x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Liwa was once a long way away

The popularity of the Date Festival is helped by the modern road that connects Liwa to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But barely 40 years ago the journey to Liwa was not something to be undertaken lightly.

This year's Liwa Date Festival, which finished earlier this week, attracted record numbers of visitors. According to the organisers, at least 75,000 people turned up, many of them tourists. The popularity of the event is helped by the modern road that connects Liwa to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As this week's photograph shows, barely 40 years ago the journey to Liwa was not something to be undertaken lightly.

The image, taken from the archives of our sister paper, Al Ittihad, captures a camel train leaving an oasis under the shadow of massive dunes. Along with Al Ain, Liwa was a popular destination in the summer because it allowed people to escape the humidity of the coast. An added attraction was the date harvest, along with a plentiful supply of fresh water. The journey from Abu Dhabi, though, could take anything from a week to 10 days. Even when the first cars arrived, most travellers chose to break their journey at least twice, first stopping at Tarif and then spending the second night at Madinat Zayed before the final push to Liwa.

For today's visitors, Liwa is an easy day out, rather than an expedition to the very edge of the Empty Quarter. The dates, though, are as popular as ever. * The National Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Each week it will feature an image from the archives of both prominent institutions and private collections. Readers are also invited to make their contribution and can submit ideas and photographs to yourpics@thenational.ae