Shurooq states the project will create sustainable jobs and investment opportunities for residents
His Highness clarified in a statement on Live programme that "The intent in developing this ecologically and archaeologically sensitive and diverse area is not to damage it by the construction of abundant towers and buildings that would rub out its distinctive characteristics, but rather to develop it in a viable way that will strengthen its environmental diversity and position, and encourage residents to be integrated with this environment through providing sustainable jobs." HH went on to say that an Amiri Decree will be issued and published in the official gazette about the area of the project and its protection regulations. His Highness said that Sharjah is on the way to announce more projects that will boost its tourist, environmental and economic position and ensure greater welfare and prosperity to its people. He added that Sharjah Government is keen to ensure listing most of its projects as the internationally recognised tourism sites in recognition of the various components of these environments and that he has a vision to transform these projects into lively areas where everyone enjoys highest level of convenience and recreation and all the requirements of safe environment. Located 40 minutes from Khorfakkan and 90 minutes from Sharjah City, the 25000 hectare project, which is being undertaken by Shurooq in collaboration with the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), and the Directorate of Antiquities will feature leisure facilities and accommodation such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, and cafes, and Visitors Centre in addition to offering specialist tours of Mleiha's protected areas, and will be developed in a number of phases. Speaking about the project, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) said, "During our meeting with His Highness Ruler of Sharjah, which was recently held in presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of (Shurooq), we discussed more than 24 projects in Sharjah and spoke about pleasing the people of Sharjah and the Emirate with a new project to be launched in the holiday. This was Mleiha Ecotourism Project which is the considered one of the projects that are being developed in collaboration with EPAA, following the recently launched Kalba Ecotourism Project and Sir Bu Nuair Island project." The Shurooq CEO noted that the project will be developed in two phases. The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion by end 2014 and will see the development of a Visitors Centre that will be located close to the Umm Al Nar Historical Tomb. The Visitors Centre will provide information about the heritage and history of the region, in addition to cafes and lounges for visitors. Wildlife will be rehabilitated in the project, historical sites will be organised and guided tours will be arranged. The second phase of the project will include the construction of the leisure facilities, resorts, lodges and restaurants. He went on to add that, under the scope of the project, the farms surrounding the protected area would be maintained and encouraged keeping camels and other livestock as well as cultivating various crops specifically with the aim of supplying the project's resorts and restaurants. Al Sarkal also emphasised that great care is being taken to ensure a sustainable development with a single coherent vision that successfully integrates Mleiha's history with the interests of its residents in order to provide opportunities for employment, education, and recreation while preserving the area's unique archaeological and ecological resources. The Shurooq CEO remarked, "The Mleiha project forms part of Shurooq's larger strategy that aims to capitalise on Sharjah's immense heritage and ecological resources through the development of such projects as the Kalba Eco-Tourism Project and the recently announce Sir Bu Nuair Island project. Through the development of these world-class projects we aim to encourage tourism by enhancing the quality of facilities for visitors in the region and thereby stimulate the Emirate's economic growth." HE Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairman of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), said, "Mleiha is a geological site open to visitors. It has archaeologies that go back to millions of years. We have a plan in place to manage this project in the light of studies and surveys and to be open projected area." Eisa Abbas Hussein Yousif, Supervisor of Archaeological Survey and Excavation at the Directorate of Antiquities , said, "Comprised of a wide agricultural settlement the ancient site of Mleiha contains a variety of archaeological features dating back to post Iron Age, the Hellenistic and post-Hellenistic periods, making it one of the most diverse and archaeologically significant sites in the region. Until fairly recently the oldest archaeological discoveries recorded at Mleiha dated back to the 3rd century BC, however the discoveries of the Umm Al -Nar Tomb at the site have pushed its ancient history back to the 2nd millennium BC." "Discovered within a date palm orchard by archaeologists from the Directorate of Antiquities in Sharjah, the tomb's layout is typical of the circular construction an Umm Al Nar tomb and measures 13.85m in diameter, making it the second largest Umm an-Nar tomb to have been found in the UAE. Artefacts found at the site include painted pottery, imported incised grey ware, soft stone vessels, personal items of jewellery and metal artefacts such as bronze knives and socketed spear heads," he added. Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the Emirate, evaluate tourism and investment related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.