The Liwa festival is an annual cultural event held in the oasis city of Liwa in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is a 10-day festival that takes place during the hot summer month of July and attracts thousands of visitors from across the UAE and Gulf region.
Liwa festival showcases the rich heritage and traditional culture of the Bedouin tribes that have inhabited the Liwa oasis for centuries. It provides a unique opportunity for visitors to experience authentic Emirati traditions and hospitality.
History and Origin
The Liwa festival was first held in 1987 under the patronage of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE. It was started with the aim of promoting the Emirati culture, arts, and heritage among the younger generation and preserving the traditions of the Bedouin tribes.
Liwa oasis has historically been home to the Bani Yas and Manasir tribes. These nomadic tribes lived in the harsh desert environment for centuries, cultivating date palm gardens and herding camels. They developed a rich cultural heritage shaped by the unique desert life.
The late Sheikh Zayed recognized the need to preserve this rapidly vanishing heritage of the Bedouin tribes. The Liwa festival was conceived to provide a platform for showcasing and celebrating this cultural legacy. From its modest beginnings, the festival has grown into a popular national event under patronage of the Abu Dhabi government.
Timing and Location
The Liwa festival takes places during the month of July every year. The exact dates vary but the festival usually lasts for around 10 days.
The festival activities and events are centered around the Liwa oasis area near the city of Liwa in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Liwa is located around 250 km southwest of the city of Abu Dhabi and 100 km west of the oasis city of Al Ain.
The main festival venue is located along the highway E11 near the Liwa Rest House. This venue hosts the camel races, camel auctions, horse races, falconry competitions, and other events. Additional events take place at other locations within the Liwa area including the Liwa International Festival for Arts workshop and the Liwa Date Festival.
Main Attractions and Events
The Liwa festival program features a diverse range of traditional sports competitions, cultural activities, arts events, handicraft exhibitions, folk performances, and more. Here are some of the main attractions and events:
Camel Racing and Auctions
Camel racing is the highlight event of the Liwa festival. Race tracks with designated spectator areas are set up along the highway E11. Camel races take place almost daily during the festival with separate races held for various age categories of camels. Cash prizes worth millions of AED are at stake for the winners.
Camel auctions and shows are also held, where visitors can admire rare camel breeds. Camel accessories and equipment are sold at the traditional camel market.
Falconry has historically been practiced as a sport and hunting technique by Bedouin tribes. The Liwa festival hosts falconry competitions like lure-catching contests. Stalls allow visitors to shop for falcons and falconry supplies.
Saluki Beauty Contests
Salukis are elegant hunting dogs traditionally bred by Arabs. Contests are held at the festival for judging the best Saluki dog based on its appearance traits.
Horse racing competitions take place on designated tracks nearby the main festival venue. Race categories are divided based on age of the Arabian horses.
A heritage village is created within the festival grounds for visitors to experience traditional desert camping. Traditional Emirati tents, crafts, food stalls, and more can be found in this area.
Local women display and sell traditional handicrafts and souvenirs like woven baskets, carpets, embroidery, pottery, antiques, metalsmith items, dates, honey, and fragrances.
Emirati folk dance and musical performances like Al Ayyala dancing, Al Razfa, and Al Yowla take place during the festival. Poets showcase traditional Nabati poetry recitals.
Workshops and Exhibitions
Workshops are held to teach traditional skills like falconry, saluki breeding, camel veterinary practices, henne art, and more. Exhibitions showcase Emirati culture, lifestyle, history, arts, and literature through interactive displays.
The festival offers dedicated events and zones for kids such as camel and horse rides, sports games, competitions, puppet shows, and more.
How to Make the Most of the Festival
Here are some tips to help you plan your visit and make the most of the Liwa festival experience:
- Check the festival schedule and map in advance to know the dates, timings, and locations of different events and plan accordingly.
- Book accommodation in Liwa city or the nearby areas well in advance as hotels fill up fast during the festival. Camping at the heritage village is another unique option.
- Be prepared for very hot weather during July in the desert. Wear lightweight breathable clothes, use hats, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen. Stay hydrated.
- Bring binoculars to enjoy camel races, falconry, and saluki contests from the spectator stands.
- Wear modest, culturally appropriate clothing when visiting mosques and other sites.
- Visit the traditional souks and handicraft stalls to shop for local crafts and products. Bargaining is expected.
- Try Emirati delicacies like Harees (meat and wheat porridge), Machboos (biryani), local dates, and Arabic coffee.
- If possible, attend the evening heritage performances and campfire programs to enjoy music, dance, and poetry.
- Respect local customs and immerse yourself in the Emirati cultural experience by talking to locals, voluntouring, and visiting heritage sites nearby.
Significance and Cultural Value
The Liwa festival holds great cultural significance for preserving and promoting the traditions of the Bedouin tribes native to the Arabian desert. Here are some of the key reasons why this festival is culturally important:
- Provides a platform for Bedouin communities to maintain and showcase their indigenous crafts, skills, sports, music, dance, and other cultural expressions.
- Educates younger generations and the wider public on the rich heritage and ethnic identity of desert tribes.
- Celebrates the strong historical bonds between humans and animals like camels, falcons, salukis, and Arabian horses in Arab culture.
- Highlights the intimate relationship between desert tribes and the oasis ecosystem that sustained their lifestyle.
- Promotes cultural diversity and exchange between citizens and expats by immersing visitors in Emirati heritage.
- Generates tourism and economic benefits for the local Liwa community.
- Revives interest in practicing traditional skills like camel breeding, falconry, henna art, and handicrafts.
- Provides research opportunities for ethnographers, anthropologists, historians, and other scholars to document indigenous heritage.
Overall, the Liwa festival offers a nostalgic journey back in time to experience the traditional desert lifestyle that shaped the Emirati culture, identity, and values. By celebrating these enduring cultural roots, this festival helps reinforce national pride and unity.
The Liwa festival is an exciting celebration of authentic Emirati culture centered around the traditions of Bedouin desert tribes native to the Arabian peninsula. This lively 10-day festival held annually in the Liwa oasis features camel racing, auctions, falconry, saluki contests, handicrafts, performances, and many more cultural experiences. Beyond its entertainment value, the Liwa festival holds deeper significance for preserving indigenous heritage and educating the wider public on the UAE’s cherished Bedouin roots. If you are visiting Abu Dhabi in July, make plans to immerse yourself in the one-of-a-kind experience offered by this festival.
- Liwa festival is an annual 10-day event held in Liwa, Abu Dhabi during July to celebrate Emirati heritage and Bedouin traditions.
- It was founded in 1987 by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan to promote UAE’s culture, especially among youth.
- Main attractions are camel racing and auctions, falconry, saluki contests, horse races, handicraft stalls, heritage performances, and more.
- Festival provides a platform to maintain indigenous crafts, lifestyles, and cultural skills of desert tribes.
- Liwa festival holds significance for preserving Emirati identity and educating people on UAE’s Bedouin roots.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: When was the first Liwa festival held?
A1: The first Liwa festival was held in 1987 under the patronage of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE.
Q2: Where does the Liwa festival take place?
A2: The Liwa festival is held in the Liwa oasis area near the city of Liwa in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, UAE. The main festival venue is along highway E11.
Q3: How long does the Liwa festival last?
A3: The Liwa festival is a 10-day annual event typically held during July. It starts on a weekend and lasts for around 8-10 days.
Q4: What is the weather like during the festival?
A4: July is the peak of summer in UAE with very hot, dry desert climate. Daytime temperatures are around 40°C to 50°C but evenings are cooler.
Q5: What are the major events at the Liwa festival?
A5: Main events are camel races, camel auctions, falconry, saluki contests, horse races, handicraft stalls, heritage village, traditional performances, carnivals, workshops, exhibitions etc.
Q6: Can tourists visit and participate in the festival?
A6: Yes, the Liwa festival is open for tourists and visitors. No participation fees are charged. Visitors can watch events, shop at stalls, try activities, and immerse in Emirati culture.
Q7: What is the best way to experience the festival?
A7: Book accommodation in advance, wear comfortable lightweight clothes, follow event schedule, visit heritage village, shops and stalls, try Emirati food, and attend evening performances.
Q8: How can you reach the Liwa festival venue?
A8: Liwa is around 250km from Abu Dhabi and 100km from Al Ain. It is easily accessible by road. Public buses or private transport can be used to reach festival site along E11 highway.
Q9: What is the cultural significance of the Liwa festival?
A9: It helps preserve Bedouin heritage of UAE, educate youth on traditions, promote indigenous arts, support local community, and generate tourism.
Q10: What are some nearby attractions to visit around the Liwa festival?
A10: Nearby attractions include the Liwa Oasis, Moreeb Dune, Tal Mireb, Liwa Fort, Al Mansouri Mosque, date farms, old souks, and desert camps.
Q11: Are ATMs available at the festival venue?
A11: Yes, ATMs are available at the festival site. But it is best to carry some cash, as connectivity may be limited at some areas.
Q12: Is there an entry fee for attending the Liwa Festival?
A12: There is no entry fee for general visitors and spectators at the Liwa Festival. It is free to attend.
Q13: Can we do camping at the Liwa Festival?
A13: Yes, camping facilities are provided at the Heritage Village site within main festival venue along the E11 highway. Visitors need to bring their own camping gear.
Q14: What are good places to stay in Liwa during the festival?
A14: Recommended places to stay are Tilal Liwa Hotel, Liwa Hotel, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, etc. Advance booking is advised.
Q15: Is the Liwa Festival child-friendly?
A15: Yes, the festival has dedicated events and zones for kids like camel rides, competitions, circus shows etc. Families are welcome.
Q16: What are the timings of the Liwa Festival?
A16: Festival timings vary by event but most activities and performances take place in evening till late night due to intense daytime heat. Camel races start around 5-6 pm.
Q17: How did the Liwa Festival originate?
A17: It was founded in 1987 by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to celebrate UAE’s culture and Bedouin tribal heritage among Emirati youth and wider public.
Q18: Are pets allowed at the Liwa Festival?
A18: Pets are generally not allowed at the festival venues and event sites for safety reasons and due to crowds. Service animals may be permitted after consultation with organizers.
Q19: What type of clothes are appropriate to wear to the festival?
A19: Lightweight, breathable cotton clothes are ideal for Liwa’s hot desert climate. Modest clothing is recommended. Robes and abayas help block sun.
Q20: Can tourists participate in the camel races at the Liwa Festival?
A20: No, camel racing is only open to professional camel owners and riders. But visitors can watch the races from designated spectator stands and cheer on favorites.