Liwa Date Festival offers ripe pickings for farmers

Liwa Date Festival offers ripe pickings for farmers

Abu Dhabi - This passion is also encouraged by the Abu Dhabi government, which has established several organisations, festivals and initiatives to preserve and improve date palm farming.



by

Silvia Radan

Published: Mon 13 Jun 2016, 8:20 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Jun 2016, 9:35 AM

Hamed Al Shamsi is counting on his date palm trees, in his orchard on the outskirts of Al Ain, to give him a good harvest this year.
The branches, already heavy with various varieties of dates, have already begun changing colour from green to yellow. "We have many varieties, but khalas remains the most popular one. It has medium sweetness, the best taste, and is slightly crunchy," said Hamed.
Through generations, farming date palms and rearing camels have been an intergral part of his family. Although he sells some of his dates, Hamed also uses them to feed his camels; only the very best make it to the family table. "In olden days, this was our livelihood; dates were our staple food and we also used to trade in them. Nowadays, you cannot make a full living out of them, but we keep date palm farming alive because it is our passion, a part of our Emirati heritage," he told Khaleej Times.
This passion is also encouraged by the Abu Dhabi government, which has established several organisations, festivals and initiatives to preserve and improve date palm farming.
One of them is the Liwa Dates Festival, which celebrates the ratab - half ripe dates - every July, the harvest time in the UAE. Only Emirati farmers can enter the festival's competition, only because the ratab season does not occur at the same time all over the Gulf. It starts in June in Oman and moves eastwards, reaching the UAE in July, Saudi Arabia in August, with some varieties not ripening until September.

The Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, Abu Dhabi (CPHFC), the festival organisers, expect hundreds of participants, mostly from Al Ain and Liwa, to participate in the annual event, to be held between July 20-30 this year. Now in its 12th year, the festival will be spread over 20,000 square metres, all in air-conditioned tents in Mazeirah, the main town of Liwa Oasis in the western Region of Abu Dhabi. While the dates competition is the heart of the festival, plenty of other Emirati heritage, cultural and art competitions will be held. In total, organisers will give away Dh6 million in 220 prizes. Among them are the Best Heritage Model, Best Farm Award, Tallest Palm Tree, Best Lemons, and Best Mangoes competitions.
A souq with around 150 shops will be set up for Emirati women to sell their handicrafts and other products, and the most relevant businesses related to date palm trees will have stalls, facilitating their interaction with farmers. "The festival aspires to stimulate the economic activity in Al Gharbia region and highlight the various elements of Emirati culture, at the regional and international levels," said Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, director of Liwa Dates Festival.
Up to 70,000 visitors from across the UAE, including foreign tourists, are expected to make it to Liwa Dates Festival this July.
silvia@khaleejtimes.com


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