Fresh dates of a wide range of colors and sizes are on display at the Al Dhaid Expo in Sharjah for the 6th Al Dhaid Date Festival until Sunday. Kamal Kassim / Gulf today
Mariecar Jara Puyod, Senior Reporter
The date is the national fruit of the United Arab Emirates and on Thursday morning the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) welcomed guests to the Al Dhaid Expo, 57 kilometers east of the city of Sharjah itself, for the sixth edition of the “Al Dhaid Dates Festival.
Themed “The Aroma of the Past…The Blossoming Present,” the annual celebration of business and commerce intertwined with heritage, and also embodying cultural sustainability, was opened to the public in the presence of ‘Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman of SCCI; Sheikh Majid bin Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Head of Sharjah Suburbs and Villages Department; Mohammed Ahmed Amin Alawadi, Director General of SCCI; and Mosbeh Al Tunaiji, general coordinator of the festival.
In attendance was the executive committee of Saudi Arabia’s ‘Buraida Date Festival’ who exchanged tokens with Al Owais. The delegation invited CSIC to participate in its own date fair in August to share its experiences in the industry.
Thriving in hot, humid regions around the world but widely grown in the Near East, date palms are the ‘tree of life’ and essential to the culture of the United Arab Emirates. Although it is now part of their diet and nutrition, these provide them with shelter. The trunk and the fronds are the building materials of their houses. The leaves are used for traditional crafts.
With farmers and other individuals as registered participants, the public sector is also represented by the Sharjah Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Sharjah Institute for Heritage, Al Region Municipality Madam, the municipality of Maliha and the municipality of the region of Al Batea.
On the sidelines of the July 5 press conference, Alawadi said: “Al Dhaid is very famous for dates – the good quality, the right size, the good farmers, the good irrigation system and the good water for the dates which must be pure from the (Hajjar Mountains that the United Arab Emirates shares with Oman) and from under the desert.”
Running until this Sunday, residents and tourists are invited to experience it. This is the first time this reporter has attended and surprised the heaps of round, plump, thin and elongated fresh dates – a feast for the eyes – for their variegated shades of green-yellow-red ranging from apple to chartreuse; stoneware, banana, daffodil, bumblebee and butter; and wine, cherry, brick and jam. There is even a daffodil-hickory colored species.
Among the competitions announced at the July 5 press conference was “The Most Beautiful Basket” created by women aged 25 and over.
In one area of the room are groups of women – and yes, men – adept at intertwining dried fronds – either in the natural tortilla color or the plum red-green color of the date palm – in bags, baskets, placemats and table runners.
Kasiba Saeed from Al Dhaid, who said she is O Mohammad’s mother, started making handicrafts “a long time ago when I was a little girl”. She has with her for sale bottles of Arabic oil with turmeric and mango sauce, among other dips that she concocts herself in her own kitchen.
The team of uncle and nephew of Ali Al Kaabi and Saeed Al Kaabi from Fujeirah let this reporter thread a bag of dried date palm several times with five hands. At first they were seen meandering in single dried leaves with an entire dried midrib that turned into a mat. They explained that the native materials of the bags are the fronds dried within four to five days which are then tangled with the part of the tree which contains the dates but which must first be soaked in water to be soft and flexible. The large-eyed needle also comes from the date palm.
Ali AlDhanhani is happy that over the past 45 years he has carried on the legacy of his ancestors, that of organic honey production from the native Samar and Sidr trees. His fresh bananas from his own farm are also on display.
Interviewed, Deputy General Manager of SCCI-Business and Services, Abdulaziz Shattaf, said that the festival focused on food security, among the main programs of the leaders of the United Arab Emirates: “It is not only about the achievements of the producers of date palms over the past year, but how they got there. ”
He added that farmers will be able to share their best practices, such as how they use water efficiently for necessary irrigation, through lectures scheduled in the afternoon.
Al Owais said that the UAE is one of the top 10 date producing countries as well as one of the top date exporters in the world. The industry accounts for approximately 30% of all import and export activity in the country’s international trade.