A desert park spanning 10 per cent of Dubai’s total landscape has been welcomed by adventurists who claim the emirate is edging towards a new era of outdoor tourism.
The government has announced the Marmoom Reserve project will be the first unfenced desert conservation area in the country when it officially opens in 2030.
It will host more than 20 sporting events every year, and be the perfect destination for visitors looking to learn more about the desert wildlife and experience the nation’s beautiful natural landscape.
Fadi Hachicho, founder and lead mountain guide at Dubai tour operators Adventurati Outdoor, said the project marks a new dawn of tourism potential.
“As a tour company, we are focused on rock climbing, hiking and canyoning, but we know there is a huge demand from people wanting to get outside and experience the desert in different ways,” he said.
“More people have to realise the potential for tourism in the desert, with safaris and camping trips.
“There is huge potential for growth. Hiking is the most popular activity we hear from people, and that usually develops into other sports like climbing.
“Backpacking where people carry everything they need is also becoming very popular.
“There are no fresh water streams or rivers here, so people have to carry their own water supplies, which is part of the challenge.
“There are currently very few recognised trails or routes, so there is plenty of room for development in this area.”
XDubai, an adventure company known for their high-flying stunts, welcomed the potential for more sporting activities to be hosted in the emirate.
“The project opens up a host of new possibilities for us in our mission to encourage UAE residents and visitors to push their limits through sport and activity,” said its general manager Mohammed Javad.
Marmoom will hope to replicate the success of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve a 225-square-kilometre natural reserve established in 2002 and home to Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa.
The fenced-in wilderness has served as a protected habitat for a variety of indigenous mammals including hedgehogs, shrews, gazelles, Arabian hares and at least three species of bats.
Mr Hachicho has been working as an outdoor consultant with Ras Al Khaimah tourism, an emirate that is enjoying huge growth in this area.
“The Marmoom Project is a good effort to make these kind of activities more accessible and affordable for the pubic, and once they get into these kind of sports they can develop their skills,” he said.
“We are witnessing the development of the outdoor community and the UAE as an adventure destination, especially from Bahrain and Kuwait where there is not the same landscape as here.
“Oman, Saudi Arabia and Ras Al Khaimah are becoming very popular with adventure tourists so there is a lot of competition.
“There is so much more potential here. This is a new era for adventure travel, and it is helping create a lot of new outdoor activity clubs.”
The reserve will be home to more than 204 species of native birds, 158 species of migratory birds, and 10 km of lakes, encompassing the Al Qudra Lakes.
It will include 10 animal and bird observation platforms, star and sunset observations decks, areas for yoga, an outdoor theatre, all powered by a 5,000 megawatt solar power complex.
“As long as the government regulates the industry properly with licenses and safety workshops for those working in the industry, it can continue to grow safely,” Mr Hachicho said.
“The bright lights of the city will always be popular with tourists, but this offers something different.”