HAVANA, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- One of the most anticipated events at Cuba's 21st Habanos Cigar Festival was Wednesday's master class in hand-rolling cigars, a craft that takes years to perfect.
"This Habano Festival event is exciting because participants leave here appreciating the work of cigar rollers. Some smoke their own cigars, others keep them as souvenirs, it's a fun time," said veteran cigar roller and instructor Miguel Barzaga.
Hundreds of participants from different parts of the world attended his workshop on how to roll a "Parejo," a straight-sided cigar with a rounded tip. While it is the most common cigar shape, it's also one of the hardest to roll well.
"I think this practical class teaches them how hard is to hand-roll a cigar. Our cigar is unique, it is a living product, it is truly an art and one must be an artist to make one," Barzaga told Xinhua.
Jasim Ahmed, a participant from United Arab Emirates (UAE), agreed.
"Rolling a handmade cigar is an art, it is a work of great dedication and a painstaking process. We appreciate value of cigars more after this class because it is something unique and only professional cigar rollers with many years of experience can make a perfect one," said Ahmed.
Ahmed plans to replicate the cigar-rolling class when he returns to the UAE to share it with other aficionados of premium Cuban cigars.
The number of women taking part in the festival increases every year. In fact, most of the participants in the workshop held at the Havana Convention Center were women.
"A cigar roller is a true artist because creating a wonderful product like a habano (cigar) from tobacco leaves requires craftsmanship and experience," said Jazmin Garcia, a Cuban cigar sommelier.
"It takes a lot of dedication and time to learn how to roll a perfect cigar," she added.
Argentinian Ignacio Chaver traveled to Cuba with other cigar aficionados to attend the five-day festival, which kicked off on Monday and has drawn some 2,200 people from 70 nations.
"Now I understand why Cuban cigars are so expensive -- because they are handmade and require a special skill," said Chaver.
The experience also allows cigar aficionados to take a closer look at the industry, because it's not just about the art of rolling a cigar, Barzaga said.
"The secret is in the tradition, and of course the soil and the climate," said Barzaga. "But fundamentally what distinguishes a Cuban cigar is the commitment of everyone within the industry to maintaining it as the best in the world."