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A participant shows quality of honey at the Hatta Honey Festival’ on Tuesday at Dubai Municipality’s Hatta Hall. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The Hatta Honey Festival that celebrates the beekeeping farmers and honey makers of the UAE returned to Dubai’s Hatta on Tuesday, making it the ‘sweet’ time to visit the mountainous village.

Dubai Municipality launched the 7th edition of the Hatta Honey Festival at the Municipality’s Hatta Hall. From international award winning Sidr and Samr honey from the UAE to the expensive Omani Frankincense honey, many varieties of natural honey are being showcased at the festival that will run till December 31.

From propolis candies to honey-ginger shots, several types of honey products are also on sale.

Most of the around 50 honey producers from across the UAE — including Emirati beekeepers, who form the majority, and a few Arab apiarists — are also providing limited time offers to the visitors at the five-day festival that is being held from 9am till 8pm daily.

In keeping with the Municipality’s efforts to give the necessary assistance to local production sectors in Hatta, the festival aims at supporting the UAE’s honey production industry and improving the economic opportunities available to its citizens.

Growing popularity

Alia Al Harmoodi, acting CEO of the Environment, Health, and Safety Agency at Dubai Municipality highlighted that the event illustrates the significance of the honey production sector in Hatta, and is one of the vital development initiatives that seeks to improve the sector in the country.

She added that this is in accordance with the comprehensive development plan for Hatta unveiled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which entails carrying out various development and economic initiatives and projects, and offering investment opportunities to the private sector.

“We are seeing more requests for the participation [from honey producers],” she said, referring to the growth of the festival since it was first launched in 2017.

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Visitors to the ‘Hatta Honey Festival’ can taste different varieties of honey before buying. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“It seems now more people are encouraged to do this business. Before, we were mostly seeing two types of honey. But, now we can see around seven types of honey here depending on the flowers and trees,” the official said, indicating that the festival has encouraged more apiarists to get into this business.

Spot testing

The bee farmers are showcasing various types of raw, unprocessed, natural honey.

Al Harmoodi said the Municipality was providing quick assessment services for honey samples in the festival for exhibitors and visitors by utilising the latest technological innovations and chemical examination devices through the Dubai Central Laboratory (DCL). “This is consistent with the Municipality’s pledge to guarantee the quality of the honey products and compliance with UAE standards during the festival,”

Mohammed Karam, section manager, Chemical Analysis Lab at DCL, said the role of DCL is to provide various tests that include analysis of total sugar, glucose, fructose, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), enzymes, moisture, and acidity in honey. These tests assess the quality of honey, covering all the variants of honey that are being displayed at the festival. The tests aim to ensure that the honey showcased in the festival comply with GSO standards specified for honey.

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(Right to Left) Jay Soled, Amy Soled, Heather Soled, Amanda Soled, at the 7th edition of ‘Hatta Honey Festival’ on Tuesday, December 27, 2022, at Dubai Municipality’s Hatta Hall, Dubai. 27th December 2022. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan

A team from the DCL is stationed at the festival to provide six types of rapid tests on site. “We are taking samples from every exhibitor and any sample not fulfilling the standards will be removed from the festival,” said Karam.

The DCL team is also educating exhibitors and visitors on the significance of the tests they are conducting and how they reflect the quality of honey, as well as creating awareness on proper production and storage of honey to retain its characteristics and nutritional benefits.

“Our inspectors collect samples from all the shops in Dubai including the pavilions in Global Village. We test honey coming into the market even before it is registered. We are making sure only natural honey is given here at the festival.”

He said the festival has helped increasing the awareness of the beekeepers and customers about the importance of the tests. “It is giving more confidence to the consumers. Confidence is key in empowering this sector.”

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Visitors to the Hatta Honey Festival also get the opportunity to watch bees with honey combs. Image Credit: Ahmad Ramzan/Gulf News

Which bees give us honey?

Rabie El Hadek, owner of Al Hor Honey Trading, said it is not just the bees from the UAE that make honey in the country. Into this business for 22 years here, he said bees are brought in from Egypt, Oman and Australia to produce honey. “Because of the high cost and long distance involved, Australian bees are rarely imported. Most of the bees from abroad arrive from Egypt and some are from Oman,” said the Egyptian expat.

What types of honey are showcased?

Bader Al Shamsi, the Emirati owner of ‘Honey Bottle’, who was among those showcasing various types of honey, explained the vast varieties on display. “Everyone knows about Sidr and Samr honey from the UAE. We also have Ghaf honey in which I have found more protein compared to other types.”

Al Shamsi from Al Ain is also showcasing premium varieties of white honey, Arab gum honey, flower honey and honey mixed with raspberry and blueberry. “The honey with berries can be a healthier option to fruit jams that have preservatives,” he opined.

Diverse products

The festival is also showcasing various types of honey products other than liquid honey. While the honey comb cakes are sold by most of them, some are also selling the traditional products that offer nuts and candies with honey. Some others have become innovative.

Ibrahim Al Masri, general manager of Al Malakiy Royal, an Emirati-owned firm, said the company has diversified its products to cater to various needs of modern consumers. “The times have changed. We also have changed our products. This year, we have introduced these honey spoons. That is honey in a spoon to make it easy to use. You can carry it anywhere for daily usage. We also have ginger shots and ginger brew that are found to be really effective as herbal remedies. We are also selling ‘power honey’ for men with ginseng and Royal jelly.”

Al Thunayen Bee Farms proudly presented two award plaques it received from the London International Honey Quality Competition 2022. “We sent the samples of our Sidr and Samr honey from the UAE and won platinum and gold awards,” said Abdullah Al Dakheel, the Kuwaiti owner of the company.

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The festival is also showcasing various types of honey products other than liquid honey Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Discounts galore

While the natural liquid honey varieties are usually priced high in the market, most of the honey producers are offering attractive discounts at the festival.

El Hadek said he had reduced the prices specifically for the festival. “I am bringing the honey from my farm. I also collect it from various farms. When it is my own product, I can control the price,” he explained.

Al Shamsi echoed the same while another company, Hatta Honey, has advertised a limited time offer during the festival. The company’s flyer states 2 bottles of 1kg Sidr honey is now available for Dh300 instead of Dh500.

Meanwhile, Alnhall Alemrati company put up price tags of Dh2100 for a 4.55kg honeycomb and Dh1200 for a 2.65kg honeycomb. Mohammed Al Mazroui, a 21-year-old pilot student who started supporting his father in his honey business since he was eight, said their honeycombs were priced higher because they are from the mountains. “These are produced by the UAE bees in the mountains. The Egyptian bees are kept in boxes and the labour work and transportation cost are less.”

Sweet experience for visitors

Despite the rainy weather, the festival saw a good number of footfall in the morning itself including school students and others. The Soled family from the US, who are on their first visit to Dubai, said they found the signboards to the festival while on a trip to Hatta. “We do not have anything that resembles this in the US. It’s very impressive,” said the father Jay Soled.

Emirati homemaker Khaitham Saeed said she is a regular visitor to the festival since its inception. “I come here every year to buy a lot of honey for the entire year. It is natural, tasty and good. I also invite my friends. Everyone should come and buy from here. You know honey has a lot of health benefits especially in winter. I also make face mask with honey,” she added.