Abu Dhabi: Coming in all shapes, sizes, colours and varieties, the UAE’s iconic fruit was on full display at the Liwa Date Festival, which opened its doors on Thursday for the 15th year running.
Taking place in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Region, the annual event has become one of the area’s main attractions, with tens of thousands of visitors from all over the UAE coming to visit. This year’s festival will run from July 17 to July 27.
Held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, the Liwa Date Festival is aimed at celebrating the fruit as well as bringing awareness on the cultural significance of the date palm in Emirati traditions.
“The festival is inspired by the vision of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE’s agricultural renaissance. In particular, the festival is aimed at safeguarding the legacy of the blessed palm tree, a historical symbol of Emirati heritage,” said Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee — Abu Dhabi.
“Each year the festival celebrates the season of ratab [half-ripe dates], an integral part of Emirati heritage that we seek to revive and promote locally, regionally and internationally,” he added.
“The festival has managed to effectively restore palm trees and dates to their merited status within Emirati society, as well as renewing interest in the fruit from locals and tourists from around the world,” Al Mazrouei said, commenting on the date festival’s impact on the locally produced fruit.
The festival also sees the participation of hundreds of farmers who come from not just the UAE but from neighbouring Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Oman, with the festival holding a number of daily competitions spread across several different categories. The total prize money runs into the millions of dirhams, with last year’s total prize pot coming to more than Dh6 million.
Key competitions include best dates, best farms and best fruit baskets. While the prizes have significant cash prizes, the competitions are also aimed at promoting clean, sustainable and best farming practices. Judges in charge of evaluating farmers keep a close eye on the quality of the products that are produced and the hygiene standards that are maintained on the farms.
While it is a date festival, the event features much more for visitors to enjoy including the traditional market. The market contains several hand made Emirati products including many that are made from date palms. Visitors can also see first hand how many of these products are made, giving them a unique perspective on traditional handicraft items and their significance for the Bedouin lifestyle.
Should the children get restless, the date festival also has a kids’ village to keep them entertained with theatre performances, storytelling and art workshops and a dedicated play area.
Located in the south of the country, Liwa offers a vastly different experience to the UAE’s mega cities such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Located in the heart of the desert, Liwa offers visitors a picturesque setting with vast areas of lush greenery mixed in with the harsh desert. Visitors at Liwa will get a true sense of what the desert climate is like and how previous Emirati generations not only managed to endure such conditions, but also thrived. Visitors from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and other Northern Emirates can expect a long car ride lasting from two to four hours depending from where they set off.
Liwa Date Festival
Where: Al Dhafra Region, Abu Dhabi
When: July 17 to July27
Timings: Daily from 4-10pm
Facts about UAE date palm trees
- UAE has over 40 million palm trees
- UAE is among the top 10 date-producing countries in the world.
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has recognised Al Ain and Liwa oases as agricultural heritage sites.