Approximately 80,000 visitors are expected to enjoy the various activities and competitions that form a part of the seventh edition of the Liwa Date Festival, which begins today in the Western Region. The 10-day event is being held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and is organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH). Mangoes, lemons add zest to festival In addition to the competitions, of which more than 3,600 farmers have signed up for the Date Beauty Competition alone, members of the public can browse through over 360 stands located within the festival\'s 52,000 square metre air-conditioned tents After the festival\'s conclusion in Liwa on July 21, the Department of Culture and Information in Ajman will co-host its inaugural date festival in collaboration with ADACH from July 28-30. \"Registration for the Date Beauty Competition has increased by more than 20 per cent this year, which shows just how popular and essential the competition has become within the festival. It is always a heated event because even though a farmer may register 250 dates, only 15 of those will be chosen by judges to compete before a winner is announced,\" said Obaid Al Mazroui, the festival\'s director. Based on feedback from visitors and participants at the Festival\'s 2010 edition, organisers have also announced they will be adding a new category in the date competition, the largest date bunch, which can weigh up to 60 kilogrammes, in addition to separate competitions for the best mangoes and lemons. Winners will receive vehicles and monetary prizes that total up to Dh5m while their entries will be placed on auction. Registrations \"We will continue to accept registrations for either competition throughout the festival… it was decided to add the best mango and lemon contests to highlight the UAE\'s diverse agricultural industry. An additional competition this year is a date cooking competition, whereby chefs from hotels in Abu Dhabi have to create a three-course menu with dates as the central ingredient,\" Al Mazroui said. He also noted that there are constant efforts being undertaken to enhance and support the date palm industry, an example of which was the donation of 35,000 date palm seedlings by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces, to last year\'s winners and participants. \"In addition to the generous donation by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, we also provided Dh2m to date palm farmers, and also purchased dates worth Dh2.5m from participants that were then offered to visitors and guests,\" Al Mazroui said. Cultivation \"This year, we will also be focusing on palm cultivation… the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority will be hosting various discussions on modern agricultural methods and best palm tree practices,\" he added. The 2010 edition also saw the successful launch of date-based products such as pickled dates and date ice cream by Emirati entrepreneurs, which Al Mazroui revealed he hoped would occur once again. \"Last year, we were pleased with the positive feedback received from the debut of those products. This year, we hope that new products will also be launched, as they help highlight the versatility of dates. Additionally, last year several Emirati entrepreneurs entered into partnerships, which shows the potential and demand for such unique goods,\" Al Mazroui said. \"This is not just a festival but a 10-day celebration that highlights the important role of date palm trees in our culture and heritage,\" he added. With inputs from Sarah Hassan, Staff Reporter Information What: Liwa Date Festival When: July 12-21 Where: Western Region Entry: Free Website: www.liwadatesfestival.ae Daily Transportation: The assembly point for the festival bus is the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage\'s office on Airport road, behind Carrefour hypermarket near the National Centre for Documentation and Research Centre. The bus will leave Abu Dhabi at 9am and will return from Liwa at 6pm. Schedule of competitions Date Beauty Competition: Dabbas and Akbar Azej dates — July 12 Khnezi and Boumaan dates — July 14 Khalas dates — July 16 Al Farad dates — July 18 Al Nukhbah dates — July 20 Best Mango and Lemon Competition: Mangoes — July 13 Lemons — July 15 Best Heritage Display: Winners will be announced on July 18 Date Cooking Competition: From 3pm-8pm, July 12-16.