x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Liwa Date Festival set to begin

The Liwa Date Festival kicks off tomorrow and it will run until July 21.

ABU DHABI // Each year for the past six, Ahmed Baraka has watched the date festival set up in front of his house.

This year has been no different. "I've been watching the tents come up and everything from A to Z," said the Egyptian farmer. "I really can't wait for it to start tomorrow."

He participates every year and he hopes this year will be a winner for him and his palm seedlings.

"My children really enjoy it," he said. "It is their chance to learn about Emirati culture and heritage and see the beauty of the country."

The Liwa Date Festival will kick off in Al Gharbia tomorrow and run until July 21, followed by the inaugural Ajman-Liwa Date Festival from July 27 to 29.

"Abu Dhabi is the one of the best cities in the world for the production of dates," said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which organised the festival.

"The focus will be on developing palm cultivation, increasing the number of trees and expanding the cultivated areas across different parts of the UAE."

There will also be lectures by representatives from the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, to teach modern agricultural methods and how best to care for palm trees.

"I think it'll have a great effect on the country's economy," Mr Al Mazrouei said. "What tomatoes are to Spain is what dates are to the UAE. Palm trees are one of the most important cornerstones of food security."

Obeid Al Mazrouei, the festival director, said he expected 75,000-plus visitors. "We expect more dates this year but we care about their quality, not their quantity," he said. "We also hope to increase the number of exports of our dates."

Varieties on show will include Al Khalas, Al Dabbas, Boumaan, Khanezi, Al Fard and Al Nukhbah. There will be half-ripe and fully ripened dates, all competing for a prize pot of Dh4million.

The event will also feature a market with 160 shops, where Emirati women will display their wares and take part in a handicrafts competition. And there will be an exhibition of traditional Emirati tents made from palm trees and a cooking competition involving dates.

"There will also be a children's tent, heritage shows and farming and palm contests," said Obeid Al Mazrouei.