Sharjah Ruler congratulates the launch of Mleiha Ecotourism Project in Sharjah. Image Credit: Courtesy Mleiha Ecotourism Project

Sharjah: A 25,000 hectare area in the Maleiha region of Sharjah is being transformed into a major eco-tourism destination that will reflect the regional culture, history and eco-system.

His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, announced the project on Wednesday.

A joint venture between, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), the project will feature leisure facilities and accommodation such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, and cafes, and Visitors Centre in addition to offering specialist tours of Maleiha’s protected areas.

Speaking on Sharjah Radio’s Live programme about the project Dr Shaikh Sultan said: “The intent in developing this ecologically and archaeologically sensitive and diverse area is not to damage it by the construction of abundant towers and buildings that would rub out its distinctive characteristics, but rather to develop it in a viable way that will strengthen its environmental diversity and position, and encourage residents to be integrated with this environment through providing sustainable jobs.”

He added that an Amiri Decree will be issued and published in the official gazette about the area of the project and its protection regulations.

The Maleiha project comes close on the heels of the launch of Kalba Ecotourism Project and Sir Bu Nuair Island project, boosting Sharjah’s eco-tourism landscape.

Shaikh Sultan said that Sharjah is on the way to announce more projects that will boost its tourist, environmental and economic position and ensure greater welfare and prosperity to its people.

He added that Sharjah Government is keen to ensure listing most of its projects as the internationally recognised tourism sites in recognition of the various components of these environments and that he has a vision to transform these projects into lively areas where everyone enjoys highest level of convenience and recreation and all the requirements of safe environment.

Located 40 minutes from Khorfakkan and 90 minutes from Sharjah City, the 25,000 hectare project, will be developed in a number of phases.

The tourism destination is being developed in close proximity to several archeological sites under the supervision of the Directorate of Antiquities.

The project will be developed in two phases, with the first phase of the project scheduled for completion by end 2014, which will include the development of a Visitors Centre that will be located close to the Umm Al Nar Historical Tomb.

The Visitors Centre will provide information about the heritage and history of the region, in addition to cafes and lounges for visitors. Wildlife will be rehabilitated in the project, historical sites will be organised and guided tours will be arranged. The second phase of the project will include the construction of the leisure facilities, resorts, lodges and restaurants.

As part of efforts to encourage sustainable development, the farms surrounding the protected area would be maintained and encouraged to keep camels and other livestock as well as cultivating various crops specifically with the aim of ensuring locally grown supplies to the project’s resorts and restaurants.