Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
Despite shopping malls and skyscrapers having overshadowed the endless Arabian Desert from which the city of Dubai grows, the desert will always be written on the soul of the Emirates. Dubai has come of age in the time of environmental conservation, and the recent conservation movement, led by the ruling sheikh, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been focused on the development of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the country's first national park, founded in 1977, a fragile ecosystem every bit as awe-inspiring as the towering metropolis. The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is located an hour's drive east from Dubai, and what was once a vast, 88 square miles, camel farm, now protects the indigenous species. In addition to the national park’s austere beauty of rocky plains in stark contrast to the signature shifting sand dunes with their ever-changing forms, there are more than 6000 recently planted trees, as well as the vital ecosystem of grasses and shrubs. While it may not look like it at first glance, the desert, invigorated by new growth, is teeming with life.
It is also returning to its natural varied state, and the animals are coming back, including the statuesque Arabian gazelle, the San gazelle, Ethiopian hedgehog, pygmy shrew, side-winding vipers, Gordon’s wildcat, Arabian red fox, Rueppell's fox and the curious sand cats. Even though some animals may look similar to their African cousins, with desert temperatures routinely reaching 120°F, the animals have evolved to be especially drought resistant. Even the plants are colorful and diverse, with several species of trees, flowering shrubs, herbs, and grasses. The true success story of the national park is that of the Arabian oryx, a species of antelope. Before the park was established in 2003, the Arabian oryx was close to extinction. Today, well over 100 live here. This unique reserve, created for the protection of those endangered species and for the conservation of the natural desert habitat and heritage offers one of the UAE’s best opportunities for viewing native wildlife and having the inland desert adventures.