Aflaj Park, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Located in the eastern part of Al Ain City, UAE, Aflaj Park covers an area of 480ha. The area has special cultural and historical importance because of the existence of three ancient aflaj irrigation systems - Falaj Al Aini and Falaj Dawoodi, which are still active today, and Falaj Khalifa, which is inactive. A falaj is an underground channel that transports spring water from high elevations to lower areas of land intended for agriculture.

Al Ain City Municipality, represented by its Urban Planning Department, appointed ICON to prepare a concept design proposal accommodating recreational, educational and heritage activities over a large part of Al Ain's network of aflaj. The plan also required that existing ezab, scattered randomly on site, be relocated, but remain in close proximity. Ezab are small, temporary livestock farms permitted under licence from the municipality.

One of the main design objectives was to preserve the existing aflaj and introduce them to the community and tourists in an educational and entertaining context.

ICON design team conducted a community survey and concluded that the preferred activities were focused on family and exercise, closely followed by preferences for education, entertainment and water features. Recreational activities are mostly provided in the form of trails for pedestrians and cyclists along the falaj lines.

Trails proposed along the Al Aini Falaj form the main recreation and heritage area, with pocket parks and relocatable F&B points. The Al Dawoodi Falaj trails are proposed as recreational areas accommodating sports fields and high speed cycle tracks, while the Khalifa Falaj trails are proposed as the main education and heritage anchors, including a visitors centre, falaj garden, petting zoo and wadi park. The major highlight is the 15m deep canyon that takes everyone on a fantastic journey discovering Al Ain's sources of life - water and oasis.

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