AL AIN // A lake popular with anglers, nature-lovers and swimmers has had a fence built around it after the drowning of two people over the past few months.
The Tilapia Lake, hidden behind sand dunes off the Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Truck Road about 29kms south of downtown Al Ain, has long been a popular attraction for various nationalities who crowd the area during weekends to unwind.
In addition to anglers and swimmers, many photographers are drawn to the lake for its stunning wildlife and populations of migratory birds, while quad bikers drive over the nearby dunes.
But a fence that now surrounds the lake to keep out swimmers has been erected after the deaths of a teenage girl from Palestine and a man from Kashmir.
The fence is only partially finished, but is expected to be completed in about a month.
Before the fence appeared, many swimmers ignored warning signs that the area was unsafe for bathing.
The lake itself is somewhat of an enigma. Some nearby residents believe authorities pump water into the lake from Manasir, while others speculate it is "natural spring water".
But whoever is right, the steady flow of water supplying the lake has now been stopped.
The lake was not always there - it appeared several years ago - and does not have an official name. Many visitors call it Tilapia Lake, after the fish which can be found there in abundance.
Angler Masri Khan said: "It has plenty of fish, big and small. You can catch a fish in less than 10 seconds after throwing in your hook."
Sardaraz Khan, a resident of the area, added that Tilapia was just one of the many species of fish that could be found at the lake. He believed the fish were introduced by Al Ain Municipality.
Mr Khan said police and municipal authorities visit the lake in the evenings and anybody found fishing there after 6.30pm is asked to leave.
He said the water is saline and not suitable for drinking.
He added that in addition to the two deaths a number of vehicles had sunk into the lake after being parked next to the water's edge.
Al Ain valley has plenty of hidden lakes, though many are inaccessible to all but the most intrepid off-road driver.
Tilapia Lake is about 15km from Mubazzarah and Jebal Hafeet, and while popular with those in the know, remains unknown to most.
Waqqas Ahmed, a resident of Al Ain who was visiting the lake for the first time, said: "It's very beautiful and must be developed as a tourism attraction for the region. Many people do not know about it."
However, he added that it should first be "beautified and developed as visitor-friendly".
It is not only with members of the public that the lake has proved popular. Eight building companies have also installed temporary water pumps to fill their water tankers.
No one from Al Ain Municipality was available to comment.