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Fri 5 Feb 2016 12:59 AM

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Sharjah plans to invest $70m in archeological tourism project

Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project will also include desert wildlife park and astronomy observatory

Sharjah plans to invest $70m in archeological tourism project

Details of the completed phase one of the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project have been revealed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).

The multi-phase project will create a new tourist attraction in the UAE and the wider Arab region with an estimated AED250 million expected to be invested in Mleiha over the next few years.

Phase two will include the construction of Mleiha National Desert Park over an area of 450 sq km that will see the release of a range of animals such as the Oryx, gazelles and the mountain deer, as well as an astronomy observatory.

The Mleiha tourist destination, one of the most important archeological sites in the UAE, has been created in the vicinity of various ruins and burial sites that date back to ancient times, some more than hundred thousands of years, a statement said.

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, chairperson of Shurooq, said that choosing to develop and protect Mleiha was a "very important decision", adding it is a "living memory of our heritage and an integral part of our future".

She said: "Launching this project reflects the keenness of our leadership to protect our heritage and preserve our Emirati identity. In this way we preserve our cultural history and ensure its place history. We intend to work towards promoting this important historical site in order to both protect it and bring visitors to it."

Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, added: "The project aims to highlight tourist and historical attractions, introduce the region's rich cultural legacy and archaeological heritage and attract visitors, particularly nature and heritage lovers to the emirate of Sharjah."

The first phase will see the opening of the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, designed to allow visitors to gain a deeper insight. The centre will have archaeological finds on display, informative and educational displays with historical facts about the region, a café and lounges, and a "I Love Sharjah"-branded shop.

Al Sarkal also said the project will house a range of archaeological sites, such as the Umm an-Nar Tomb, the Valley of the Caves, the Mleiha Fort, historic horse and camel graveyard, the ancient farmhouse with kitchen, the pre-Islamic Mleiha Palace.

There will also be various sporting activities such as the Adrenaline Adventures with dune buggies and quad biking activities while visitors will also be taken on tours to seven main tracks around the site including the Fossil Rock, Camel Rock tour and the Valley of the Caves.

"Our key markets include Emirati families for picnicking, camping and desert driving, professional residents of various nationalities and independent overseas tourists and holiday tour groups," added Al Sarkal.

Al Sarkal announced that Shurooq will soon embark of phase two of the Mleiha project which will involve the construction of Mleiha National Desert Park over an area of 450 square kilometres. The park will serve as a wildlife reserve that will see the release of a range of animals such as the Oryx, gazelles and the mountain deer, in collaboration with the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA).

Shurooq has allocated three areas within the project to be designated for resorts and bed and breakfast style hotels which will be offered to investors while the second phase will also include a Night Camping Park.

Phase two will also see the establishment of an astronomy observatory in cooperation with the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences. Telescopes will be installed on the roof to allow tourists to get a glimpse of the stars and the wonders of space from Mleiha's location.

Khalid Jassim Al Midfa, chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (STCDA), said: "The Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-Tourism Project plays a key role in Sharjah's diversified projects to boost its tourism sector.

"Additionally, the Mleiha Archaeological Centre will offer both visitors and tourists a new and unique experience to Sharjah as one of the most significant tourism destinations in the region."

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