Saturday, June 22, 2024

7 unusual places in the UAE that will blow your mind (in a good way)

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The search for the strange…

Much of the UAE is a bubble of familiarity. The landscape paints rolling routes of towering skyscrapers, bright city lights and that purely cosmopolitan pulse we all feel.

It’s not every day that you’ll cross paths with a sand-submerged abandoned town or fossil formations that date back thousands of years. That’s why they’re different – out of the ordinary. But, believe it or not, if you venture out and about and out of your comfort zones, you’ll discover these unusual places in UAE. To kick off your curious quest, we’ve rounded up a few interesting spots across the country that are very much anti of the typical.

Here are 7 unusual places in UAE to visit

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve

A bit of natural history for you and quite a spectacular bit at that. The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve is located 45 kilometeres outside Abu Dhabi city and is home to more than 1,700 fossil dunes – dystopian-esque stone structures that have formed with the force of wind and sediment deposit over four million years, according to experts. The formations are spread over an area of 7 kilometres, which isn’t much but it means that the reserve has the highest concentration of these structures in the emirate. The reserve itself is visitor-friendly, with trails, benches, shading, light and sound shows and an amphitheatre.

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Reserve, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi, daily, 8am to 8pm, Tel: (0) 55 110 2124,

Al Madam Desert Village

This one is perhaps more curious than the tale of Al Jazirah Al Hamrah (which we will dissect in detail later). The Al Madam Desert Village is just two rows of empty, decrepit structures, located an hour from Dubai. These are homes and a mosque, seemingly abandoned in a hurry, with doors ajar and personal belongings left behind in a mess. Without reasons, speculation says that ghostly activities drove away the residents and the eerie air of the town only adds to this story. The town is being overtaken by the sands of time – quite literally – as the dunes of the desert have now partially submerged the buildings. It isn’t tourist-y yet and pretty much open access for anyone to drive up to and explore but the overtaking desert is an interesting sight. Some theories suggest ravaging sandstorms and poor construction could have led to the inhabitants leaving, but we shall never know for sure.

Airplane wreck in the Al Awir Desert

Al Awir plane

The Al Awir Desert is located not far from Dubai and this airplane wreck is one of the more intriguing things found there. The origins of this mysterious site are elusive, and the site itself is a pile of debris and airplane parts. No one knows for sure whether the plane, seeming to be an older model, complete with an old-timey propellor and everything, actually crashed there. Word is that the fuelage was moved to the spot and the broken bits were really dismantled but there is no concrete information on it.

Al Bidya Mosque

This mosque is located a little outside Fujairah in the village of Al Bidya and is chock full of cultural significance. Considered one of the oldest mosques in the country, it is believed to be constructed sometime between the middle of 15th and 17th century – around 600 years old. Nonetheless it is still a completely sound, standing structure and hosts daily prayers even today, despite being a tourist attraction. The building itself is a small space, with little cut-outs in the walls for windows and a rudimentary design put together with materials that were available then. The mosque features on the World Heritage List compiled by UNESCO.

Al Bidya Mosque, Al Bidya, Fujairah

Al Qasr Al Gamedh

Al Qasimi Palace

No list of peculiar places is complete without this one spot. So much legend and lore surround the Al Qasr Al Gamedh Palace, located in Ras Al Khaimah, mostly pertaining to the supernatural kind. The story goes that the residents of their brand new lavish home, which reportedly cost Dhs500 million to construct, abandoned it in one night claiming to witness spooky sightings and paranormal activities. Built for the late Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Humaid Al Qasimi, it is now popularly also known as the Qassimi Palace. In 2019, the Qassimi Palace opened to the public after being empty for more than 35 years. It will cost you Dhs50.

Al Qasr Al Gamedh, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Road, Al Dhait North, Ras Al Khaimah, daily, 9am to 7pm, tickets start at Dhs50 per head, Tel: (o) 52 828 2222,

Beehive tombs of Hatta

Beehive tombs

The beehive tombs of Jebel Hafit date back to the Bronze Age and are present in the hundreds at the base of the second-tallest peak in the UAE. They reflect a 5,000-year-old history of the region of Al Ain, built in stone and housing the dead of that time. The tombs are made of rough, uncut rocks and have a domed shape, thus the beehive moniker. Each tomb is believed to have held two to five graves. Artefacts have also been found in the tombs, including Mesopotamian pottery, beads, spears, daggers and vessels.

Beehive tombs, Jebel Hafit, Al Ain

Al Jazirah Al Hamrah

Another contender for the ‘most haunted place’ in the UAE is Al Jazirah Al Hamrah, an abandoned village located to the south of Ras Al Khaimah. Much lore surrounds the old town, now a collection of old, dilapidated buildings – shops, a school and a mosque – and homes that once housed some 2,500 people. For the longest time people believed that the residents of the town up and left after experiencing some paranormal phenomenon and the village remains haunted to this day. In reality, it was abandoned due to tribal disputes and for the pursuit of a better life in Abu Dhabi, But the empty town still feels eerie. It holds historical and cultural significance, being the only remaining pearling village in the entire Gulf region since the advent of the oil boom. So, while it’s not as exciting as a spooky site, it’s an interesting slice of history.

Al Jazirah Al Hamrah, Ras Al Khaimah

Images: Social and Getty Images 

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