Jebel Hafeet & The Al Ain Camel Souk#5 in Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
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Rising more than 4,000 feet out of the desert and straddling the UAE-Oman border about 15 miles south of Al Ain, Jebel Hafeet stands as the tallest mountain in the emirate and the second-tallest mountain in the country. This mountain has played a significant role in Emirati history: Not only have several notable fossil discoveries been made here, but archaeologists have also unearthed more than 500 ancient burial sites in the Jebel Hafeet foothills. Yet most travelers don't plan a trip to this mountain because they're interested in history; rather, Jebel Hafeet offers what many road trip enthusiasts (including Edmunds.com and The Weather Channel) have deemed one of the best driving roads in the world. The road weaves its way through the mountain's limestone up to the summit, where you'll find the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet hotel, as well as beautiful views of Al Ain and neighboring Oman. Many recent travelers recommend making the drive late in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset from the mountaintop.
If you have some extra time after your drive, consider making a stop at the Al Ain Camel Souk, located southeast of Jebel Hafeet (less than a 20 mile drive from the summit) near the Oman border in Meyzad. The last traditional camel market in the UAE, this lively market will allow you to get up close and personal with the iconic "ships of the desert" and experience the camel trade as it has operated for centuries. Those who have visited say that they enjoyed their visit, though a few travelers note that the locals have been known to ask for money in return for photos of the camels. Also, be mindful of how you dress for your visit. "The camel souq is an all male and quite conservative place. Modest clothing for both men and women is a must," one TripAdvisor user advised, adding "I would also recommend easy-to-clean footwear."
You will need a car to get to both Jebel Hafeet and the Camel Souk, which can be found south of Al Ain on the eastern edge of the emirate. Signs will direct you to the mountain road, which you'll reach if you follow 122nd Street. You can drive to the Jebel Hafeet summit at any time of day or night, free of charge. You also won't have to pay to tour the souk; hours of operation vary depending on the day and the season, but your best bet for a busy atmosphere is to visit in the morning. The Abu Dhabi tourism bureau offers more information on both Jebel Hafeet and the Camel Souk.
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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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