Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area in Abu Dhabi to be opened to public

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The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area, which is the first of its kind in the country, and one of the first in West Asia, will be opened for visitors starting from Saturday, February 5.

The Protected Area was earlier inaugurated on Tuesday by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) along with other Ministers and top officials.

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The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area located 45 kilometers to the East of Abu Dhabi city and comprising more than 1,700 fossil dunes, is spread over 7 sq. km.
Visitor times at the The Protected Area starting from February 5 and throughout the week, from 8:00 until 22:00 and on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and official holidays, the site will be open until 23:00 in the evening granting free entry and a unique model of eco-tourism.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment. (WAM)
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment. (WAM)



According to Emirates News Agency (WAM), Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed began his tour of the protected area by visiting the main visitor center, which includes several facilities such as the viewing area and the gallery corner, as well as benches and several scenic areas to soak in the beauty of the wonderful site.

He also visited the visitors’ well-lit trails, which were equipped within the eco-tourism program, as they offer a unique and distinct opportunity to enjoy the scenic landscapes and practice several activities. These include the opportunity to stroll along illuminated paths of up to 3 km in length back and forth with several umbrellas and seats for rest and recreation.

At the end of the tour, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed watched an introductory film about Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area.

Sheikh Hamdan said, “The inauguration of the Fossil Dunes Protected Area comes with the aim of protecting the natural heritage of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and encouraging eco-tourism.”

Abu Dhabi is rich and offers a unique diversity in its environments, habitats, and natural features with impressive natural formations, including the wonderful fossil dunes. These dunes are composed of rare sand formations densely located in Al Wathba area, to the south of Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and can also be found in other areas in the emirate.

“These fossil dunes have been classified on EAD’s Habitat Map and serve as an important habitat for several wildlife species,” he said.

Music, light shows

Visitors can also enjoy music and light shows which will take place throughout opening hours and can be viewed from the amphitheater area, which holds up to 200 visitors.
The site will also feature various food and beverage trucks in dedicated areas.

Throughout the site, the educational aspect will be emphasized with numerous awareness and guiding posters, in addition to the opportunity to read the latest publications by EAD.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan being briefed about the fossil dunes site in Al Wathba. (WAM)
Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan being briefed about the fossil dunes site in Al Wathba. (WAM)



The Protected Area, which is one of the key components of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s natural heritage, is listed in the third category of natural reserves (geological features), according to the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s criteria. The area is also nominated to be listed in UNESCO’s Global List of Geoparks.

Specialists estimate the age of fossil formations within the protected location trace back to the Ice Age from around 120,000 years ago.

Fossil dunes are outcrops of lightly cemented, cross-bedded dune sands, formed by the deposits of calcium carbonate and other salts from ground water during the glacial period. The formations in Al Wathba area derive their shape from the interaction between wind force and sediment supply.

The Agency recently implemented a comprehensive plan to develop and protect the fossil dunes site in Al Wathba, covering the site's infrastructure and constructing several service and tourist facilities, such as the visitors’ center. EAD also installed signposts and created trails and paths for visitors and completed internal and external fences that stretch for a total of 7 kilometers, in addition to completing the internal road network.

The Agency also launched a media campaign to raise public awareness of the site and its importance, mainly through key messages on EAD’s social media platforms. It asserted the need to avoid climbing the fossil formations, throwing garbage, or organizing any activities or events at the site.

The facilities at Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area include the opportunity to stroll along illuminated paths of up to 3 km in length back and forth with several umbrellas and seats for rest and recreation. (WAM)
The facilities at Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area include the opportunity to stroll along illuminated paths of up to 3 km in length back and forth with several umbrellas and seats for rest and recreation. (WAM)



EAD emphasized the necessity of keeping the site clean and not committing any violations that may jeopardize or negatively impact the fossil dunes and the site’s safety and sustainability.

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