Dhaid festival celebrates ‘the tree of life’ with great fervour


The fresh dates of a wide range of colours and sizes are on exhibition at the Al Dhaid Expo in Sharjah for the 6th Al Dhaid Dates Festival until Sunday. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Date is the national fruit of the United Arab Emirates and on Thursday morning, the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) welcomed guests at the Al Dhaid Expo, 57 kilometers east of the Sharjah city proper, for the sixth edition of the “Al Dhaid Dates Festival.”

Themed “The Aroma of the Past…The Blossoming Present,” the annual celebration of a business and trade interleaved with heritage, and which also gives substance to cultural sustainability, was opened to the public in the presence of Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, SCCI chairman; Sheikh Majid bin Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Sharjah Department of Suburbs and Villages Affairs head; Mohammed Ahmed Amin Alawadi, SCCI director general; and Mosbeh Al Tunaiji, festival general coordinator.

In attendance was the “Buraida Date Festival” Executive Committee of Saudi Arabia who exchanged tokens with Al Owais. The delegation extended an invitation for the SCCI to take part in their own dates fair this August so they may share experiences in the industry.

Thriving in hot and humid areas across the globe but extensively grown in the Near East, date palm trees are the “tree of life” and are essential to the UAE culture. While it has become part of their diet and nutrition, these provide them shelter. The trunk and the fronds are the building materials for their houses. The leaves are used for traditional handicrafts.

With farmers and other private individuals as registered participants, the public sector is also represented through the Sharjah Department of Agriculture and Livestock, Sharjah Institute for Heritage, Al Madam Area Municipality, Maliha Municipality, and Al Batea Area Municipality.

On the sidelines of the July 5 press conference Alawadi said: “Al Dhaid is very famous for dates-the good quality, good size, good farmers, good irrigation system and good water for the dates which must be pure coming from the (Hajjar Mountains which the UAE shares with Oman) and from under the desert.”

Running until this Sunday, residents and tourists are encouraged to experience it. It is the first time for this reporter to attend and surprising are the oodles of round, plump, slim, elongated fresh dates-a feast in the eyes-for their variegated green-yellow-red shades ranging from apple to chartreuse; sandstone, banana, daffodil, bumblebee and butter; and wine, cherry, brick, and jam. There is even one kind in daffodil-hickory colours.

Among the competitions announced at the July 5 press conference was “The Most Beautiful Basket” created by women from age 25 and above.

At one area of the hall are groups of women-and yes, men-adept in interlacing dried fronds-either in the natural colour of tortilla or red-green-plum dyed-of the date palm-into bags, baskets, placemats and table runners.

Kasiba Saeed of Al Dhaid who said she is the mother of O Mohammad, began fashioning handicrafts “long time back when I was a small girl.” She has with her for sale bottles of Arabic oil with turmeric and mango sauce, among other dips she herself concocted right in her own kitchen.

The uncle-and-nephew team of Ali Al Kaabi and Saeed Al Kaabi from Fujeirah let this reporter thread a few times a-five-hands-span dried date palm bag. Early on, they were seen to snake in single dried leaves with one entire dried midrib-cum-leaves that turned into a carpet. They explained that the native bag materials are the fronds dried within four to five days which are then matted together with the part of the tree that holds the dates fruit altogether but must be dipped first in water to be soft and flexible. The needle with one big eye is also from the date palm tree.

Ali AlDhanhani is happy that for the past 45 years, he is continuing the legacy of his forebears-that of the organic production of honey from the indigenous Samar and Sidr trees. His fresh bananas from his own farm are also on display.

Interviewed, SCCI-Business and Services assistant director general Abdulaziz Shattaf said the festival is about food security, among the main agenda of the UAE leadership: “It is not only about the achievements of date palm farmers the past year but how they achieved these.”

He added the farmers will be able to share their best practices like how they efficiently use water for the necessary irrigation through scheduled lectures in the afternoon.

Al Owais said the UAE is one of the Top 10 date-producing countries as well as among the major exporters of dates in the world. The industry makes up about 30 per cent of all import and export activities in the nation’s international trade.


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