> AlUla is drawing on 2,000 years of growing dates to launch the first in a new series of date festivals.
> Bringing together local farmers and international buyers alongside a public souq and auction, the festival is a continuation of AlUla’s millennia-long status as a cosmopolitan oasis of culture, heritage and food.
> Festival will run every Friday and Saturday in AlUla between 2 and 17 October.
AlUla, Saudi Arabia, 21 September 2020: From 2 – 17 October 2020, the AlUla Dates Festival will bring together date farmers, buyers and investors amid the ancient heritage and palm groves of AlUla.
Every weekend for three weeks, the festival will feature an early morning farmers’ market where commercial buyers can purchase at auction more than 200 tons of the different date varieties offered by some of AlUla’s 2,000 local date farmers. This will be followed by an afternoon and evening community souq where visitors can buy local arts and crafts or enjoy date-inspired food and delicacies from local families and chefs.
Farmers can register to sell their wares at the market through a simple online form available on the RCU website. The commercial auctions run from 6.00 to 9.00 mornings and the public souq from 17.00 to 21.00 every Friday and Saturday evening during the festival. The event is being organised by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and will take place in AlFursan, located near the popular landmark, Jebel El Fil (Elephant rock).
In AlUla, date palms have thrived since the 1st millennium BCE, contributing to the region’s status as a cultural oasis and vital stopping point on the ancient spice and incense trade routes. Today, there are more than two million date palms in AlUla, with the AlBarni the most common variety of date grown. AlBarni variety dates make up around 80 percent of the total dates grown per year, the three types of AlBarni - Mabroom, Mashrook, and AlAdi – all growing on the same tree.
AlUla’s date farms are part of a wider agricultural sector that has developed over millennia around the region’s historic oasis, and also includes citrus products and moringa plants. Growing AlUla’s agricultural sector is part of RCU’s efforts to diversify the region’s economy, unleashing its potential and creating new job and economic opportunities for its community. The new festival offers AlUla’s farmers the opportunity to sell directly to commercial buyers from Saudi Arabia and across the GCC, both a business opportunity and a connection with AlUla’s history as a nexus of international trade.
Meanwhile, the public souq is a chance for the community and visitors to experience AlUla’s culture and heritage first-hand as 10 local families and artisans offer-up modern and traditional arts, crafts, and food. Among those serving food at the souq will be eight AlUla graduates of the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts in Paris, France. Having attended the school as part of an RCU programme, these chefs are now blending traditional Saudi and AlUla cooking with the highest international standards, creating dishes that contain date elements to match the theme.
Mohamed AlShamari, Chief Economic and Social Development Officer at RCU, said: “For us, dates are more than just food – they’re our community’s heritage and history, our tradition and culture. We’re excited to be once again professionally welcoming buyers, traders, and visitors from across Saudi Arabia and the region to enjoy the fruits of our ancient landscape, as well as the jewels of our history. Alongside our farming community, we’re growing local businesses and putting AlUla’s agricultural sector on the regional map – we even have our sights on international markets with niche local products. To buyers and investors, this is a chance to connect directly with our farmers drawing on over 2,000 years of experience and generations of stories. And to our community and visitors, come along, join in, and let’s share and celebrate all that we have to offer.”
RCU is working with a number of Saudi partners to host the festival, including: the National Center for Dates and Palms; the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture; Saudi Exports; Saudi Post; the Saudi Agriculture Development Fund; the Small & Medium Sized Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at); and the Saudi Food & Drugs Administration. Each partner will have a presentation stand at the festival.