Abu Dhabi Fossil Dunes: A dry land created by climate change

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Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi (CNN) – Drive an hour or so east from the city of Abu Dhabi to the emirate’s deserts and discover a land full of surprises.

The land of Al Wathba is home to a landscaping as well as a beautifully built oasis, so the story goes, in an overspill from a water park. Today, it is a lush land that attracts a family of flying flamingos.

In the distance, along trees paved with well -planted trees, is the real site of a work mountain that rises into the sky, the sides of which are supported by huge stone walls.

As you wander the main roads on the back roads, you will encounter wide and dirt camel roads, where you will experience the heat of the evening with large fleets of humped animals preparing for the winter racing season.

But one of the most unique and beautiful features of Al Wathba is that it is not man -made. But it has been created over tens of thousands of years by elemental powers, as they have been playing out over the past several decades, to provide insight into how climate crisis is changing. new to our world.

Abu Dhabi’s rocky cliffs rise from the surrounding desert like ice waves in a strong ocean made of hard sand, their sides wave in the manner described by the wind. strength.

‘Hard story’

Abu Dhabi Fossil Dunes

Oil dunes have been around for thousands of years.

Barry Neild / CNN

While these proud relics have survived for centuries among the locals, they were opened as a free tourist attraction in Abu Dhabi in 2022 as part of an effort by the Emirate’s Environment Agency to keep them inside. a protected area.

While Instagrammers and other visitors wanted international cars to ride the rocky hills in search of a selfie party, they had a choice of two large car rides to secure a route to take. go beyond any of the amazing scenes.

Along the way there are a number of evidence points that provide skeletal insights into the science behind the creation of dunes – that is, the water in the soil makes it difficult to digest. calcium carbonate in the sand, and then the strong wind picks them up in different ways over time.

But it’s more than that, says Thomas Steuber, a doctor in the Earth Science Department of Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa University of Science and Technology, who has used much of the Covid lock to study dunes although inaccessible to other places of geological interest. .

“This is a difficult story,” Steuber told CNN.

The hills are a stone’s throw from the Wetland Reserve, where Abu Dhabi once protected.

Steuber said generations of dunes were formed by periods of snow and ice that formed between 200,000 and 7,000 years ago. The surface of the ocean fell as the ice rose in the polar caps and during these dry seasons, dunes were formed when sand was blown out of the Arabian Gulf.

As the ice melted, leading to a lower level, the water table rose in what is now Abu Dhabi and the moisture mixed with calcium carbonate in the sand to bind and then form. in a kind of cement, and later beaten ethereal. shaped by the wind of victory.

Destructive powers

Abu Dhabi Fossil Dunes

The power lines run behind the dunes, adding a different twist to the character.

Barry Neild / CNN

“The Arabian Gulf is a small plateau that is very shallow,” Steuber said. “It’s only about 120 meters deep, so at the peak of the ice age, about 20,000 years ago, there was a lot of accumulation on polar ice caps that lost water from the ocean. . resource for coal mines. “

Steuber said the fossil dunes, which exist in the UAE and can be found in India, Saudi Arabia and the Bahamas, are thousands of years old. However, despite the official protection now being given in Abu Dhabi, the harm given in any form will lead to their deaths.

“There are a lot of them, but in the end they are destroyed by the wind. They are real rocks, but you can break them with your hands sometimes.

That is why, at Al Wathba, visitors are kept at a distance from the hills, even though they are close enough to admire their impassive beauty.

It is best to explore the field in the evening when the light of day is replaced by a golden light from sunset and the sky takes on the reds of the magical hour. It’s an hour’s walk along the sandy path from the visitor center and memorial shop to the parking lot on the other side – and about 10 minutes back.

The unpleasantness of the dunes in some places along the way is illustrated by a chain of red and white lightning pylons that hover over the sky in the distance. Rather than ruining the landscape, this technology adds a modern twist to a land that has dried up over time.

As night falls, some of the dunes are illuminated, providing a new way to see these amazing things.

Religious symbols

abu dhabi coal mine night-1

At night, the hills are illuminated.

Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

“The dunes are amazing,” said Dean Davis, visiting the site on a holiday from work in the city of Abu Dhabi. “It’s good that they’re taken care of and the government has done a great job.”

Ashar Hafeed, a visitor traveling with his family, said. “I found it on Google and I had to come check it out,” he said, adding “one is enough” to admire the dunes.

Stauber and his team from Khalifa University are visiting again.

“We continue to educate them,” he said. “There are some very interesting questions about the sea level change in recent ice cycles to be answered and it is very important to understand the geomorphology of the Emirates coast today.

And, says Steuber, the dunes are a testament to the dynamics behind the story of Noah’s flood, as revealed in the Koran, the Bible and the Torah, the texts of the three major religions that emerge. coming from the Middle East.

“Perhaps this is the flooding of the Arabian Gulf at the end of the winter, because the sea level rises so fast.

“With a dry Arabian Sea, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were released into the Indian Ocean and what is now the lowest point in the Mediterranean Sea was inhabited 8,000 years ago, and may have known people.This rapid rise of the sea.

“Perhaps it led to a historical memorial that produced the holy books of these three local religions.”

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