The flat sandy desert gives way to the Western Hajar Mountains, which run alongside Dubai's border with Oman at Hatta. The Western Hajar chain has an arid, jagged and shattered landscape, whose mountains rise to about 1,300 m in some places. Dubai has no natural river bodies or oases; however, Dubai does have a natural inlet, Dubai Creek, which has been dredged to make it deep enough for large vessels to pass through. Dubai also has multiple gorges and waterholes which dot the base of the Western Al Hajar mountains. A vast sea of sand dunes covers much of southern Dubai, and eventually leads into the desert known as The Empty Quarter. Seismically, Dubai is in a very stable zone – the nearest seismic fault line, the Zagros Fault, is 200 km (124.27 mi) from the UAE and is unlikely to have any seismic impact on Dubai. Experts also predict that the possibility of a tsunami in the region is minimal because the Persian Gulf waters are not deep enough to trigger a tsunami.
The region has about 3,500 endemic plants, which is perhaps surprising considering the high salinity of the soil and the harsh environment. The most famous is, of course, the date palm, which is also the most flourishing of the indigenous flora and provides wonderful seas of green, especially in the oases. Heading towards the mountains, flat-topped acacia trees and wild grasses create scenery not unlike that of an African savannah. The deserts are often surprisingly green in places, even during the dry summer months, but it takes an experienced botanist to get the most out of the area.
Mammals & Reptiles
Indigenous fauna includes the Arabian leopard and the ibex, but sightings of them are extremely rare. Realistically, the only large animals you will see are camels and goats (often roaming dangerously close to roads). Other desert life includes the sand cat, sand fox and desert hare, plus gerbils, hedgehogs, snakes and geckos.
Birdlife in the city is a little limited – this isn’t a place for hearing a dawn chorus, unless you’re extremely lucky. However, recent studies have shown that the number of species of birds is rising each year, due in part to the increasing lushness of the area. This is most apparent in the parks, especially in spring and autumn, as the country lies on the route for birds migrating between central Asia and east Africa. You can also see flamingos at the Khor Dubai Wildlife Sanctuary at the southern end of Dubai Creek.
Off the coast of the UAE, the seas contain a rich abundance of marine life, including tropical fish, jellyfish, coral, the dugong (‘sea cow’) and sharks. Eight species of whale and seven species of dolphin have been recorded in UAE waters. Various breeds of turtle are also indigenous to the region. These include the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles, all of which are under threat. These are seen by divers off both coasts, and by swimmers or snorkellers, quite commonly just off the east coast at places such as Snoopy Island, and sometimes in Khor Kalba.