Gardens in the Desert
10 Mar 2009
The creation of Oman Botanic Garden is an aspiring project unlike any other. Commissioned by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the Sultan of Oman, it is the very first of its kind in Arabia.
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The creation of Oman Botanic Garden is an aspiring project unlike any other. Commissioned by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, the Sultan of Oman, it is the very first of its kind in Arabia. When completed, the centre will be four times the size of Kew. Using techniques that have never been tried before, this world class sustainable garden in the desert is an experiment of epic proportions, with the most ambitious of aims.
Designed to celebrate and conserve the unique, precious and hugely varied biodiversity of Oman, the centre will also demonstrate the vital role its plants have played in the country’s heritage. Seeds and cuttings are being collected, recorded, numbered, labelled, cleaned, grown and cared for by the garden’s dedicated ‘Green Team’ of young horticulturalists. Their expeditions to remote areas have even discovered new plant species.
From nothing in 2006, the number of plants currently at the nursery has grown to 51,000 and to date, now includes 327 species. It is already the largest stockpile of Arabian plants in the world.
The facility will research, cherish and protect this unique collection, as well as the country’s botanical history. Its native plants have been used for 5,000 years as food, shelter, medicine, animal feed, dye, preservative and perfume. Each species has its own story to tell. The team will research and document what they learn from the Omani people and record the information. “If we lose our stories, we lose part of our history and what makes us unique,” reminds Saif Al Hatmi, the project’s ethnobotanical specialist.
Visitors to the Gardens will be able to experience the country’s three climates and different habitats all year round and all in one place – ‘biomes’ will mimic the cool fog forests, baking sands, lush juniper forests, arid salt-flats, dry gravel plains and beautiful temperate valleys – surrounded by a stunning nature reserve.
Stories will come to life in the heritage village, where the ‘hustle and bustle’ of Omani culture will be recreated, using artifacts, demonstrations, activities and live presentations. The village will also feature some of the customs associated with their local products, such as henna, frankincense, indigo, rosewater and the role plants play in Omani crafts.
The 420-hectare project, being run by the ‘Office for Conservation of the Environment within the Diwan of the Royal Court’, is already under construction and due for completion in 2010. By then, it will be the largest botanic garden in the Arabian Peninsula – a destination for local and international visitors as a place of learning, research, conservation, fun, recreation and fascination – an oasis in the desert and truly one of the greatest cultural treasures in the world.
Contact: Oman Botanic Garden,
Office for Conservation of the Environment,
Diwan of Royal Court, PO Box 246, Muscat 100,
Sultanate of Oman
Oman’s ‘Green Team’ specialists
collect and record seeds and cuttings
Photo: courtesy of Oman Botanic Garden
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