Dubai to home Middle East’s first rainforest

The Dubai Rainforest will be completed ahead of the World Expo 2020 and will become a key attraction within Dubai’s integrated tourism plans.

Illustration of the Damac Properties rainforest to be housed within the company’s Akoya Oxygen master development community. Courtesy Damac
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DUBAI // A tropical rainforest is set to be created in Dubai as part of a luxury housing development.

The Dubai Rainforest, described as an educational and cultural dome, will be housed within Damac Properties’ Akoya Oxygen master community and is slated to be completed ahead of Expo 2020.

It is designed to recreate the natural environment of rainforests, which cover 6 per cent of the world’s surface, said the developer.

“Dubai is known around the world for attracting the biggest and best and the Dubai Rainforest joins that list of unique attractions which will support the growth of the city,” said Ziad El Chaar, managing director of Damac Properties.

Visitors will be taken on a journey through the jungle, starting on ground level, before climbing up into the canopy as they learn about the habitat’s flora and fauna.

Those with a thrill for heights will be able to fly through the treetops on a zip wire or just relax in the Rainforest spa, the latter of which will offer hydrothermal treatments among rock pools and steam baths.

The Dubai Rainforest will sit adjacent to the Trump World Golf Clubhouse for residents and visitors to the Akoya by Damac community.

Dr Ali El-Keblawy, associate professor at the University of Sharjah and director of the Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium, said the project’s expected high water footprint is likely unsustainable in a desert climate.

“To create an artificial forest in such harsh conditions, they are challenging nature,” he said.

Unlike desert shrubs and trees, which employ various strategies to survive on small amounts of water, plants that thrive in rainforests require high amounts of moisture. Protecting the artificial rainforest under a dome and creating a closed system will help reduce water loss through evaporation, he said. Yet many bacteria and fungi, some of which harmful, are known to thrive in moist, warm environments, he said.

“There should be a critical study before they start,” said Dr El-Keblawy. “They should assess the impact of this on the environment.”