Sharjah: A park that showcases how an ancient cataclysm jump-started life and formed the local landscape of the region 93 million years ago opened in the geological wonderland of Al Buhais in Sharjah on Monday.
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah unveiled a huge slab of oceanic crust and mantle (ophiolite) to open the Buhais Geological Park, tucked away on the foothills of a rocky outcrop in Al Madam.
The centre is designed by Hopkins Architects headquartered in London, and the design of the park's unique pods is inspired by prehistoric fossils.
Located within the eroded remains of a ridge that once connected Jebel Buhais and Jebel Aqabah mountains, the sprawling park is billed as a treasure trove for geologists as it offers an unprecedented glimpse into the pre-historic past of Sharjah and its adjoining areas.
It also holds an enormous wealth of animal fossils dating back up to the Cretaceous Period.
Geological and palaeontological evidence show the area we now know as the UAE was originally covered by an ancient sea called Tethys. A rich variety of marine life flourished in the shallow waters until about 70 million years ago.
Today, the remains of many of these marine creatures can be viewed as one walks along the park’s outdoor trail or explore its indoor exhibits housed in gigantic inter-connected pods made of cast iron.
Why scientists from all over the world come here
Other attractions at the numbered stops along the trail include iron and bronze age tombs, fossils of six cone-shaped mollusks still attached to a yellow block which fell from a nearby limestone cliff, and large black Ophiolite boulders set in a matrix of red sand and mud.
Scientists from all over the world come to the region to study about these rare Ophiolites and learn what it reveals about the earth’s processes. Ophiolites are formed when a piece of ocean crust is forced up onto a piece of continental crust. The UAE-Oman ophiolite is the most intensely studied ophiolite on Earth and is commonly used as a template for other poorly exposed and structurally complex ophiolites,
Yet another attraction at the park is the Geology Field Station which gives an insight into the formation of gravel plains, the sand dunes and the rugged Hajar Mountain range that runs across the north of the UAE and into Oman.
Ancient human settlement
The park also includes two archaeological sites which show traces of a 125,000 year old human settlement. It also tells the story of a mass extinction that occurred 65 million years ago, wiping out nearly 75 per cent of all marine and land life, including non-flying dinosaurs.
Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, chairman, Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) earlier said the park was established to introduce visitors to Sharjah’s rich and ancient geological history.
Nirmal Rajah, palaeontology enthusiast and education coordinator at Mleiha Archaeological Centre described the region as an open geology text book. “If you are a geology student, then there can be no better place for a field trip in the UAE than this area,” said Rajah. “The central region of Sharjah is characterised by a chain of small mountains such as Jebel Faya and Jebel Buhais formed mainly from carbonate rocks. Once under water, both these mountains are rich with ocean marine fossils measuring anything from a few milimetres to three feet,” said Rajah.
Park opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 9am to 7.30 pm
Friday: 2pm to 7.30 pm
Saturday: 11 am to 7.30 pm
How to get there:
Head out of Dubai on the Dubai-Al Ain Road (E66) past Outlet Mall and the Sevens Stadium. Take exit 30 and merge onto the Jebel Ali-Lehbab Road (E77) toward Hatta/Oman. At the fourth roundabout take the first exit onto Dubai-Hatta Road (E44) heading towards Hatta/Oman. At the roundabout in Madam exit towards Umm Al Quwain-Al Shuwaib Road (E55) heading towards Maliha/Masfoot/Hatta. At the second roundabout take the third exit to arrive at Jebel Buhais.
Did you know
Stone tools found in Jebel Faya show the place was a human settlement 125,000 years ago. Evidence from Jebel Buhais shows that livestock herders and hunters lived here seasonally around 7,500 years ago.
Sharjah was not always where it is today. Over the course of Earth’s history, massive super continents formed when plates carrying different continents converged. The Arabian plate on which Sharjah sits was once part of the super continent Pangaea. This enormous landmass began to break up about 220-200 million years ago. Later the Arabian plate began to separate from Africa transforming Arabia from south of the equator to the northern sub tropics
93 million year old Ophiolite – Dark grey green rocks from deep inside the earth which were once part of an oceanic plate that was forced over Arabia
Fossils in the desert: Remains of marine life indicating Jebel Buhais, now a desert was once covered by sea
Wadi Suq tomb : Oval shaped chamber made of stones