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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Don't disregard this country's impressive natural surroundings

As the Abu Dhabi Tour begins, it is worth remembering the plethora of flora and fauna waiting to be discovered

The first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 gets underway. Rui Costa, in the yellow jersey, is defending the title for the UAE cycling team. Victor Besa / The National
The first stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 gets underway. Rui Costa, in the yellow jersey, is defending the title for the UAE cycling team. Victor Besa / The National

Today Abu Dhabi Tour got under way, with world-renowned cyclists from all over the world descending on the emirate for a gruelling five-day race. For Mark Cavendish, however, his tour is already over, after sustaining an injury in a crash. Now in its fourth year, the world tour event is a powerful statement of intent from the UAE and the race is sure to bring further international sporting prestige to this country. The UAE cycling team – which is defending the trophy they lifted last year – is inspiring a generation of cyclists, promoting the health benefits of an increasingly popular sport, and showing off this country’s scenic hot spots.

Some of backdrops the route will take in will be celebrated during a series of activities organised by the Emirates Natural History Group this weekend. Hundreds of visitors are expected to take part in the activities and lectures, designed to spread awareness about the UAE’s nature and heritage. Some visitors will dive on Saadiyat reef and bird watch at the magnificent Bul Syayeef nature reserve. Others will visit the Wathba wetlands. Living in the beating heart of the city, it is easy to forget about this country’s natural environment, particularly when the sizzling summers drive people indoors. But those who disregard it are wrong to do so. One need look only at the UAE’s dugong population – the world’s second largest at 3,000 – and the 30 species of shark residing in its waters to understand the plethora of flora and fauna waiting to be discovered.

At times like these, a moment of reflection is required. Not so long ago, the inhabitants of this country lived outdoors. Today there is great nature on our doorstep to enthral children and adults alike. The Abu Dhabi cycling tour will coincide this weekend with the activities planned by the Emirates Natural History Group, marking the growing appreciation for conservation and sport in this country. It is incumbent on all of us of take steps to preserve our surroundings, and experience all they have to offer.

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