“This is not about good dates. This is about perfect dates” ~ Al Qubais
The fourth Liwa Date Festival 2008 kicked off in Mazirah (western region of Abu Dhabi) on Thursday, to the rhythms of a traditional dance.
Liwa oasis, one of the largest oasis in the Arabian Peninsula, is about three hours’ of drive from Abu Dhabi. Liwa features freshwater pools and date plantations, which has remained unchanged for centuries. Liwa is also known for its mountainous red dunes, attracting hundreds of tourists each year. Its high sand dunes are perfect for sand skiing and desert safaris.
It’s called the Liwa Mazayin Al Ratb Festival: Mazayin means beautiful, and ratb means half-ripe dates.
Mohammed Khalifa Al Qubaisi (member of the organizing committee for the dates festival) said,
“As an oasis, Liwa is surrounded by mountains with good soil, and has long been associated with fertile crops. Producing dates is a business which has been kept in the families for generations, and is still done by hand.”
The U.A.E. is the world’s 5th largest date producer – behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Iran.
In this annual festival, only ratb that is produced by Abu Dhabi farmers, and of very good quality, will be accepted as entries.
Over the next few days, 7,000 plates of dates will be entered into this fiercely competitive contest.
Winners will be chosen by a committee of judges, who will measure the size of the date, and assess its form, making sure the dates are free from defects. The criteria for judging include: 40% on the form and size of the fruit, 30% on its lack of defects, and 30% on cleanliness.
There will also be a prize for the single biggest branch of dates, a title won last year by an entrant whose branch (with the dates 😉 weighed in at 68 kg, winning him Dh100,000 (almost 27,000+) in prize money.
This year, however, the festival will feature more than just dates. The Liwa festival 2008 will include: an evening of poetry recitals, religious lectures, craft competitions, and special sessions to educate the young on how to take care of date palms.
Also, a group wedding will be held on July 25. This new addition to the festival aims to support people who do not have enough money to afford a wedding. The group wedding has been organized under the orders of Sheikh Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Although not connected with the fruit, it represents the “Family Theme”, which is also part of this year’s festival.
Another highlight is the aim to make it in the Guinness world record for having the largest ratb dish, 5 to 6 meters long and 3 meters wide.
Enal Banat (of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award Committee) is offering three Dh250,000 prizes for the first time in the festival’s history. He said:
“Dates have been part of our heritage for years. It was the main source of food, along with yoghurt and milk. But more than that, date production unites families with all hands working together.”
The Liwa Festival will continue until August 2.