“There is no such thing as a taboo question,” said our host Ruqaya. The Dubai desert conservation reserve offers its visitors an adorable landscape of sand dunes and fauna of desert. Our unique eco-tourism project in Australia. There were no Emirati restaurants, no overt traditions, no opportunities to mingle with our hosts. During my two-year stay, I met no more than a dozen Emiratis: in a city of 3.2 million, only 255,000 are nationals – living in private communities and socialising in circles that most foreigners never enter. The dunes would be shifting tonight, as they have done for millennia – like a sculpture that is never quite finished. This is the greatest rags-to-riches story on Earth. “This camp started as a project to conserve wildlife,” Ali said proudly, pouring more coffee from a voluptuous, gold-spouted pot (where else but Dubai would Bedouins boast such bling?) Biggest, tallest, priciest: these are not words you could apply to our goat-hair hideaway. 28 of the UK's best festive events for families, Forget the Inca Trail – we trialled the new 'Black Diamond' route to Machu Picchu, The pandemic taught me how to magically transform cheap tat into treasured memories, The best Christmas lights switch-on events around the UK in 2020, Moody capture of Brighton Palace Pier wins Historic Photographer of the Year Award, Coronavirus UAE Spotlight Chart - Cases default, gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/united-arab-emirates. Working alongside the Dubai Government, Emirates established this reserve to protect critical desert habitat and a variety of endangered species. © 2020 The Emirates Group. “Our ruler is a nature-lover; he wanted to create a desert oasis for Arabian oryx, and somewhere the migrating birds could rest.” But the sheikh’s attention soon turned to the conservation of his people, too. Bright, bold, and with ambition undimmed – surely there is no better cure for the pandemic blues than Dubai. “Otherwise, my children won’t know where they have come from.”. Information: visitdubai.com. I joined its hordes of expats in 2012, in search of a tax-free salary and sunshine. Working alongside the Dubai Government, Emirates established this reserve to protect critical desert habitat and endangered species. “He saw that visitors weren’t experiencing the UAE’s real culture. The sheikh founded Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, a vast sanctuary just outside the city – a wildlife haven, yes, but also a place where you can ride pampered camels across the dunes, see the locals’ beloved falcons in flight, and visit a Bedouin camp for supper. In addition to protecting several endangered large mammal species such as the Arabian oryx, the DDCR is a major contributor to both local scientific research and conservation efforts. All Rights Reserved. It began with the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR). They came for the Burj Khalifa, the beaches – but nobody understood our roots. “People didn’t have bank accounts: you had gold jewellery, gold trinkets. In recent months the likes of Sofitel and IHG have opened fresh, luxurious hotels in the city, while new seafront promenade “Palm West Beach” promises glamorous brunch venues and watersports fun – with lashings of guaranteed winter sun. Hazel Plush enjoys golden moments as she goes beyond the glittering towers to seek cultural riches in the sand dunes of Dubai, “People talk about all our riches,” said Ali, his turban ruffling as he shook his head, “but they never talk about what we could lose. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. When this sky-scraping, gold-loving emirate rose from the dunes on a wave of oil wealth, its humble history became a forgotten footnote. 100% of all visitor revenue from the DDCR is spent on conversation and wildlife care, with Emirates also sponsoring a dedicated conservation team of ecologists and wildlife specialists. It’s a far cry from the closed-off community I encountered originally. But for all its new frivolities, some of Dubai’s greatest surprises still lie in its humblest corners – such as Al Fahidi, a century-old neighbourhood on the edge of the Creek. “Ours is a culture that had to wear its resources,” she replied gently. Here, in an old pearl trader’s house fashioned from palm wood and coral, you will find the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where I devoured sweet, saffron-laced dumplings as Emirati guides hosted a remarkably frank Q&A. It began with the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR). And remarkably, almost all of the guides are Emirati, taking time out from their day jobs – as dentists, students, managers – to reveal what life was like before the oil boom. Returning visitors will spot a new addition to the city’s skyline: ICD Brookfield Place – so tall! With hindsight, the stars must have been aligned. In just 60 years, locals like Ali Al Karam have swapped their wind-whipped camps for palatial villas and a passion for Rolexes, and who can blame them? – which holds the first international branch of London’s The Arts Club, due to open next month. The Dubai desert conservation reserve is a first national park in UAE. This week’s announcement of a travel corridor between Britain and the UAE means that once lockdown restrictions have been lifted, we will be able to return to Dubai once more – without having to quarantine on return. That mindset doesn’t disappear in just one generation.”, Suddenly, the city’s lavish tastes – and Ali’s bling-tastic coffee pot – took on a new meaning. We are working across our business to minimise waste and maximise efficiency, both in the air and on the ground. Contact. Why, someone asked, is Dubai so obsessed with gold? But to be honest, I was simply enjoying the moment, communing with a very different Dubai to the one we all know so well – the land of fly-and-flop getaways, boozy brunches and a penchant for all things superlative. Topics ranged from the Five Pillars of Islam, to how many wives a man can have (“as many as he can afford to take care of”). The emirate has certainly been busy while we have been gone. Working alongside the Dubai Government, Emirates established this reserve to protect critical desert habitat and a variety of endangered species. Al Seef, a new shopping quarter, is modelled on an ancient Arabian town – complete with a “mud-brick” Starbucks. Hazel Plush stayed at Vida Creek Harbour, reopening on Dec 23; double rooms from £60 (vidahotels.com). Find out more, The latest offers and discount codes from popular brands on Telegraph Voucher Codes, Bedouins roast cardamom seeds for their morning coffee, Flamingos in Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, Looking for Father Christmas? It was easy, then, to assume they had no ­culture of their own – but I was swiftly realising my mistake. Occasionally, in designer shops and fancy restaurants, locals would materialise like sweet-scented spectres: the women in crystal-fringed black veils, the men in starched white kandoras perfumed with dusky oud. We rely on advertising to help fund our award-winning journalism. Covering 225sqkms, it takes up approximately five per cent of the total land in Dubai and is marked and fenced off to protect and shield the flora and fauna that naturally grow in the area. This is surely due, in part, to the young expatriate population, though strict border controls and rigorous testing for all international arrivals have certainly halted the spread too. The Emirates Group commitment to acting sustainably. Away from the bustle and change that is modern-day Dubai, this conservation project was established to maintain no less than five percent of the Emirate of Dubai's total landmass. “I do this to keep my culture alive,” said Ali, who used to work as a sports television editor. Next year, the UAE will celebrate 50 years of independence; so now, like anyone approaching a milestone birthday, it is taking stock of the past. Come and bask in its endless, glorious golden age. Learn more about the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (Opens in a new window). Explore the extensive landscape and diversity of nature at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a protected natural area. Embark on a Conservation adventure in luxury Rang Rovers through the largest National Park in the UAE, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve which is dedicated to preserving the unique and beautiful desert habitat and the hundreds of fascinating flora and fauna species it hosts.