Al Jahili Fort picture
Patrik Dietrich/Shutterstock

Key Info

Al Jahili Park, Al Ain

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Sightseeing, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.3scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 2.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Sitting about a block west of the Palace Museum is the striking Al Jahili Fort. Built in the late 1800s, Al Jahili is the largest edifice in Al Ain made from mud bricks (a traditional form of Arabian architecture), and it has recently been refurbished for public visitation. The structure was erected as the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, a group tasked with the protection of the region's palm groves and the preservation of peace between the different tribes that once occupied the area. Today, visitors are welcome to explore the fort's battlements and watchtowers, which surround an expansive courtyard that often acts as a backdrop for outdoor concerts. Al Jahili also houses a small exhibit dedicated to British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger (fondly known in the UAE as "Mubarak Bin London), who is known for his journeys across the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert.

Travelers who have spent time at Al Jahili say that the fort provides an interesting peek at the area's history while offering plenty of photo opportunities. Recent visitors are especially impressed with the Thesiger exhibit. According to one TripAdvisor user, "The exhibition of Wilfred Thesiger's photos as he lived amongst the Bedouin prior to oil discovery show a great insight into the history of this country."

Al Jahili Fort is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; on Friday, the fort is open from 3 to 5 p.m. (Note that hours may be subject to change.) Admission to the fort and the Thesiger exhibit is free. Visit the Abu Dhabi tourism board website for more background information on the fort. To get to Al Ain from Abu Dhabi city, take the No. X90 bus from the central bus terminal — all Al Ain bus routes stop within walking distance of the fort.

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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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