Al Ain Newsletter March 2001

Al Ain Newsletter March 2001


Festival volunteers needed

by David Pratten

As you may know, the organisers of the Al Ain Festival (4 - 13 April) have offered us a booth in the Public Gardens, opposite the Khalifas Palace on the edge of the city centre. We intend using this opportunity to promote the ENHG to the general public by erecting displays of photos and giving talks and presentations representative of the activities of the group.

This is a great opportunity to introduce the general public to the activities of our group; to inform them of the very useful work our "amateur" botanists, photographers, archaeologists, bug hunters and others undertake; and to show them the varied flora and fauna our surrounding desert and mountains harbour.

If you will be able to give one or two hours of your time to help "mind" the booth in the company of a fellow member, one or more evenings during the festival, then please contact me by e-mail, phone (050-4910018), speak to me at the next meeting or simply add your name to the list at the bookstall. What could be easier!

Many thanks to all those who have already offered their help with the booth. Such an enthusiastic response is very encouraging and much appreciated.

The opening hours for the booth and other details are still to be finalised and more specific information about this event will be announced later by e-mail and at our fortnightly meetings.

However the Public Gardens festival hours will be as follows:

  • Wednesday 4th April - 4.00pm to 10.00pm
  • Thursday 5th April - 5.00pm to midnight
  • Friday 6th April - 5.00pm to 11.00pm
  • Saturday 7th to Wednesday 11th inclusive, - 4.00pm to 10.00pm
  • Thursday 12th as for 5th
  • Friday 13th as for 6th.

We will be trying to open the booth on as many evenings and for as long as possible, during these hours.

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Inter Emirates Weekend program highlights Al Ain sites

The upcoming Inter Emirates Weekend (Thursday, April 19 and Friday, April 20) will be an opportunity for members of the Al Ain chapter of the Emirates Natural History Group to share some of the activities and sites we take for granted with our colleagues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This year we are also hoping to welcome some of our colleagues from Muscat.

Three years ago, when Al Ain last hosted the event, the focus of discussions was Jebel Hafit. Individuals lead special survey trips of the Al Ain landmark to study birds, plants, reptiles, mammals and archaeology. Some of the work undertaken that weekend contributed to the official report regarding Jebel Hafit, a copy of which is in our library. In addition to the survey work, Al Ain members also offered a variety of day trips.

The weekend began with a dinner and presentations at the Intercontinental Hotel on the Thursday evening followed by the field trips and Jebel Hafit survey work on Friday.

This year, the committee thought it appropriate to offer a traditional meal on the Thursday evening, in a desert setting, with the opportunity for all ENHG members, and our friends from Oman, to socialize in a relaxed setting. We hope to include some examples of traditional social activities including break making and coffee making, for example.

The program for Friday is intended to demonstrate the diversity of interests among ENHG members and share some of the sites in and around Al Ain with our guests. Individual ENHG members will lead trips to the Al Ain Oasis, the Hanging Gardens, Fossil Valley, arthropod collecting, Wadi Khutwah, Dhub Valley, Al Ain fallaj watchtowers, Al Ain Museum, Buraimi camel souq, Jebel Hafit tombs, and so on. The weekend concludes with an informal luncheon.

How can individual members participate?

The easiest method would be to join the Thursday and Friday program and meet other ENHG members from outside Al Ain.

Members could also volunteer to coordinate any of the activities during the weekend. If you are interested, please contact any member of the committee as soon as possible.

There may also be some demand for billeting of the guests. We would like to offer individuals coming from out of town the opportunity to stay with Al Ain members. If you have a bedroom or two to share, or can offer some other form of accommodation, please contact the committee so our visitors can be advised.

Do you have a favorite place to visit? If so, this is an opportunity to take our special guests to the site and share the experience. No, you do not need to be an expert on geology, archaeology, flora or fauna! Remember, most of the Natural History Group members are amateur naturalists, too. If you have a program idea, please contact a committee member.

At press time, the budget for the weekend is being finalized so any costs are still being calculated. The plan is to keep the weekend program costs to a minimum.

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Breakins of vehicles at wadis still an issue for visitors

There continue to be reports of breakins of vehicles parked at some of the popular wadis near Al Ain.

The latest incident occurred at Wadi Sabaitnah several weeks ago. Omani police investigated, including taking fingerprint impressions, though it is unlikely the individuals responsible will be apprehended without witnesses.

Members are advised not to keep valuables inside vehicles when visiting such sites. In addition, it is important that your insurance policy include comprehensive coverage and coverage for Oman. Any incident should be reported to the police as soon as possible (the nearest police station for most is near the roundabout which leads to Mahdah [Fossil Valley, Hanging Gardens] from Mahdah, just past the Buraimi Hotel).

Other actions which might be taken include assigning members of the group you are with to remain within eyesight of the vehicles (take turns watching the vehicles) or hire an individual to keep watch. The Al Ain chapter of the ENHG is considering a meeting with local officials to discuss the situation and what might be done.

In the meantime, please be vigilent.

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Field Trips

Field trips are organized for members of the Al Ain chapter of the Emirates Natural History Group. If you are interested in joining one of the field trips, please sign up at one of the regular meetings. Please sign only if you plan to attend as numbers may be limited. Tour organizers donate their time, vehicles and expertise. Your cooperation is very much appreciated.
Friday, March 16
Wadi patrol, wadi cleanup
(Join students from Al Ain English Speaking School)
For the past few weeks, students from the Al Ain English Speaking School have been visiting wadis near Al Ain to spend the morning collecting refuse then enjoyng a swim and/or hike in the wadi. Thanks to Mrs. K. Bunn and Mr. C. Meadows for organizing the program at the school. The ENHG contributes gloves (rubber and work).
Where to meet:Buraimi Hotel at 9 am
What to bring:Garbage bags, water, snack, items for a day in the wadi (hiking shoes, notebook, sunscreen, hat, camera)
Saturday, March 17
Preparing Arthropod Collection (family event)
(See sign up sheet and email)
One of the activities planned for the groupís display during the Al Ain Festival is the presentation of some of the arthropod specimens members have collected in the past couple of years. Evening is open to all members; this is a good opportunity to introduce children to the world of insects! Volunteers will also be needed to help prepare labels.
Where to meet: home of Dr. Brigitte Howarth (contact Brigitte for directions)
What to bring:enthusiasm!
Thursday, March 22
Traditional medicine shop visit (limited numbers)
(Please check the sign up sheet)
Hoda Mortada and Gerry Jones will lead members to one of the traditional medicine shops in downtown Al Ain. The shops are located near the flyover and feature dozens of minerals, plants and other materials used to treat a variety of conditions. Your hosts will have reference books to help identify the items in the shop and, with some translation assistance, discuss how the items are used.
Where to meet:Prisunic parking lot at 4:15 for a 4:30 departure
What to bring:reference books, notebooks.
Thursday, March 22 and Friday, March 23
Musandam Weekend (limited numbers)
(Please check sign up sheet)
What could be better than heading to the Musandam in March!? Musandam offers a great piece of natural art, exhuberant and grand, where the story is :struggle for survival, a big one, best seen at Musandam. The idea is to go camping on Thursday to the tops of the mountains, and desend on Friday to Wadi al Khab where we will climb to the tops of the ridges where we will see the ocean. It should a rewarding experience, especially for individuals who have not been there before. Climbers are limited to 15 members; first come, first served. Contact Ibrahim by email ( or sign up at the meetings. Please indicate if you have a car; if you do have transport, can you take any passengers? Please also indicate if you need transport or are only planning to camp. Please sign up only if you are sure that you are coming. The climb is tough so you should be fit and have been on such climbs before. Fill your car tank the night before.
What to bring: Camping gear, food for three meals, lots of water, knapsack,hat, camera, binoculars, good boots, sunglasses, wood, etc
Where to meet: Thusday 22nd March at the Hilton parking lot at 1:30 pm for 1:45 sharp departure

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