x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Record numbers visit Liwa date festival

More than 27,00 people have visited the Liwa Date Festival since it opened on Friday, say organisers.

ABU DHABI // More than 27,00 people have visited the Liwa Date Festival since it opened on Friday, organisers said yesterday. Obaid al Mazroui, the director of the fifth annual festival, said the numbers who travelled out to the remote town in Al Gharbia over the long weekend had greatly exceeded their expectations. "We were not expecting that many people, but it is an indicator of how well the festival is going," he said.

"The number was really huge and there were people who have come from all over, I was surprised by the number of expatriates as well." Although 2008 attendance figure were not available, Mr al Mazroui said this year's numbers were definitely up. "You just can't compare it, especially as this year's festival is five times the size of last year," he said. "There has been a huge increase." Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Rulers' Representative in Al Gharbia, also toured the event on Saturday.

During the 10-day festival, contests are being held for the best dates of different varieties, such as khalas and dabbas. Prizes include Nissan 4x4s and tens of thousands of dirhams for the farmers with the best fruit. Other competitions are also being held for handicraft and heritage displays. Over the long weekend, both Emirati and expatriate visitors toured the 43,000 square metres of tents that house, among other things, a farmer's market with 140 stalls.

Poetry readings and other cultural events are also being held during the festival, which is being organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and supported by other bodies including the Western Region Development Council. Mohamed al Mazrouei, director general of the council, said he encouraged people to visit the festival to experience the region's unique culture and heritage. "We are pleased to support and sponsor a festival that wonderfully showcases and encourages the high quality of local dates produced in Al Gharbia and most importantly, provides visitors with a taste of our national culture and heritage," he said in a statement.

"The opening weekend has already proven a great success with an ever-increasing number of visitors, farmers, dates on display and local handicraft shops." The festival ends on July 26. zconstantine@thenational.ae