Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi (CNN) — Drive an hour or so southeast out of the town of Abu Dhabi towards the emirate’s empty deserts and you may hit a landscape filled with surprising man-made creations.
The area of Al Wathba is dwelling to a stupendous oasis-like wetland reserve created, so the story goes, by an overspill from a water therapy facility. Now it is a lush terrain that pulls flocks of migratory flamingos.
Farther alongside roads lined with rigorously planted bushes, there’s the surreal web site of a synthetic mountain rising up on the horizon, its flanks buttressed by gigantic concrete partitions.
And stray off the primary roads onto the again lanes, you may encounter large and dusty camel highways, the place cooler night temperatures see huge fleets of the humped beasts being exercised in readiness for the winter racing season.
But one among Al Wathba’s extra uncommon and chic sights is just not the work of people. Instead it has been crafted over tens of hundreds of years by elemental forces that, although they have been at play millennia in the past, supply perception into how the present climate disaster would possibly reshape our world.
Abu Dhabi’s fossil dunes stand up out of the encompassing desert like frozen waves in a violent ocean manufactured from stable sand, their sides rippling with shapes outlined by raging winds.
Though these proud geological relics have survived for hundreds of years out in the midst of nowhere, they have been opened as a free vacationer attraction in Abu Dhabi in 2022 as a part of efforts by the emirate’s Environment Agency to protect them inside a protected space.
Whereas Instagrammers and different guests as soon as wanted all-terrain automobiles to journey as much as the fossil dunes in quest of a dramatic selfie backdrop, they now get a selection of two massive parking tons that bookend a path which meanders previous among the extra spectacular landmarks.
Along the way in which are informative signposts that give some bare-bones info on the science behind the dunes’ creation — basically, moisture within the floor triggered calcium carbonate within the sand to harden, then highly effective winds scraped them into uncommon shapes over time.
But there’s way more to it than that, says Thomas Steuber, a professor within the Earth Science Department of Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa University of Science and Technology, who spent a lot of the Covid lockdown finding out the dunes whereas unable to journey to different areas of geological curiosity.
“It’s a pretty complex story,” Steuber tells CNN.
The dunes are a stone’s throw away from a Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi’s first protected space.
Steuber says that generations of dunes have been created by cycles of ice ages and thaws that occurred between 200,000 and seven,000 years in the past. Ocean ranges dropped when frozen water elevated on the polar caps and through these drier durations, dunes would’ve constructed up as sand blew in from the drained Arabian Gulf.
When the ice melted, resulting in a extra humid atmosphere, the water desk rose in what’s now Abu Dhabi and the moisture reacted with the calcium carbonate within the sand to stabilize it after which kind a form of cement, which was later whipped into ethereal shapes by prevailing winds.
“The Arabian Gulf is a small basin that’s very shallow,” says Steuber. “It’s only about 120 meters deep, so at the peak of the ice age, about 20,000 years ago, there was so much piled up on the polar ice caps that water was missing from the ocean. That meant the Gulf was dry and was the source of material for the fossil dunes.”
Steuber says that the fossil dunes, which happen all through the UAE and may also be present in India, Saudi Arabia and the Bahamas, seemingly took hundreds of years to kind. But, regardless of the official safety now provided in Abu Dhabi, the erosion that gave every its distinctive form may even ultimately result in their demise.
“Some of them are quite massive, but in the end the wind will destroy them. They are essentially rocks, but you can sometimes break them with your hands. It’s quite a weak material.”
Which is why, at Al Wathba, guests are actually being stored far from the dunes, though nonetheless shut sufficient to understand their emotionless magnificence.
Touring the positioning is greatest in early night when harsh daytime mild is changed by a golden glow from the setting solar and the sky takes on the lilac hues of magic hour. It takes about an hour to walk alongside the sandy path from the customer heart and memento stall to the parking zone on the different finish — and about 10 minutes to shortcut again.
The untouched serenity of the dunes is contrasted at some factors alongside the path by a series of gigantic purple and white electrical energy pylons that stride over the horizon within the distance. Rather than spoil the scene, this engineering spectacle provides a dramatic trendy dimension to a landscape in any other case frozen in time.
As nightfall settles, among the dunes are illuminated, providing a brand new solution to view these geological marvels.
“The dunes look really amazing,” mentioned Dean Davis, visiting the positioning throughout a break day from work in Abu Dhabi metropolis. “It’s nice they’re being conserved and the government has done a great job.”
Ashar Hafeed, one other customer touring along with his household, mentioned he was additionally impressed. “I saw it on Google and just needed to come and take a look,” he mentioned, including that “once was enough” to understand the dunes.
Stauber and his workforce from Khalifa University are more likely to be repeat guests although.
“We’re continuing to study them,” he says. “There are quite a few interesting questions about sea-level changes during the recent ice ages still to answer and it’s very important for understanding the current geomorphology of the coastline of the Emirates. It’s also obviously an analog for future sea-level change.”
And, says Steuber, the dunes could possibly be proof of the inspiration behind the story of Noah’s flood, which options within the Koran, the Bible and the Torah, the texts of the three main religions to emerge from the Middle East.
“Possibly, this was the flooding of the Arabian Gulf at the end of the ice ages, because the sea level rise was very rapid.
“With a dry Arabian Gulf, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers would’ve discharged into the Indian Ocean and what’s now the Gulf would have been fairly a fertile low mendacity space which 8,000 years in the past would’ve been inhabited, and folks could have skilled this fast sea stage rise.
“Perhaps it led to some historic memory that made the holy books of these three local religions.”