x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE Liwa Date Festival's contest for newcomers

Local farmers will be given more of a chance to promote their dates thanks to a new competition at this year's Liwa Date Festival.

A variety of dates on display during the Liwa Date Festival in the Western Region last year. The festival opens on July 18. Pawan Singh / The National
A variety of dates on display during the Liwa Date Festival in the Western Region last year. The festival opens on July 18. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Local date farmers will have the opportunity to promote their produce for the first time thanks to a new competition at this year's Liwa Date Festival.

Located in the town of Liwa in the Western Region, the festival will include three rounds for three date varieties strictly for newcomers.

"The competition will encourage participants to take part in the festival for the first time," said Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, the festival's director.

The competition will include the Dabbas, Khallas and Nukhba varieties, which are considered the most well-known in the UAE.

"Khallas is the most popular in the UAE and Nukhba includes 10 to 15 types of dates," he said. "Khallas is very sweet while Dabbas has more vitamins and minerals."

For the first time, the festival will be held during Ramadan, from July 18 to July 25, and will be open from 8pm to 1am. Organisers hope this will attract more visitors after they break their fast for iftar.

"During Ramadan, festivals and exhibitions are more popular," said Mr Khalfan Al Mazrouei.

"To us, it's new but I'm confident that we'll have more people this year."

This year's event will also feature a competition for previous winners, and a contest to find the best rutab (half-ripened) dates from seven varieties, including Khanezi, Abu Maan, Fardh and A'adj.

"We want to disseminate our culture to the world," said Mohammed Al Mazrouei the chairman of the higher organising committee for the festival. "There is an importance of conserving the heritage of the UAE because it's vital for the identity of UAE citizens."

All dates must be locally produced as rutab, which usually takes three months to develop. Participants must also bring proof of farm ownership when registering and enter between 15 to 20 varieties.

Half of the score will be based on a jury's inspection of farms, focusing on its cleanliness, upkeep of trees and irrigation techniques. With 15 winners in each round, farmers will compete for a prize pot of Dh5 million.

A market with 120 shops will feature handicrafts related to date palm trees. Cultural sessions will also present the latest products from dates and palm trees alongside heritage shows.

"The location of the festival is good for all visitors in Abu Dhabi to encourage the infrastructure of agriculture," Mr Khalfan Al Mazrouei said.

In previous years, the festival has attracted between 60,000 to 70,000 visitors, with 1,500 participants.

cmalek@thenational.ae