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United Arab Emirates

Main attractions

Highrises along the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Highrises along the Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai / Trevor, , CC BY 2.0

Arab countries keep the wondrous spirit of One Thousand and One Nights alive - and none does it better than United Arab Emirates. This small country surprises whole world with the realisation of incredible ambitions. Cities of Emirates, especially Dubai and Abu Dhabi serve as showcases of latest achievements in engineering and architecture.

Visitors easily may get carried away with the landmarks of modern times - but United Arab Emirates are much richer than this. Country has diverse archaeological heritage and, happily, the rich Pre-Islamic heritage is not neglected. In Emirates is found the oldest known human settlement outside Africa, prehistoric trade cities and even a stray outpost of early Christianity - monastery and church on Sir Bani Yas island.

Natural landmarks

  • Al Wurayah Falls (Al-Vurraya) - Fujairah. Picturesque falls in the exotic Wadi Al Wurayah canyon, partly fed by springs.
  • Bu Tinah - Abu Dhabi. Coral reef and seagrass beds. Site contains one of the few natural forests in United Arab Emirates - a natural mangrove grove. Waters of this reef are very rich with sea life, including world's second largest population of dugongs - some 600 animals.
  • Mangrove forest in Bu Tinah, United Arab Emirates
    Mangrove forest in Bu Tinah / Aenaon, , public domain
    Magharet Qasir Hafeet - Abu Dhabi, Jebel Hafeet. 450 m long cave, up to 96 m deep. Adorned with flowstones, stalagmites and other cave formations.
  • Masafi Falls - Fujairah. Waterfall formed by spring which flows into Wadi Siji.
  • Moreeb Dune - Abu Dhabi. One of the largest sand dunes in the world, 120 m tall, with 50 degrees steep slope.
  • Umm Al Nar fossil finds - Abu Dhabi. Find of very unusual bird - Bennu heron (Ardea bennuides), a giant heron which went extinct during the times of prehistoric Mesopotamian civilizations (2500 - 2000 BC). This bird was larger than people.

Man made landmarks

Ancient and prehistoric settlements

  • Al-Dour (Ed-Dur) - Umm Al Quwain. Remnants of once large trading port, which operated in 200 BC - 200 AD. Thousands of graves as well as small fort with round towers and temple of Semitic god Shamash.
  • Fayah (Jebel Faya) - Sharjah. World's oldest known settlement of modern humans outside Africa, inhabited from the Middle Paleolithic (125 thousand years old stone tools) till the 18th century. Contains Neolithic tomb and group of tombs from the 4th century BC.
  • Mleiha - Sharjah. Settlement from the late Iron Age, abandoned around the 4th century AD. Contains ruins of fort and some other buildings, monumental tombs (including one Bronze Age tomb from the 3rd millenium BC). City had market districts, here have been found ancient inscriptions with Aramaic and Musnad (South Arabian) writing.
  • Umm an-Nar - Abu Dhabi. Ruins of ancient settlement and necropolis, with hundreds of characteristic beehive tombs. This fishing and trading port was inhabited in 2600 - 2000 BC.

Other archaeological landmarks

  • Hafeet graves (Mezyad graves) - Abu Dhabi. Group of more than 500 prehistoric graves - circular buildings (beehive tombs), constructed in the Bronze Age, 3200 - 2700 BC. Largest structures are 4 m high.
  • Hili Grand Tomb - Abu Dhabi. Reconstructed grave - circular tower (beehive tomb) with a diameter of 12 m.
  • Petroglyph sites in Dadnah, Hassat al-Risoom, Wadi Al-Hayl, Wadi Al-Shanah, Wadi Saham, Wadi Wurayah - Fujairah. Important sites with prehistoric cliff etchings, for most part depicting animals, humans.
Palm Jumeirah with Dubai in the background, United Arab Emirates
Palm Jumeirah with Dubai in the background / Nico Crisafulli, , CC BY 2.0

Urban planning

  • Al Shindagha - Dubai. Large district with hundreds of historical houses. Here in the first half of the 20th century lived rulers of Dubai.
  • Bastakia - Dubai. Possibly the best preserved part of old Dubai. Historical part of city with the characteristic causeways, wind towers and other architecture forms from the late 19th - early 20th century, developed by Persian merchants.
  • Masdar City - Abu Dhabi. Planned city, which will rely entirely on renewable energy and will create no pollution. City will serve as a clean technology development centre. Buildings in the city have unusual, innovative design.
  • Palm Jumeirah - Dubai. World's largest man made archipelago, with 520 km long coastline, mostly covered with villas. Group of islands forms a 5 by 5 km large shape of palm tree. Connected to the mainland with monorail. Similar projects include Palm Jebel Ali - 50% larger that Palm Jumeirah and The World - group of artificial islands forming a world map.
  • Sheikh Zayed Road - Dubai. City highway with one of most impressive displays of supertall skyscrapers in the world.
Qasr Al-Hosn in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Qasr Al-Hosn in Abu Dhabi / Xander Veldhuijzen, , CC BY-SA 2.5

Fortifications, castles

  • Al Fahidi Fort - Dubai. Oldest existing building in Dubai, built in 1787 - 1799.
  • Al Heil Castle - Fujairah. Picturesque castle near mountains, former headquarters of the local ruler, constructed in 1735.
  • Fujairah Fort - Fujairah. Massive castle, built in 1670 from mud brick. Fully renovated in 2000.
  • Qasr Al-Hosn - Abu Dhabi. Fort, the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi. Watchtower was built around 1761, expanded into fort in the late 18th century, when it became a residence of sheikh.
  • Umm Al Quwain Fort - Umm Al Quwain. Old fort which guarded the entrance in Umm Al Quwain. Now serves as a museum.


  • Al Badiyah Mosque (Al Bidyah) - Fujairah. Oldest known mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Time of the construction is unknown, but it was built in the 15th century (1446 AD?) or earlier. Small but sophisticated structure with four domes. Still in operation.
  • Al Badiyah Mosque, United Arab Emirates
    Al Badiyah Mosque / سبأ, , CC BY-SA 3.0
    Juma Mosque (Hatta) - Dubai. Old mosque, built in 1780.
  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque - Abu Dhabi. Eighth largest mosque in the world, built in 2007 as one of the most beautiful religious structures in the modern world. Building has 82 domes rising up to 85 m high. Tallest minaret is 107 m high. White color dominates the design, very impressive is the floral design of marble courtyard.

Modern structures

Burj al Arab in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Burj al Arab / shakirov, , CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Burj al Arab - Dubai. Landmark building - sail-formed skyscraper hotel, built in 1999. Building is located on man made island and is 321 m tall, with 60 floors. Impressive is the 180 m tall atrium lobby. One of the most expensive hotels in the world.
  • Burj Khalifa - Dubai. World's tallest building, 829.8 m tall skyscraper with 163 floors. Built in 2010 and expected to hold 35,000 people at any time.
  • Capital Gate - Abu Dhabi. Unique, inclined skyscraper with 18-degree incline. 160 m high, 35 stories, constructed in 2011. The furthest leaning tower in the world.
  • Emirates Palace - Abu Dhabi. One of most luxurious hotels in the world, built in 2006. Many rooms are furnished with gold and marble.

Other structures

  • Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House - Dubai. Historical house in Dubai, built around 1894 as the seat of Al Maktoum family. Now the building serves as a museum.
  • Sir Bani Yas monastery - Abu Dhabi. Ruins of Christian Nestorian monastery, in used from 600 AD to roughly 750 AD. Includes a Christian church from the 7th century.

List of described attractions by emirates

United Arab Emirates are divided into 7 emirates. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Abu Dhabi
ArrowSheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu DhabiIslamic shrines
Ras al-Khaimah
Umm al-Quwain

Map of United Arab Emirates

Featured: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi / Andrew Xu, , CC BY-SA 2.0

The new Sheikh Zayed Mosque testifies the ambitions of Abu Dhabi to become a regional centre of culture and religion. It is one of the most beautiful religious buildings of modern times.

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