After taking a tour of Dubai’s breathtaking skyscrapers and world-class shopping malls, escape into the dreamlike surrounding of the desert. Discover the exotic wildlife while you experience the thrills amongst the endless dunes. Also take this unique opportunity to enjoy a traditional welcome at the majestic Arabian resorts that are situated at the outskirts of the city.
From its humble beginnings as a small Bedouin settlement in the 1950s, at a time when pearl diving, fishing and trading were the staple of the economy, Dubai has evolved at a dramatic pace. Spurred on by the oil wealth of the 1970s and the vision of the late Ruler Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the economy diversified, encouraging inward investment from around the world. There was considerable government spending on infrastructure, education and healthcare, all part of a long-term plan to turn Dubai into a thriving cosmopolitan centre for business and tourism. In more recent years, the vision has been reinforced with the creation of numerous world-class luxury hotels, business free zones, parks and a relentless commitment to raising awareness of the Dubai brand internationally. It is an inescapable fact that most visitors to Dubai, as well as residents, want to experience the unique desert environment. Surveys indicate the most common reasons for selecting a holiday destination are heritage, culture and the opportunity to experience nature. But when desert trip visitor figures show such great increases over such a short period of time, the impact on this environment cannot be ignored. With this in mind, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR) and Emirates Al Maha’s management team drew up a blueprint that will form the basis for controlling and nurturing Dubai’s wildlife and natural habitats in the years to come.
As Dubai was primarily a desert, the Dubai government and Emirates Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa initiated the DDCR to preserve its natural habitat. This reserve is set on 225 sq km, which accounts for nearly 5% of Dubai’s total land area. Since the opening, Al Maha reinvested five per cent of its turnover to nurture the key components of the ecosystem, from flora and fauna to water supplies.
One of the most important conservation projects of DDCR was to set off an extensive wildlife reintroduction programme. In the 1960s, the Ruler of Dubai and architect of the modern emirate, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, was concerned by the rapid disappearanceof much of the region’s wildlife, largely due to hunting. Over a period of time, herds of Arabian oryx and other species were captured and removed to the safety of a small wildlife reserve in Arizona, USA (a region that shares a similar climate to Dubai). More than 35 years later, under the personal sponsorship of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, more than 90 descendants of these Arabian oryx were flown in from their American sanctuary. Together with other indigenous species drawn from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s own personal breeding and conservation programmes, most of the exotic wildlife of Dubai was reintroduced to its natural habitat. Today, DDCR contains over 300 Arabian oryx and 250 gazelle which can be viewed on the official excursions set up with the members of DDCR.
The first wildlife was released into the Reserve from Al Maha on 25th March 2004, an event which was attended by the late Lord Patrick Lichfield, and covered by the BBC crew. In fact, Al Maha was awarded the prestigious World Legacy Award 2004 (Nature Travel) by the National Geographic Traveler and Conservation International. In line with international conservation practices, the Reserve is segregated into four zones, each with a prescribed utilisation plan – from complete exclusion zones, which can be visited only on foot by researchers, to limited vehicle access zones for safari groups, excursions and desert campsites. The number of safari operators into this area has been restricted to four: Arabian Adventures,Alpha Tours, Travco and Lama Tours.
Since you are already within the enclave of the desert, why not take a tour to discover a range of activities you can enjoy amongst the endless dunes.
A visit to the desert is incomplete without a safari that starts with a roller-coaster ride across the dunes in powerful 4x4s. Hold on to your seatbelt while the expert driver slowly climbs a tall mountain of sand, suddenly accelerates at the top and takes a sharp dive down the dune cliff. Dangerous as it may sound, it’s absolutely safe and the adrenaline rush you feel through your body makes it all worthwhile. If you have a taste for speed and an enthusiasm for an unusual sport like sand skiing, then strap on your skis and enjoy the descent down the steep but harmless sand dunes. Exploring the Wadis Go on a special tour to visit the Hajjar Mountains. Along the way, explore the wadis(dry river valleys) that are formed by streams flowing down from mountains. Then move on for an excursion to Fossil Rock and ancient archaeological sites like Camel Rock. If you further wish to explore Arabian heritage, then request a visit to Hatta, a 200-year-old village, and Al Ain, which is popularly known as the Garden City.
The art of falconry dates back to 13th century BC. Enjoy the splendour of this traditional Bedouin activity as you observe different species of falcons in action.
Take a ride on ‘the ship of the desert’ and experience how the Bedouins travelled in ancient times. While atop the camel, watch the evening sun cast its orange glow on the picturesque rippling sands, which indeed is an unforgettable sight. If you’d like to gallop on a horse, there are fine Arabian steeds awaiting you.
At certain designated areas, you can test your aim with traditional weapons and improve your concentration levels. So whether you want to experience true Arabian hospitality or discover a beautiful desert hideaway, you’re sure to find it all in the multifaceted city of Dubai.
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