Over 60,000 visit Liwa dates festival in Abu Dhabi

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Over 60,000 visit Liwa dates festival in Abu Dhabi
Along with ratab dates, local farming and Emirati heritage also took centre stage.

Abu Dhabi - 220 prizes worth Dh6 million was given to winners of various competitions.


Silvia Radan

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Published: Sun 31 Jul 2016, 7:40 PM

Last updated: Mon 1 Aug 2016, 8:59 AM

Over 60,000 people headed to Liwa in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi these past 10 days for the 12th Liwa Dates Festival (LDF).
Altogether, 220 prizes worth Dh6 million were given to winners of various competitions at the festival. While ratab, the half ripe dates, was at the heart of the festival, as this is the time of its harvest across the UAE, local farming and Emirati heritage also took centre stage.
"The festival carries heritage significance and a symbolic dimension and features comprehensive and diverse cultural activities," said Faris Al Mazrouei, chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, which organises LDF.
Part of the diverse activities at the festival was the traditional market, which proved highly popular with visitors. In a special area of the 20,000sq.m. tent, built specially for the festival, 150 booths were set up in the style of an old Emirati souk.
Decorated with meticulously woven palm leaves, the booths were run by Emirati women from all over the Abu Dhabi emirate. Their products included handicrafts, which brought back memories of old oasis and desert living, and sweets - including a lesser known one, the "jumar", the milky white inner part of the palm, which is sweet and can be eaten just like the dates.
Mariam Hassan Al Marzooqi's booth, far example, stashed up to the ceiling with "al khoos" - palm frond weaving - objects, which she had been handcrafting for years.
"We make objects that are actually useful in the household, like baskets for keeping dry dates, mats for placing food trays or brooms, food covers and even small fans for keeping the flies away," she said.
"The palm fronds are dry and have to be discarded, but in the old days nothing from the palm tree would go to waste. We would make these objects to use them in the house, not to sell them. Only in recent years, when authorities decided to revive old traditions, al khoos became a lucrative business," continued Al Marzooqi.
All aspects related to the daily life of the Bedouin and oasis family are reflected in the traditional market through different crafts such as Sadu (carpet, blankets or camel coverings weaving) and Thalli (silver of golden embroidery for Emirati dresses), as well as hand-mixed perfumes, brass dalla pots - used to make Arabic coffee for hundreds of years - spices, old photographs and incense burners.
Madiha Jumaa Al Romaithi has been coming to the LDF's traditional market every year. In her home in Abu Dhabi city, she makes bracelets and other jewellery for children and she decorates various accessories with her own traditional cloth designs, but her speciality is mixing scents.
"I love mixing bukhour. My mother and my grandmother did it before me and I now have my own special scents for bukhour," said Madiha.
"I take the bukhour pieces of wood and soak them in different oil perfumes and leave them for a while, well covered, to get properly impregnated. Then, when you open it up, and smell it, it is very fragrant! All you need is one small piece, which you place on a burning charcoal and the smoke will perfume your entire house and clothes," she went on.
Like many of the women in the market Madiha was not here alone. She had a cousin and an aunt supporting her and also selling some of their handicrafts here.
In fact, for the close observer, the traditional souk is also a display of Bedouin solidarity and tribal unity, as each booth is not run by just one Emirati woman, but by a family group. They sit together, they eat together, they weave together, just like they did all these years ago.

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