The event will take place from July 12 to 18
For the second consecutive year, the annual Liwa Dates Festival will take place during Ramadan, from July 12 to 18.
According to the organisers, the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, Abu Dhabi, preparations have already started for the festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
"The success of the festival over the past nine years is the fruit of hard work and a sense of responsibility. We are all working towards transforming this special event into a big success, creating a good image of the festival, and providing participants with the best services and visitors with the finest performances,” said Obaid Khalfan Al Mazrouei, director of the Liwa Dates Festival.
Plenty of Emirati traditions, competitions and entertainment for children and adults are being planned, but at the heart of the festival will remain the ratab competitions.
According to Al Mazrouei, ratab, or the half ripe dates, have their peak season in July and that is why the festival coincides with Ramadan; before or after the holy month would be either too early or too late for the dates.
As in previous years, hundreds of date palm farmers are expected to participate, the large majority of them being from Al Ain and Liwa oasis, the two locations that traditionally produce best quality dates in U.A.E.. Farmers from other Gulf countries cannot take part simply because the ratab season varies from east to west. Omani dates are the first to ripen, in June, while certain Saudi varieties ripen only in September.
Despite falling during Ramadan for the first time last year, the festival was still popular, awarding Dh5 million to competition winners (mostly dates, but also the best mangoes, lemons and heritage related competitions).
This year an area of 20,000 square metres has been set up in Mazeira, the main town of Liwa oasis, where competitions, shows, exhibitions and a traditional market are planned.
For the public, the activities are expected to be during evening hours, while the judging of dates baskets and visits to the date palm farms — part of the dates judging — will take place during daytime.
"We do not want this (palm) tree to remain only a part of a past that we celebrate. Even today we listen to tales about the different rituals that have been practised in preparation for al ratab season. There are tales and stories that are known only to the skilled and experienced people who, despite old age, continue to practise these traditions and work toward their transmission to future generations,” said Mohammed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, advisor for Culture and Heritage at the Court of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee.
He also pointed out the recent success of the farm of the President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Situated in Al Ain, the farm has for the first time succeeded in harvesting Khallas half-ripe dates, two months before the start of the season.
This was done through cloning initial buds of a rare and unique male palm tree, which is characterised by the abundance of pollen as only one male is capable of fertilising about 25 palm trees.
Scientific research and the latest technologies and innovations in the field of agriculture also take centrestage at the festival, used as a platform to inform farmers about latest production news.