Al Ain has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years. The name translates as "the spring", and it is home to seven oases - Al Ain Oasis, Qattara, Al Mutaredh, Al Jimi, Al Muaiji, Hili and Al Jahili - with a system of underground irrigation known as falaj in existence for almost as long. Al Ain's title as the country's Garden City is a well-deserved one.
Such blessings were not lost on the country's founders, with respect for the environment being passed on from one generation to the next. Sadly, this heritage and a continuing dedication towards conservation is sometimes taken for granted by those who benefit from it the most.
As we report today, Al Ain Paradise, a garden whose total of 2,426 distinct species of flora qualifies for a Guinness World Record, is to be closed to the public after designer and part-owner Akar Landscaping said visitors have been trampling on and uprooting the plants. This shows a regrettable lack of appreciation towards the delicate nature of this ecosystem.
Currently there are no laws that can prosecute offenders, but this could be about to change. And if hitting people in their pockets is one way to get the message across, then it is a move that should be welcomed.
"All we can do is politely ask people to refrain from doing anything that damages the parks and gardens," said Ali Hamad al Mehairi, a manager with the Al Ain Municipality. "But today, the Municipality's community services division is meeting with the relevant authorities to discuss empowering our inspectors to fine offenders."
However, charging offenders should not be the only solution. There will always be visitors who will break the rules, and fining them will not bring the damaged plants back to life. What is needed are preventive measures, educating the public about the importance of such gardens and the amount of work that goes into maintaining them should be a priority.
Sheikh Zayed was renowned for his love of the environment and conservation, and it is fitting that it is his birthplace of Al Ain that continues to embrace such virtues. As Al Ain Paradise gets ready to be boarded up, it is hoped that the residents and visitors start to follow the example of the country's founding father if the Garden City is to continue to flourish.