ABU DHABI // Organisers of the UAE's biggest date festival had a bumper weekend with record numbers of visitors. The Liwa Date Festival, a 17-day extravaganza in Abu Dhabi's western region that began on Thursday, celebrates one of the biggest industries in the area. In its first weekend, date producers raked in nearly Dh60,000 (US$16,335) from auctioning their goods. A single basket of dates weighing 8kg sold for Dh5,000.
Mohammed al Qubaisi, one of the organisers, said yesterday: "It has been fantastic and promises to show visitors something they have never seen before. We lost count of how many thousands came through the doors over the weekend." The festival is geared towards families, and children have the opportunity to learn about palm trees and date cultivation. About 140 couples are expected to be married in a group wedding on Friday in Liwa wedding hall as part of the festival.
The next two weeks will include lectures on date palm cultivation, traditional handicrafts, games and poetry evenings. The festival began as a one-day event four years ago, and now attracts up to 40,000 visitors. The penultimate day will feature a display of the world's biggest plate of ratb, or half-ripe, dates on a stainless steel platter measuring 10 metres by two metres. Liwa contributes half of the 760,000 tonnes of dates grown in the UAE every year, making the country the fifth-biggest exporter in the world.