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Natural UAE


In the shade of a large Zizyphus spina-cristi tree, a group of men pass the time of day with fellow travellers in Wadi Khabb Shamsi. This species of tree, known locally as sidr, produces a mass of small edible apple-like fruits, which are still gathered by many villagers. Not so are the tiny fruits of the wild fig (Ficus sp.) tree, which grows commonly from crevices on cliff faces and from cracks in large rocks. Birds such as yellow-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus xanthopygos) and cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) do, however, enjoy the ripe fruit.

The wadi bed is presently bone dry, but can, even when there is not even a cloud in sight, turn into a muddy boulder-filled spate without warning following heavy rain upstream. Unwary persons and livestock, or cars even, can be swept away. As a consequence, villages are set back on raised ground away from the bed of the wadi and where a colourful display of laundry is typical. The lifestyle in these mountain villages is substantially unchanged, although the menfolk usually travel into town to collect modern-day provisions. Goat herding is typical with donkeys or mules generally used for transporting heavy loads around the hills.

A not infrequent sight in the barren hills of the Ras Jibal is of tree-climbing goats grazing the shoots and buds from the canopy of an Acacia tree. Able to survive on the meagre plant growth in this arid environment, these nimble and sure-footed animals rove widely over the area, but are shepherded into overnight stockades to protect them from marauding leopards, caracals and foxes. The almost completely black Brandt's hedgehog (Hemiechinus hypomelas) and both red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and Blanford's fox (Vulpes cana) occur in this area.

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