Liwa festival's back, take notice of the dates

Dates, mangoes and lemons from farms in Al Ain, Liwa and Abu Dhabi on display during week-long festival.

People inspect the bushels of dates in last year's competition during the Date Festival in Liwa.
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The finest produce from local date and fruit farms will be on display at this year's Liwa Date Festival.

The eighth annual festival, which runs from Thursday to July 18, offers a great opportunity to celebrate the UAE's culture and its farming industry, said Obaid Al Mazrouei, the festival director.

The Liwa Date Festival, which will put the spotlight on locally farmed dates, mangoes and lemons, is organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

The farming industry in Abu Dhabi employs about 100,000 people, said Mr Al Mazrouei.

Contests for mangoes and lemons were introduced at last year's festival. "In Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Liwa, the season for all these fruits is usually the same time," Mr Al Mazrouei noted.

Traditionally, gifts of dates from Liwa residents were usually accompanied by citrus fruit such as lemons.

By celebrating the quality of lemons and mangoes that are grown locally, the festival celebrates old traditions, said Mr Al Mazrouei.

This year, alongside a traditional market featuring about 160 shops selling local handicraft, the festival also features new research on dates.

More than 300 Emirati families are expected to sell their products at the event.

Organisers hope that this year's festival will attract an even bigger crowd than 2010, when 70,000 people tasted local produce, watched local farmers awarded for their winning crops, and took part in family activities.

The main rule for all entries is that the produce is grown locally.

Dates must have been produced this year, be clean and free from infection and parasites, and should be of specific weight. Dates must also be no more than half ripe.

Farmers displaying their lemons must have proof of ownership of the farm where they were grown.

Lemons and mangoes will be judged depending on their ripeness.

Winners will also be chosen according to the environment in which their produce is farmed.

"We need to make sure they are being grown in a good environment," Mr Al Mazrouei said. "We also make sure farmers do not misuse chemicals and the product is all organic."

Millions of dirhams in prizes are to be awarded during the week.