Dubai Destinations: Discover 56 lakes in a sea of sand

Spanning over 23 per cent of the Emirate’s total area, Al Marmoom Desert Conversation Reserve is home to some stunning hidden gems


Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Fri 17 Dec 2021, 9:30 AM

Last updated: Sat 18 Dec 2021, 5:11 PM

Just a 45-drive away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai’s city centre lies a piece of heaven — the Al Marmoom Desert Conversation Reserve.

Home to not one or two, but a mind-boggling 56 lakes —including the famous Al Qudra and Love Lakes — the reserve is home to some absolutely stunning gems, including some of the rarest endangered animal species and coolest places to go desert camping around a bonfire or feast on a barbecue like the Arabian kings of yore.

The UAE’s first unfenced nature reserve, straddles over 950 square kilometers of desert, and is estimated to account for over 23 per cent of Dubai’s total landmass.

The vast reserve is one of the few places in the UAE that combines wildlife conservation for vulnerable and endangered animal species, with tourism by an avenue for visitors to engage in nature and indulge in a number of adventure and family activities.

A lot of wildlife can be spotted around the 56 lakes - the largest number of man-made lakes in the country that cover 10 sq km of the desert. The reserve also boasts a number of designated spots for barbecues and desert camp.

At the heart of Al Marmoom, the country’s largest population of 1,200 Arabian oryx and 2,000 gazelles — including 800 Arabian mountain gazelles and 1,200 Arabian sand gazelles — roam freely in the wild.

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Vulnerable species of lizards, endangered lappet-faced vultures, and the country’s highest concentration of Greater Flamingos (estimated to number from 500 to 2,000) find their sanctuary in the vast nature reserve.

From fitness fanatics, to campers, adventure lovers and animal enthusiasts, to picnic spots for families and children, the reserve is the perfect destination to get away from it all .

Plan your trip

Taking the Umm Suqeim exit from Sheikh Zayed Road and driving along Dubai Studio City down to Al Qudra Road, you can spot Al Marmoom’s first attraction: the fancy food trucks of the Last Exit. In the same spot, one can often spot many cycling enthusiasts at Trek Bicycle store where they can rent bicycles to do some serious pedal pushing on the 86km Al Qudra Cycling Track.

Accessible with any vehicle, the sandy terrain beyond Last Exit leads to the Al Qudra Lakes where a map of the area on the left displays the variety of animals and birds that visitors can expect to see if they are lucky enough.

Al Mamoum Reserve Park - Dubai Destinations - Al Qudra Cycle Track
Al Mamoum Reserve Park - Dubai Destinations - Al Qudra Cycle Track

As you drive down to Al Qudra Lakes, you can often spot Arabian sand gazelles hopping across the bushes

The Al Qudra Lakes attract a huge number of migratory birds and swans, geese, ducks, stilts and flamingoes.

A ‘Bird’s Nest’ platform has been erected by the lake to give visitors a vantage point to catch some stunning views of the serene, placid lakes amid a sea of sand. The platform is one of eight observation decks scattered around the reserve where visitors to spot animals in their natural habitat.

A 20-minute drive leads to Expo 2020 Lake. Beyond its mesmerizing natural landscape, Al Marmoom’s historical tales are like no other. Somewhere in this vast desert is also the 3,000-year-old Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site where the ancient ring that inspired the Expo logo was discovered.

At the top of the Expo 2020 lake, the Oryx Platform, shaped like the head of an oryx, is a major tourist attraction.

Down the road is Al Jiyad Stables where adults and children can take group horseback rides around Al Qudra at Dh150 on weekdays and Dh200 on weekends. The stables also offer riding lessons to different age groups on Arabian horses.

Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve is more than just a tourist destination - it is major effort in wildlife conservation.

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