Monday 25 November 2019

#SharjahSaturday - Arabia's Wildlife Centre

I'm wild, baby!

Our second stop on #SharjahSaturday, on the 7th December 2019, will be Arabia's Wildlife Centre. This zoological garden and animal sanctuary is about 30 minutes' drive away from our first stop, Mahatta Fort, but it's worth the journey out and we'll have the chance to point out some other things to do and places to see on the way.

The Wildlife Centre sits on the road to Dhaid, past the Bee'ah waste management complex and the little desert village of Saja'a - once the remote desert home of the fearsome Bani Qitab bedouin but now a bustling industrial area with a cement plant, cable factory and gas field as well as an extensive industrial zone.

It opened in 1999 after an expatriate lady called Marijke Jongbloed wrote to Dr Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi and expressed her concern about the parlous state of the Dhub or horny-tailed lizard. Long prized by the Bedouin as an aphrodisiac, it was in danger of being hunted to death - the lizard bred in a specific place, a bowl in the Sharjah desert interior. Dr Sultan's response was a bolt out of the blue - yes, by all means protect the lizard, but why not establish a proper wildlife centre and conservancy there, as well? Jongbloed, awed at the chance she'd been given, leaped at the opportunity to built her centre.

Arabia's Wildlife Centre consists of an extensive indoor series of collections of wildlife indigenous to The Emirates - from Ruppel's Foxes to scorpions and saw-tailed vipers. There is also a neat section where larger animals roam around, gawped at by humans in glass cages. As I have said many times before, this last bit amused Jongbloed no end.

There is also the Sharjah Natural History Museum, which looks at the deep history of planetary formation, plate tectonics, dinosaurs and the Emirates' flora and fauna in general. There's also a charming little Islamic Botanical Garden, a kids' petting zoo and, although you can't visit it as such, a breeding centre for endangered wildlife.

After this, we're heading back into town to grab lunch at Funky Fen Café...

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