First Published: 2017-07-10

13th edition of Liwa Date Festival to be held July 19-29
Director of the Liwa Date Festival says event aspires to preserve Emirati cultural heritage, lure visitors, tourists into exploring local traditions.
Middle East Online

Better date quality one year after another

ABU DHABI - Under the patronage of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee – Abu Dhabi organises the 13th edition of the Liwa Date Festival from the 19th to the 29th of July, 2017 in the city of Liwa in Al Dhafra region in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

“The Liwa Date Festival aspires to preserve the Emirati cultural heritage and lure visitors and tourists into exploring the local traditions. We have been working towards transforming the palm trees and dates into a symbol of past authenticity, a source of blessing in the present, and a guarantee of prosperity for the future,” said Director of the Liwa Date Festival and Chairman of the Planning and Projects Department at the Committee, Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei.

He also noted that the festival was hoping to promote and preserve the cultivation of palm trees through supporting and encouraging farmers to secure more quality.

“As the local production has shown significant development, we believe that farmers can obtain better chances of excellence and competition in the UAE and the world,” he said.

Over the years, the Liwa Date Festival has been an effective platform for the stimulation of economic activity in Al Dhafra region. At the same time, the Traditional Market has successfully contributed to the support and promotion of Emirati products.

Running since 2005, this outstanding festival has provided full support for Liwa and managed to underscore its geographical, social and cultural prominence by appealing to tourists and grabbing media’s attention, on an annual basis.

Al Mazrouei hailed the constant follow-up and unlimited support of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra region.

“HH Sheikh Hamdan has contributed with regular instructions that provided for the ongoing development of the festival and helped with the creation of unique series of purposeful competitions,” he said.

The new edition of the Liwa Date Festival is expected to feature various competitions, notably the Mazayna (competitions for the best dates, including different types and varieties), Best Lemons and Best Mangoes, the Model Farm Award, the Fruits of the House competition, and the Best Heritage Model competition.

The categories of the Date Mazayna include: Dabbas, Khallas, Bou Maan, Farth, Kunaizi, Shishi, Al Dhafra’s Nukhba, Liwa’s Nukhba, and Biggest Etheg.

The associated activities include the organisation of the Traditional Market, with the participation of more than 240 Emirati families, the Children’s Village, the Dates’ Market, awareness programmes, and exhibitions by a number of businesses.

It is also expected that the cultural programme of the 13th edition will be marked by the organisation of several seminars, and specialised workshops that are aimed at participants and visitors in general. These workshops and seminars are intended to encourage the adoption of the best technical systems and methods so as to improve production without resorting to the use of chemical fertilisers. The participants will learn about the different categories and varieties of dates. They will also gain knowledge of the rigorous criteria adopted by the specialised jury to classify participations and select winners. The farms’ owners will have the opportunity to explore the methods that are required to secure the best performance at the Model Farm Award. They will also be encouraged to preserve the hygiene at their farms, protect of the soil and sustain the used materials.

The Organising Committee is keen on presenting a unique bouquet of exciting programmes, activities and competitions that appeal to the public and contribute to the support of the Emirati cultural legacy, with the aim of reinforcing the position of heritage in the hearts and minds of new generations.

Held on an area that stretches over 20,000 square metres, the previous edition of the festival has managed to attract over 80,000 visitors, including nationals, residents and tourists. More than 2,000 farmers took part in the different competitions and the winning participants secured around 220 prizes, with a total value of about AED 6 million. The valuable prizes were aimed at helping the winning farmers improve their production, modernise their agricultural equipment and encourage others to make more efforts and achieve excellence.

Every year, the Organising Committee buys a large number of products from participants and winners to support and encourage farmers to make greater efforts and improve the quality of their production. All the editions of the festival have been characterised by the creation of new date-based products, and then the manufacture of these products by Emirati companies, with aim of providing required quantities for consumers.

At the 12th edition of the festival, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra region, gave AED 1 million to support the Model Farm Award competition, which was launched for the first time in 2014 with the participation of more than 100 farms from western and eastern Liwa. Accordingly, the total value of prizes for the top ten position rose from AED 500,000 to AED 1,500,000, the highest value in the history of the festival.

The support of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan came to encourage farmers to make greater efforts and maintain their agricultural activity in accordance with the highest recognised norms and best international criteria. The move of His Highness also confirmed the significance of the Liwa Date Festival in the reinforcement of quality, the maintenance of farms and the development of the agricultural sector in the UAE.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has hailed the pioneering and successful Emirati experience in dealing with desertification. This international recognition came to confirm the agricultural renaissance that the UAE has been witnessing as a result of combined efforts.

According to figures that were released by the United Nations in 2014, the UAE has succeeded, over the last decades, in planting about 130 million trees, including 22 million palm trees that constitute 20% of the total number of palm trees in the world. The UAE also occupies a leading position, among more than 40 countries, as far as the production capacity and export volume are considered.

In recent years, Emirati experts have succeeded in harvesting half-ripe Khallas dates, two months before their natural season. The international media widely reported the agricultural breakthrough, stressing that it was the first of its kind in the Arab Gulf region. Besides, Emirati lab experiments have succeeded in cloning the initial male buds of a rare palm tree variety that is rich in pollen and capable of fertilising about 25 palm trees.

The city of Liwa

The city of Liwa is famed for its flourishing agricultural activity, fertile pastures, abundant oases and the excellent quality of dates produced at local farms. The city, which is known as the Gate of the Empty Quarter and the biggest oasis of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, was chosen to host the Liwa Date Festival because of its diverse environmental and geographical features.

Today, the city of Liwa is one of the top destinations that appeal to visitors who seek calm and serenity at the heart of nature. Offering a harmonious blend between the present and past, Liwa is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the world as well as a number of historic fortresses and castles. The city prevails as a witness to the struggle of brave men in the face of harsh desert surroundings, which were later transformed into oases and verdant lands for the cultivation of palm trees.

The various resources that were gathered by historians and researchers point that that the city of Liwa constituted a safe haven for the people of Abu Dhabi, preventing the access of any hostile strangers to their land. Liwa, which is known for expanding its charm and generosity to all visitors, is an authentic Bedouin city that has been contributing to the preservation of the Emirati history.

"What makes a desert stunning is that it hides, somewhere, an oasis," said a western explorer.

In recent years, Liwa was transformed into a comprehensive modern destination that supplies all required services. The efforts of the Abu Dhabi government turned the city into a major hub for tourist and agricultural activity in the region and the world. Accordingly, Liwa has thrived economically, with its booming farms that produce diverse varieties and categories of vegetables, fruits and dates.

 

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