How Dubai has changed over the summer! a blog about Ghaf trees

Kristien Uytterschaut / September 9, 2013

How Dubai has changed over the summer! We ‘only’ left for 6 weeks this year and still!


This year my biggest surprise is of course the GHAF TREE! After spending over a year talking, working, discussing, caring for and about this tree, it is constantly on my radar. Wherever I go in the Emirates or Oman, this is what I notice: how strong they can be, when there is water in abundance in the Dubai parks, how sad they are when almost dried out in the desert, how beautiful they are when captured in a picture of an accomplished photographer, how amazingly fertile they are when seeding and how endlessly rich they are when you tell their UAE-story to eager listeners!


When summer finally arrived last May, the trees in my street were really sad and ugly. They had fewer leaves and these leaves were grey and dusty. There still was shade under them, but looked much less inviting than earlier in the year. The bark looked even more coarse and rough and there was nothing appealing about the trees whatsoever. Especially so, since it was my task to find a good spot to lead a couple of groups of very eager young eco-conscious students to the source of all: the long awaited seeds. Although looking strong all year, the Ghafs seemed to be losing all strength with the heat rising. Definitely the ones in a large stretch of land where there were no private houses with gardens and sprinklers or other possible sources of water. I started wondering how these trees became so big and strong on that dry patch of land; or how a long winter with more rain than I had seen before in the UAE, still left these trees looking dryer and sadder than all the years before.


And then I had my answer, coming back from holidays in more temperate weather: it was not so much the heat that hit me when arriving back in Dubai, but the ‘heaviness’ of the air. The humidity, when coming out of the airport building, struck me in the face. The next morning it felt better from within the pool, but watering the plants later that day, was a very sweaty affair altogether.


So, what did I notice?

3 patches of Ghaf trees on an arid stretch of land in Barsha.

3 patches of Ghaf trees on an arid stretch of land in Barsha.

That one tree that had been ‘pruned’ rather drastically because of a gardener who wanted to help the palm tree next to it, had taken back all the lost space and looked so much healthier than the said palm. Although I am sure that that palm had received tons more water than that Ghaf.


My 3 groups of Ghaf trees on the dry patch of set-aside land look equally amazing. They are big and healthy and almost fluorescent green. I have not looked for seeds yet or seen the tree trunk up-close, but there is no doubt in my mind that this tree thrives in the heat! The very interesting quality of ‘drinking’ via their leaves has obviously done the deed. With all the humidity in the air during summer, these trees have all they need to come into their own and show how worthy they are of the title of “National Tree of the UAE”.


I am convinced now: taking some seeds back north to that temperate weather to be planted in some rich soil would be a big mistake! Here is where the Ghaf tree belongs: in the dry arid soil of my host country, the United Arab Emirates.




Kristien U.


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