The Liwa Date Festival may be just eight years old, but the fruit of the date palm tree has been an integral part of this land – and the survival of its inhabitants – for thousands of years. This year, the festival takes place from July 12-18 and is well worth the drive to the Western Region to celebrate the culture of the UAE. Before you go, make sure to brush up on your date facts with this handy guide.
See this feature as it appeared in print.
• The UAE makes up 33 per cent of world date exports, according to www.visitabudhabi.ae, with 266,000 tonnes of dates annually
• Seven types of Ratab date: Khallas, Dabbas, Abu Maan, Khanizi, Fardh, Nukhba, and A'adj
• The date palm tree is known as Phoenix dactilyfera; the earliest evidence of date palm cultivation comes from Lower Mesopotamia (in Iraq) from around 3000 BC, according to the UAE University website
The Date Festival
• Only the Retab (half-ripe) date is allowed, and only grown in the UAE
• For the second year in a row, locally grown mangoes and lemons will also be judged
• Last year, more than 70,000 people attended the festival
• There is more to see than just dates: on the way, check out the Emirates National Auto Museum or, when there, the grand Moreeb Dune; stay at Qasr Al Sarab, Tilal Liwa Hotel or the Liwa Hotel
• Dates are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamin A, iron, potassium and copper. They are said to help prevent eyesight degradation and certain cancers
• Fresh dates are a good source of vitamin C, although most of the vitamin is lost during the drying process, meaning dried dates contain only very small amounts of the vitamin
• Because of their high sugar content, breaking fast with dates adds a quick shot of nutritional energy to the body and supresses the immediate hunger, helping to avoid overeating
• Average nutritional information for four medium dried dates: 140 calories, 1g protein, 0g fat, 37g carbohydrates, 4g fibre, 0g cholesterol, 0g sodium
• Add chopped dates to cold or hot cereal; spinach or whole-grain salads; or stuff dates with toasted nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, and dip in melted dark chocolate. Sprinkle with toasted coconut
• Or try Martha Stewart's date squares:
2 cups dates, pitted and diced
1 cup water
1 pinch of salt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
Place dates in a saucepan with water, salt, and lemon zest and juice. Cook over medium heat until dates are soft, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool before using. This is the date paste.
Preheat oven to 350° Farenheit (175° Celsius). Butter an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Add butter and blend with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Transfer two-thirds of the crumb mixture into prepared pan, and press into bottom and up sides. Spread date paste over bottom layer of the dough. Cover with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert onto a plate, then back onto a cutting board. Cut into two-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
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