Abu Dhabi: Date lovers, celeb chefs, and farmers from across the UAE and abroad are in Liwa, in Al Dhafra Region of Abu Dhani emirate, for the annual festival and auction for dry dates.
The festival at Liwa is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region, until October 24.
The event, organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi, is hosting a range of activities from date auctions, cooking master classes for children and adults, an olive oil and honey competition among others.
Prizes worth over Dh3.5 million are being given away at the festival for 122 competitions.
Major General Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Commander-in-Chief of Abu Dhabi Police, and Chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi, said: “The Liwa Date Festival and Auction underscores the UAE’s considerable support for the date palm sector and the development of its products and related industries at the Arab and global levels.
"The Festival celebrates the rich history of palm trees in the UAE by pursuing a strategy of preserving and sustaining authentic Emirati heritage, being an integral part of the Emirati society and its deeply rooted traditions. Inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Festival is a reflection of the efforts made to pay tribute to these living symbols of the past’s authenticity, the present’s sustainable development and the future’s promise of ensuring food security, self-sufficiency and economic diversification.”
He added: “The festival is aimed at enhancing food security, develop the agricultural sector, and enhance date palm cultivation and production. It promotes the production of dates for its vital role in economic diversification, and increasing the agricultural sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.”
‘Global Village of Dates’
The Global Village of Dates is a key element of the Festival, and is located beside the cooking and tasting area. At the Global Village of Dates, local and international date farmers have exhibited their produce for tasting and purchase. It is an opportunity for buyers to directly communicate with investors, exporters and producers visiting from India, UK, Canada, Bangladesh, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others.
An Indian farmer from Rajasthan was delighted to be at the Liwa Festival. Sadularam Chowdhary brought his home grown Al Ajwah, Medjool, Faroh and Barhee dates. “The Liwa Festival is a great platform for us to promote our produce. Our dates are priced 2,000 to 5,000 [Indian rupees].”
Mother and son duo Sharaf and Abdullah Ahmed were exhibiting their produce, grown in Al Madina region of Saudi Arabia. “At the festival we are selling dates for Dh150 a kilo; price depends on the type of dates,” said Abdullah.
Every year the festival holds competitions dedicated to certain crops. This year competitions were held for olive oil and honey.
French national Emmanuelle Dechelette, a renowned Olive Oil Sommelier, organised the ‘Olio Nuovo Liwa Sensorial’ competition – essentially an olive oil tasting competition for international producers from the Southern Hemisphere region of the world. “Essentially we focused on countries growing olives between the Equator and the South Pole. Participating countries included Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Chile Uruguay, New Zealand.”
Dechelette, who is also the founder of Olio Nuovo Days, said the three winners took home prize money of Dh100,000. “There were 47 Extra Virgin Olive Oils from the six countries in the competition,” she said.
The first prize (Dh50,000) was won by Rafael Marchetti from Brazil , the second prize (Dh30,000) was won by Azeite Sabia from Brazil while the third prize (Dh20,000) went to Willie Duminy from South Africa.
Celebrated chefs from around the world held masterclasses to educate adults and children alike in cooking.
Chef Gaël Clavière, Pastry Chef of the French Prime Minister, is attending the Festival. He did a masterclass of a special pastry he came up for the Liwa Festival. “It is an oriental journeyof mandarin and olive. The recipe is a tribute to the Liwa Fesstival,” he told Gulf News.
Another celebrated chef from France, Pastry Chef William Lamagnère, made his famous tarte Tatin with olive oil instead of butter. Another famous pizza chef from Paris, Julien Serri, prepared a variety of pizzas using olive oil.
American date farmer Julia Heffelfinger teamed up with senior pastry instructor Mohammed Zubaidi to churn up dishes using dates. She brought to Liwa a Lemon-thyme Scones with Medjool dates and an a baked cambozola with dates and hazelnut.
Other competitions included honey and the Arabian Moringa peregrina seed oil. The honey competition was all about liquid and wax honey.
The date auctions are being held every day until the end of the festival. “The auction is designed for date lovers from all over the world and aims to shed extensive light on the Emirati dates and their quality before all the visitors interested in acquiring the finest and most luxurious types of dates,” said Al Mazrouei.
Photography and Drawing competitions in categories of Palm & Dates, and Wildlife & Marine Life in Al Dhafra Regio saw some pictures being showcased. There were training courses and workshops catering to educate farmers as well.
A total of 18 competitions are being held throughout the event including a date packaging competition. The date packaging competition is divided into two categories: additive-free dates and stuffed dates, where farmers, producers and young people in this field can participate.