Sharjah: The first Islamic Botanical Garden located in Sharjah houses around 50 plants mentioned in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

The park, which was created by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) five years ago at Sharjah Desert Park, commemorates the occasion when Sharjah was named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2014.

It aims to encourage reflection while emphasising the importance of the link between Islam and preserving the environment. It introduces non-Muslims to the Islamic perspective on living creatures and provides information about plants’ nutritional and therapeutic benefits.

Among the plants are tamarisk, Christ’s thorn, palms, Punica granatum (pomegranates), grapes, figs, olives, basil, eucalyptus, ginger, Acacia tortilis, Buxus dioica, Salvadora persica and Lawsonia inermis. There are also 42 plants mentioned in the Sunnah, including Nigella sativa (black cumin), saffron, aloe vera and mustard. The garden is said to be missing two plants that are mentioned in the Holy Quran — one being Al Zaqqum, a tree that grows in Hell, and the other Al Gharqad (Nitraria), ‘the tree of the Jews’, which grows only in Palestine.

The Islamic Botanical Garden also offers visitors a chance to see the rare agarwood tree from which the finest aromatic ingredients are extracted, and the eucalyptus tree.

Visitors can learn more about the plants through smart screens, which provide information about the plants’ names, benefits and uses.

“The trees, shrubs, and herbs are presented in an innovative way with their scientific names in Arabic and English and a list of their medicinal properties and health and nutritional benefits,” said Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, EPAA Chairperson.

Botanists took three years to gather the plants in collaboration with Unesco, during which the scientific research team procured seasonal plants such as Euphorbia pithyusa and Senna alexandrina from nearby regions.

Other plants were also procured as either plants or seeds from the countries in which they grow.

“We used modern technology to overcome the greatest challenge and create an environment suitable for all the plants,” explained Al Suwaidi.

Trees in the garden

To improve visibility, the plants in the Islamic Botanical Garden are arranged by height. The garden features trees including Vachellia oerfota, banana, eucalyptus, Christ’s thorn, Citrus medica, agarwood, figs, Lawsonia inermis, costus, Nitraria (Al Gharqad), olives, palms, tamarisk and Acacia tortilis.

Shrubs include Cymbopogon, Cedrus, Salvadora persica (Arak), Acorus calamus, Buxus dioica, turmeric, Euphorbia pithyusa, astragalus, Cyperus papyrus and Punica granatum (pomegranates). The herb section includes Neurada precumbens, cumin, Armenian cucumber, garlic, ginger, grapes, pumpkin, leek, lentil, mustard plant, onions, aloe vera, barley, chard, Citrullus colocynthis and Nigella sativa (black cumin).

The garden, which includes a nursery, a restaurant, a classroom and a library, has received half a million visitors since it opened in 2014.