‘It is He who sends down water (rain) from the sky and with it We bring forth vegetation of all kinds, and out of it We bring forth green stalks, from which We bring forth thick clustered grain. And out of the date palm and its spathe come forth clusters of dates hanging low and near, and gardens of grapes, olives and pomegranates, each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety and taste). Look at their fruits when they begin to bear, and the ripeness thereof. Verily! In these things there are signs for people who believe.’
– (99) Surah Al-An’am
At 4pm with the sun still shining above, as you walk through the narrow walkway flanked by two lakes on either side, the fine spray of mist that hits your face is at once refreshing and energising. Thanks to an optical illusion of sorts, those viewing us from a distance may believe that we are wading through the lakes. Families pose for photographs on the walkway while kids reach out to play with the water as it cascades from the edge of the lake. A word of caution here: as the wind picks up, you could easily get soaked if the fine micro droplets transform into a full-on splash.
We are at the newly opened Quranic Park located in Al Khawaneej in Dubai, walking through the ‘split miracle lake’ symbolising the story of the Prophet Moses parting the Red Sea as mentioned in the Qur’an.
Spread over 64 hectares, the Quranic Park has been developed to give a better cultural and educational understanding of the Islamic heritage. Apart from the Split Lake, this educational park also features 12 gardens, a Cave of Miracles and a Glass House, each of which has been specially designed to tell stories from Islam’s holy book.
At the entrance, the name of the park is spelt out in bright gold lettering, with Arabic swirls and motifs and golden leaves, vines and tendrils completing the design element on the low walls. Entry to the park is free so you can walk in without a wait.
Inside, a signboard leads you to the sidr, cucumber, citron, onion, olives and fig orchards on the left. An ice-cream van, parked on the lawns alongside, attracts a steady stream of consumers yearning for a quick sugar fix and they walk away with cones and cups topped with delicious vanilla and chocolate flavours.
The ancient healing sidr trees, found across the Middle East and which thrive in coastal, desert and semi-desert areas, are just starting to grow in the Sidr orchard. A visual display unit installed here informs us that the sidr is mentioned several times in the Quran and that the fruit, leaves, roots and bark of this tree are used to treat a variety of ailments. Well known for its curative and anti-inflammatory properties with a wide range of uses from disinfecting wounds to healing skin problems, the leaves of this tree were earlier dried and ground to a powder and then mixed with water to create a natural shampoo. Today, the tree is also prized for its distinctive, rich caramel tasting honey.
The cucumbers are in season and the long sprawling vines bear fruit of different sizes. The slow growing olive trees have only reached a couple of metres in height and the trunks are still slim, and the bark appears smooth. It will be many years before they mature and the bark gains its textured appearance replete with its characteristic knotty twists and gnarls.
Further ahead are grape vines, fig and pomegranate trees, orange and lemon orchards, a quick-growing banana plantation, and many more.
There are 12 gardens in all, containing 45 types of plants mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah, the teachings of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
These include melons, grapes, figs, garlic, leeks, onions, corn, lentils, wheat, fennel seeds, ginger, tamarind, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc.
Signboards in golden Arabic calligraphy will lead you in the right direction while the detailed medical and scientific uses of these plants and trees, and the Quran verses they are mentioned in are highlighted on the touch-screen units.
Lined with date palm trees and lots of flowering shrubs, the Quranic Park is a peaceful haven that offers plenty of resting spaces visitors. The shaded seating areas are decorated with patterns inspired by Islamic art and architecture. It is here that we meet Ali Khan from Pakistan who is on his first visit to the park. He is here with his wife and baby, and his younger brother who is on a visit to Dubai from Pakistan.
‘As a practising Muslim who recites the Quran daily, I’d been yearning to visit this place ever since I first read about it and saw the pictures that were posted on several social media,’ says Ali. ‘If you are interested in history, especially the cultural and scientific achievements of Islam, this is a great place to have a better understanding of that. Also, the association with the various stories we read in the Quran makes it a truly enriching experience.’
To have a park featuring the fruits and plants that are mentioned in the Quran is indeed a novel idea, he says.
A chief attraction at the Quranic Park that complements the magnificent collection of plants growing here is the Glass House, where all 45 plants and trees are grown in controlled temperatures and special environmental conditions. Each plant is marked with its name and specified whether it is mentioned in the Quran or/and The Sunnah.
Plants are constantly monitored and watered through nozzles that are cleverly hidden from sight. Take out your cameras just when a mist of water begins to cloud up the Glass House for some Instagram-worthy images. Water is sprayed at different intervals depending on the requirements of each plant. Do not forget to climb up to the observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the area.
Close by is the Cave of Miracles, a manmade rock formation that uses cutting-edge interactive video technology to depict various miracles mentioned in the Quran. Following an introductory video clip of the holy book, a guide ushers visitors to the various sections to view a total of seven miracles revolving around the Prophets in the Quran. Ample seating arrangements allow you to relax and watch as the miracles unfold with a combination of holographic displays and 3D map technologies.
Although the cave turns pitch dark when the video is on, guides are always at hand to help in case of any need.
Some of the miracles featured here are that of Prophet Suleiman and the incident of the ants, the story of how Prophet Essa breathes life into birds made from clay, and the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) miracle of the splitting of the moon that occurred before the migration to Medina.
Unfortunately, the audio that accompanies the video is currently only in Arabic. There are no English sub-titles either although plans are underway to introduce audio in English and other languages too to benefit larger numbers of visitors and tourists.
‘The Cave of Miracles is an excellent way for people who are curious about Islam to gain a better understanding of its values and principles in an educative and fun manner,’ says Hiba, a Dubai resident from Kerala, India, who is on her first visit here with several members of her family. ‘I hope the English audio comes up soon so that more people can learn about these miracles which are explained in detail.’
The Quranic Park is a laudable initiative that presents the beauty of Islam in an educative and interactive manner, she adds. ‘Nothing on this scale has ever been done before and this unique project inspired by Islamic culture can teach both Muslims and non-Muslims alike about Islam. The fact that we now have one more beautifully landscaped area with an incredible diversity of plant life is a commendable achievement indeed.’
Know before you go
• Free entry.
• Dh5 entrance fee each for Cave of Miracles and Glass House. Visitors can use the RTA NOL card, which can be recharged inside the park.
• Opening hours: 8am to 10pm; Fridays: 3pm to 10pm
• Two large play areas have also been demarcated for children from 2 to 12 years.
• Food carts selling tender coconut water, fresh juices, rolls, burgers and other small eats are located at strategic points throughout the park.
• The park also features cycling and jogging tracks. Wi-Fi and phone-charging stations are available.
• Weekends are extremely crowded; be prepared for long queues at the main attractions.
• Download the Quranic Park Smart Guide app to learn more about the park’s facilities and plants in detail.