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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Philanthropist distributes 100,000 free Ghaf and Arak trees

Emirati hopes scheme will encourage people to look after UAE's green spaces

The ghaf tree forest near the Digdagga area of Ras Al Khaimah. Randi Sokoloff / The National
The ghaf tree forest near the Digdagga area of Ras Al Khaimah. Randi Sokoloff / The National

An Emirati philanthropist has launched a project to distribute 100,000 free Ghaf and Arak tree saplings to residents across the UAE.

Salem Sultan Al Qayedi came up with the idea to encourage people to expand green spaces in the country by planting more foliage.

Mr Al Qayedi said the scheme - which he calls ‘My tree is my endowment’ - attracted large crowds at Maliha market in Sharjah this week.

He said other supporters had also been in touch on social media asking if they were able to pick up more of his trees.

“This project was launched in celebration of these holy days and to instil the importance of expanding green spaces by planting more trees,” Mr Al Qayedi said.

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“We want to encourage community members to be part of this process.”

The Ghaf tree is a species of small, flowering tree in the pea family, Fabaceae. It is found right across the Gulf region as well as parts of south Asia but is widely regarded as the national tree of the UAE. Its long roots ensure it can reach water from deep within the ground, allowing it to survive in the hot desert conditions.

The Arak tree or shrub is native to the Middle East and Africa. It typically grows to a height of three metres and its fibrous branches have been used for centuries as a natural toothbrush - or miswak - due to its antiseptic properties.

Mr Al Qayedi said the next phase of his project would be to distribute a million free trees and to launch a campaign aimed at educating young people in the UAE about the importance of green spaces.