Al Ain Oasis#8 in Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
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When the blazing Arabian heat starts to take its toll, you can find respite at the Al Ain Oasis. Occupying nearly 3,000 acres of central Al Ain, this quiet park is best known for its date palms — nearly 150,000 of them. These towering trees are part of plantations (some of them privately owned) that still help supply Abu Dhabi with the popular regional snack. Meanwhile, you'll have a chance to witness the ancient irrigation tactic known as "falaj," which is still used to water the mango, orange, banana and fig trees. While you walk around, keep your eyes open for the remains of an old mosque and fortification, and keep your camera primed to capture the stark contrast between the verdant oasis and the dry desert.
Recent visitors describe the oasis as a nice place to explore, though some travelers note that finding your way around can be a challenge. "The guard said there is a spring worth seeing but [I] almost got lost inside and could not find anyone to ask for directions," one TripAdvisor user recalled.
The Al Ain Oasis neighbors the Palace Museum and welcomes visitors at all hours of the day and night, free of charge. Nearly every Al Ain bus route stops within walking distance of one of the Oasis' eight entrances. To learn more about the Al Ain Oasis, visit the Abu Dhabi tourism board website.
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#1 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Constructed between 1996 and 2007 at the request of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is by far the most popular of Abu Dhabi's sights, and it's easy to see why. One of the largest mosques in the world, this house of worship features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and a white and gold facade. What's more, this is one of only two mosques in the UAE open to non-Muslim tourists. That means that visitors from all around the globe can walk across the world's largest hand-woven rug, gaze up at one of the world's largest chandeliers and admire the fusion of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman architectural styles, representing three different Islamic dynasties.
Although it's not Abu Dhabi's oldest attraction, those who have visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque say that a stop here is a must for those who want a better understanding of the city's religious identity. The site is one of the world's most significant examples of contemporary Islamic architecture. You are welcome to explore the mosque on your own, but many travelers recommend tagging along on one of the free guided tours; tours take between 45 minutes and an hour and can be reserved in advance, or you can simply show up and wait for the next scheduled English tour. "Our guide was outstanding; no religion, just amazing facts and with his commentary we understood the incredible engineering, art [and] workmanship that make this so very special," according to one TripAdvisor user. Previous visitors highly recommend touring the mosque in the evening when the sunset reflects off the marble courtyard.
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