Horseback riding in Dubai's first green city.
Creating “green cities” has become a new way for oil-rich Gulf States to diversify their economies and add prestige to their global brands. The latest venture is unique – here they want you to use a horse for transportation. © Razzam Al Razoom / The Commons
Horseback riding in Dubai's first green city.
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Adam Hedengren
Last updated: June 12, 2012

Horseback riding in Dubai’s first sustainable city

Creating “green cities” has become a new way for oil-rich Gulf States to diversify their economies and add prestige to their global brands. The latest venture is unique – here they want you to use a horse for transportation.  

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City is arguably the most well known example of a grand eco-friendly vision that strives to put the oil-rich Gulf emirate at the forefront of innovation and environmental thinking. Unsurprisingly, neighbouring Dubai now joins the trail with the announcement from Diamond Developers that they intend to build a sustainable green city, capable of accommodating 10,000 residents, students and employees.

The city is set to reduce carbon emissions by more than 75%, mainly through the use of solar power. But developers will also focus on recycling used water, crucial in a region with almost no access to freshwater resources. 

"Green areas account for 70% of the total area and include gardens and farms engineered to produce organic food products for the nutritional requirements of the population. There will also be a solar energy farm and a green belt of 100,000 qaaf and palm trees, stretching along eight kilometres in and around the city, that will be able to accommodate 2,500 families", said Mr. Faris Saeed, Chairman of Diamond Developers.

“The experience will include environment-friendly products, organic foods and a sustainable transport system”, Mr. Saeed added.

Guests will find themselves in a somewhat unfamiliar situation, as one way of moving between places will be on the back of a horse. However, residents and visitors alike won’t be limited to animals but can also use solar-powered vehicles.

The attractions include a 143-room resort run on the core principles of sustainable living. But the city hopes to offer more than just the looks of a glossy eco-venture. There are plans to build a mosque, government buildings, a school and a multi-use complex. There will also be a university concentrated on teaching sustainability and environmental sciences, partly run in cooperation with the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

The plans for Dubai’s first sustainable city are grand, but there are many potential obstacles along the way. Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City has been plagued by setbacks and resignations within the top layers of its organization. The relatively common dust storms that spread across the Arabian Peninsula can cause tremendous problems for solar-panel plants. For instance, in 2009, the Masdar plant functioned at 40% below its capacity due to extreme levels of suspended dust in the air, according to Green Tech Media. Other critics voice scepticism towards the very nature of the projects themselves; it is after all likely that the emergence of green cities will mainly be enjoyed by a wealthy few, giving little room for ordinary Emiratis to truly gain from the initiatives. Nevertheless, if successful, they will be seen as an important step away from over-reliance on oil.

The development of a green city in Dubai is set to take place in four phases, the first completed in 2013 and the final stage done by 2016.

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