Dig this: soil museum planned for Dubai

Bosses hope soil museum will attract tourists and schoolchildren eager to learn more about the UAE's landscape.

The agricultural museum, the first of its kind in the region, will include 100 types of soil. Based in Dubai Academic City, it is hoped the facility will open in the next two months. Courtesy International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture
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DUBAI // A new museum opening this summer aims to dig up the dirt on the UAE's agriculture.

The soil museum, which has not yet been officially named, will be based in Dubai Academic City and bosses are hopeful it will become an attraction for farming professionals and tourists alike.

"This is one-stop soil shopping," said Dr Shabbir Shahid, a scientist at the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (Icba) that is developing the museum.

"Any soil information seeker, when he comes to the museum, he should be satisfied with the answer to all of his questions."

The museum will include 100 types of soil from across the country, each represented behind glass cabinets with 125 centimetre samples. Bosses believe the museum will allow planners to assess the best place to base farmland around the UAE.

There are no other soil museums in the region and only a handful around the world.

Dr Shahid said several new types of soil have been discovered in the Emirates in recent years. He hopes that the museum will become an eco-tourism attraction for Dubai.

"When tourists go across Dubai in a big bus, we are expecting that they should also visit our museum as well."

The idea for the facility came about after recommendations were made by officials at the International Conference on Soil Classification and Reclamation of Degraded Lands in Arid Environments, held in the capital in 2010.

A countrywide initiative by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi was launched to classify the type and quality of soil in the UAE. The findings were also compiled into an online map launched at the beginning of the year.

The contractor developing the museum will hand over to Icba in two weeks, but it will probably be another two months before the museum will be open to the public.

Dr Shahid said that despite the niche interest, he expected hundreds of students from schools across the country to visit the museum every month.

"We are expecting many, many people," he said. "It will not be boring. This is an opportunity for students to come and learn more about soil, agriculture and the environment of the country."