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Seeking Sustainability in Dubai

Seeking Sustainability In Dubai

In a city boasting the world’s tallest skyscrapers and motion theme parks, I was quite pessimistic about seeking sustainability in Dubai. I will be the first to admit I was pleasantly surprised. The city is slowly embracing sustainability, you just have to dig much deeper.

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for some time now.  When everyday life chores come in the way as soon as you return from your holiday, it becomes almost impossible to remember what happened while on holiday.  In my case, a family trip to Dubai. Whilst I’m not a travel blogger, I’ve decided to mix up my blogs and occasionally write about some of our family travels.

Is Sustainability in Dubai for the Rich?

For the trip to Dubai I really wanted to stay in an Eco-friendly hotel.  Turns out, they are beyond my budget.  One of my annoyances with Eco-friendly holidays is the cost. For some reason, hotels, travel agents and family blog sites assume that only the ‘rich’ think sustainably.  While researching for hotels for our trip, I came across some magnificent hotels, but the prices were alarmingly expensive. More than £1000 per night. That was just to stay the night, excluding flights, food and transport.  So this got me thinking. If I can’t afford an eco-friendly family holiday, I can certainly add elements of it to my otherwise non eco-friendly trip.

As mentioned in my first paragraph, Dubai is a city that pleasantly surprised me.  It is a city looking far ahead into the future.  For those seeking sustainability, you will find it, you just have to dig much deeper.

The Hotel of Choice

Let’s start with the hotel itself.  Having worked hard all year long, I was seeking a bit of luxury.  Holidays are the one time I get to relax and be pampered.  It’s the only time when I’m not worrying about work, cooking, laundry, packed lunches or school runs.  So when I decided that there was no way I could afford the eco-friendly hotels, I started to gaze lower into the more affordable range of hotels. That’s when I found Jumeriah Zabeel Saray, a hotel set within The Palm and within my budget.

The hotel gave me the luxury that I was looking for and a bit extra at a third of the price of an eco-friendly hotel.  In 2014, the hotel was awarded the Green Globe certification for its positive impact on sustainable tourism.

Green Globe Certification Badge
Green Globe Certification Badge

Amongst various initiatives, the hotel has concentrated largely on water and energy conservation, areas that are of high cost and consumption for any hotel. As I looked down from the hotel room balcony, I also noticed the roof tops boast an array of foliage which in turn is resulting in a niche ecosystem.

Turtle Rehabilitation at Jumeirah Group of Hotels

A project that really excited me is the turtle rehabilitation centre, run collectively by the Jumeirah group of hotels.  The centre is open to visitors staying in their hotels.  Visitors can witness the release of turtles back into the sea at particulars times of the year. This should have been the highlight of our trip as the kids were really looking forward to visiting the rehab centre.  Due to this year’s extreme global temperatures also affecting the sea temperature, the centre was unable to release any turtles during our stay.  Needless to say we were a bit disappointed, but it’s completely understandable.  This is definitely on my list for the next time we visit Dubai.

Single Use Plastics

The hotel has made efforts in waste management by placing recyclable bins in ‘back of houses’ my only disappointed was to see single use plastic bottles. As part of their commitment to sustainability, I wish that they had moved away from these bottles to long lasting, refillable bottles instead.

The hotel offers a free shuttle service to some of its other hotels, Wild Wadi Water Park and the Mall of Emirates, which was ideal. We were staying at the Zabeel Saray on a half board basis, so the food court at the mall was our second kitchen on most days.  This was our non eco-friendly part of the trip, but I’m not complaining.  The variety and food options were superb.

Single use plastic shampoo bottles
Single use plastic shampoo bottles

Organic and Eco-Friendly Food Options

Whilst on a visit to the Mall of Emirates, we came across a supermarket, Carrefour. I was pleasantly surprised when we came to the organic food aisle. Now this is something I wasn’t expecting. They had a much wider range of organic food available at this local supermarket than I’ve seen in the UK. It ranged from dried foods, to chilled and frozen. Needless to say, I had to pick up some goodies to bring home. So if you’re someone who is looking for organic foods whilst on holiday, check out Carrefour.

Dubai Desert Conservation

As we were travelling with kids, we decided go for a slow paced desert safari trip rather that the dune bashing trip that is popular amongst families with teens. Putting my sustainability hat on, I booked the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve trip.  We booked via Desert Adventures.  The trip starts in the early hours of the morning. You are collected from your hotel by 6am and then dropped back to the hotel after a small picnic lunch. Don’t expect to see an array of ferocious wildlife as you might expect from an African Safari. The reserve is still in its infancy. You will however, get to see animals, birds and plants local to desert environments.

Whilst driving across the desert you start to realise that the reserve’s conservation efforts are starting to pay off.  There is an abundance of local flora and fauna. We also came across rows of date palms, a man-made lake and solar panel farms.

The one thing I absolutely loved about the desert is the peace and tranquillity surrounding it.  As our vehicle slowly drove across the sand dunes, I felt like I was part of a movie set. The trip made me wonder if this is how Dubai looked like before the introduction of skyscrapers.

Dubai Oasis
Dubai Oasis


So all in all, the trip was a success.  Whilst we didn’t get a full eco-friendly experience, we certainly added elements to our trip to make it greener.

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  1. Weiss-Nix

    Frankly speaking,`inm yview it is quite strange to look for eco-friendliness at a place like Dubai. You are talking about mass tourism in a desert destination! First of all, air travel is not eco-friendly at all – you are leaving one of the biggest CO2 footprints possible. Dubai is a huge aviation hub & aviation cluster. Hotels with pools, golf courses, waterparks, gardens and high human water consumption (population density due to tourism)? Really? Do you think that`s ecofriendly. Organic food cannot not be eco-friendly either if you have to import almost all food & beverage and other ship and mostly by air cargo. Energy Consumption? Aircons, car traffic etc. It is simply technically impossible to create an artificial comfort zone in this climate without negative eco-footprint. The desert is not suitable to host a high density of population. Waste separation & recycling? Avoidance of plastic and packaging waste? Negative. And you`ve published an image of a PLASTIC box with organic food that traveled probably several flight-hours to Dubai. Not to mention the bad working conditions of foreign, often invisible, low skilled workers. Why do you try to prove signs of eco-friendliness just in Dubai? For eco-friendly holidays there are definetely by far more credible options.

    1. Ree43

      Thank you for your comments. The point I am trying to make is that it is a city where there are a lot of negatives, but there are also positives that are starting to take shape. I have no doubt that there are other destinations which are more eco-friendly and if I am fortunate enough to visit them in the future I will blog about them. I am interested in finding places where we have a lot of issues and see what is being done to rectify them. Every small change we make now, negative and positive, will have a big impact. Every major city in the world has the same problems so let’s identify the negatives and celebrate the positives.

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