Khallas was one of the last date variety to enter the ratab (half ripe dates) competition at Liwa Dates Festival in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
UAE's most popular date, khallas drawn not only the largest number of farmers competing in the festival's five ratab varieties competitions, but massive interest from the date palm tree owners, who have come in their hundreds to the festival to see who has achieved the best khallas harvest of 2015.
"We had 180 farmers participating in one of our most popular competitions at the Liwa Dates Festival, the best khallas ratab," said Obaid Al Mazrouei, Director of the festival.
"The reason why is so popular is because it is very sweet and crunchy. It has a distinctive, very good taste not just in its ratab state, but as tamar, when it is dried as well. You will find there is no date palm farm in the emirate without khallas dates," added Al Mazrouei.
A common, commercial variety of dates, khallas is cultivated in various parts of the UAE. The date begins to ripe in mid season, from July, and it becomes full ripe by mid August. A long, egg shaped variety, khallas has a light amber colour when unripe, it becomes yellow when half ripe and brown when fully ripe. Unlike other date varieties, which may differ in size and colour from one region to another, khallas looks and tastes the same everywhere, as long as it is properly cared for.
"It is not the sweetest variety of dates, but it is very sweet, so much so that we have a saying: when you reach khallas (the date), then it's khalas (meaning enough in Arabic)," said Nasser Seif Al Mazrouei, supervisor of the ratab competitions at Liwa Dates Festival.
From the 180 entries, the ratab expert judges selected 20 finalists, based on the look, taste and the health condition of the dates. The early favourites, though, we're not instant winners as the judges had to inspect the farms where they came from as well.
The general upkeep of the farm, recycling materials, the minimum or preferably no use of fertilisers were the main were the main concerns of the judges when inspecting the farms. As per the rules of the ratab competitions, 50 percent of the points were given based on the dates' quality and the other 50 percent based on the farm's upkeep.
The top 15 finalists were awarded with cash prizes starting from Dh 120,000 for the first winner to Dh 5,000 for the 15th place. In parallel with the main ratab competition, there was also a contest for promotional ratab in the khallas, as well as dabbas date categories, which were specifically created for participants who have never won a competition before. The promotional khallas competition offered awards from Dh 70,000 for the first place to Dh 2,000 in the 15th place.
Organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi, this 11th Liwa Dates Festival will conclude on July 30th.