A massive natural reserve covering 10 percent of the Emirate of Dubai was given the go-ahead.
UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum launched the Marmoom Reserve project, the first unfenced desert conservation haven in the country.
It will feature more than 20 environmental, cultural and sports-related initiatives, sponsored by nine Dubai government agencies.
Enjoying over 40 hectares of shrubland and fertile area, the reserve is home to over 204 species of native birds, 158 species of migratory birds, and over 10 km of lakes, encompassing the Al Qudra Lakes.
The new project will include 10 animal and bird observation platforms, star and sunset observations decks, areas for yoga, an outdoor theatre that can host 350-person events - powered by a 5,000 megawatt solar power complex.
By 2030, the reserve will host more than 20 annual sporting events, which will attract an estimated 20,000 participants. Its cycling tracks will add up to the longest in any desert anywhere in the world.
"Preserving and investing in the environment means preserving and investing in one of our most important assets. The Marmoom Reserve is an environmental, touristic and sporting addition to life in the UAE." Said Shaikh Mohammed as he gave the project the green light.
The reserve will also be home to 26 species of reptiles, nine mammal species, and 39 species of plants and provide a sanctuary to 19 species of endangered animals and birds.
It has the highest concentration of large flamingos in a desert region in the country, with 300 to 500 birds. It also welcomes 158 species of migratory birds every year, hosting them along 10 sq km of wetland. It contains one of the richest Houbara Bustard colonies in the region, and is home to one of the largest Arabian gazelle herds in the UAE.
The Marmoom Reserve is also the site of the important Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site, which dates back over 3,000 years to the Iron Age.
The reserve will host more than 20 projects and environmental, recreational, sports, tourism and educational programmes that will engage people in unique experiences throughout the year.
The reserve features more than a dozen wildlife and bird observation platforms, star and sunset observation decks, yoga practice areas, a theatre that will host various cultural, artistic and recreational performances, and various sports initiatives and challenges.