage events.

Visitors can explore these offerings at the traditional souk, pavilions, majlis, and craftswomen’s corners. The souk will house 165 shops and pavilions, with a dedicated section for productive families, national institutions, and food trucks.

Al Mansouri elaborated on the competitions, stating that the best dates contests will include varieties such as Dabbas, Khalas, Fardh, Khenaizi, Buma’an, Shishi, and the largest date clusters. The fruit competitions will feature categories like mango, lemon, fig, and a local fruits basket.

Model farm competitions will be held for Western towns, Eastern towns, and Al Dhafra cities. Al Mansouri outlined the procedures for participation, highlighting that registration will take place through the festival’s mobile application, available on Apple Store and Google Play.

Al Mansouri specified the criteria and guidelines for each competition, emphasising that entries for the dates mazayna must consist of crops harvested within the UAE in 2023 from the participant’s own farm. Participants are required to provide documents proving ownership of the farmland upon registration.

Each individual can compete in up to two categories, and disqualified participants have the opportunity to participate in other categories as well as in the ‘Al Dhafra’ and ‘Liwa’ elite dates rounds. The Al Dhafra basket is mandatory for all entries.

Regarding the largest date cluster competition, Al Mansouri highlighted that entries will be weighed and ranked based on their weight, with the heaviest cluster securing the first place. Entries will be accepted only on the first day of the festival, from 8am to 3pm. Participants are advised to adhere to the deadlines and regulations.

Al Mansouri further explained the general conditions for fruit competitions, requiring participants to submit crops harvested in 2023 from their own farms or home gardens. Farm or house ownership documents are mandatory during registration. Each individual can compete in two fruit categories, and winning farms or houses will undergo inspection by the jury.

Al Ameri expressed the club’s commitment to supporting events that celebrate Emirati heritage and its preservation. Through its participation in the Liwa Date Festival, the club aims to showcase traditional Emirati handicrafts and their cultural significance.

The club’s pavilion will feature live craft workshops, providing visitors with a unique experience and highlighting the creative skills of Emirati artisans, especially those associated with the palm tree. Al Ameri emphasized the importance of palm products in Emirati society, as they have been utilised in the creation of daily tools for generations.

Al Ameri further mentioned that the pavilion will include workshops on traditional handicrafts like Sadu and khous (palm frond weaving) and a Rababa (old musical instrument) workshop for children. Additionally, an exhibition of the club’s publications will feature books on palm trees, dates, and various aspects of UAE heritage and history, along with collections of Nabati poetry.

The club’s cultural program will also host lectures and seminars that explore the economic, cultural, and social dimensions of the palm tree heritage.

Al Ameri concluded by expressing gratitude to the committee for its dedication in showcasing the cultural and heritage aspects of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.