Al Ain zoo makes room for luxury

New five-star, 200-room hotel desert resort to include habitats from Africa and America.

05/01/2010 - Al Ain, UAE - Two White Lions were brought from South Africa to Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort this week.  **Pictures courtesy of Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort** *** Local Caption ***  ah_100105_White_Lions_0001.JPG
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Graceful giraffes will graze on the sun-shading trees busy with chattering monkeys. White lions will patrol the plains looking for prey. Welcome to the latest luxury desert development: a wildlife park with a difference. In Al Ain, work is in progress on the multibillion-dirham resort, which will include luxury lodges, a five-star, 200-room hotel and 1,000 villas.

The centrepiece will be a wildlife park in the 900-hectare project, which will be split into zones: a north Kenyan park; a North American area; and an Arabian sector. "We have relied on 16 different consultants to produce this masterplan; some of them to do with plants, with animals, hotels and museums," Nabil Zakhour, a spokesman for Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, said at Cityscape Abu Dhabi yesterday. "None of them have seen all these things all together before."

The desert development, backed by the Abu Dhabi Government, is expected to be finished by 2014 and will involve three phases. The first, which should be ready in two years, will include the African area, the hotel, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre and a lodge. "We've already imported a lot of the animals," said Mr Zakhour. "This whole project is a sustainable based on green buildings. The lodges will be in the African and Arabian safaris. They will be five-star luxury."

The wildlife park will be marketed worldwide, but Mr Zakhour expected most of the visitors to come from the Gulf. "Presently we have a large number of visitors to the zoo," he said. "Our basic interest is the Abu Dhabi, UAE and Gulf population, but there are already tour agencies interested from Europe. "In this plot, you can visit several desert worlds in one day. When you are visiting the north Kenyan safari, you will feel you're in north Kenya. When you are visiting the Sonoran Desert, you will feel that you're in North America."

The learning centre will have a natural history museum focusing on the adaptation of plants and animals to the desert climate. Conservation will be a primary focus.