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Natural UAE

CLICK FOR SECTION MAP Traditional sights

Traditional sights are still found over much of the inland desert. Tiny date gardens are often encountered in apparently improbable locations, often nestling at the foot of high dunes. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is extremely tenacious and once established can survive untended for many years. Abandoned groves can persist indefinitely, although this is rarely allowed to happen, such is the value placed on the date crop. Wildlife is invariably attracted to the shade offered by palm groves, with sometimes a roosting eagle owl flushing on the approach of a person. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) regularly visit and routinely eat fallen dates along with their stones as a high energy supplement to their more normal but highly varied diet of rodents, scavenged remains, plant material and so on.

The sand skink (Scincus scincus), or sand fish as it is more frequently known, is common in sparsely vegetated dune country. They are mostly active at dusk or at night when the sand surface is not too hot to move across, remaining buried or submerged during the rest of the day. This species, although often walking or plodding along on its short legs, will revert to a slithering motion at remarkably high speed when a threat such as a car or a human is sensed, when it will nose-dive into soft sand in wriggling fashion. The track shown in the accompanying photo shows exactly what has just been described, with a deliberate walk suddenly changing and the animal disappearing underground in a very short distance.

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