Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum#9 in Best Things To Do in Abu Dhabi
Price & Hours
Sitting on the western edge of the Al Ain Oasis, the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (also known as the Al Ain Palace Museum) offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the UAE's founder and first president. Built in 1910, this large complex housed Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his family while he was in power. Visitors to the museum can learn more about the "Father of the Nation" as they wander through the palace's courtyards, gardens and sleeping quarters. You'll also have to opportunity to peek into the meeting rooms where Sheikh Zayed met with visiting dignitaries and other guests.
Those who have visited the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum say that a self-guided tour takes roughly an hour and that it's worth seeing if you make it to Al Ain. Travelers describe the palace as a beautiful, but one TripAdvisor user felt that the museum was lacking when it came to information: "There is a map, but no booklets for foreign visitors, which I think would be of benefit."
The Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum is located in Al Ain on the emirate's eastern border about 100 miles east of Abu Dhabi city. The X90 bus connects Abu Dhabi city and Al Ain, while all Al Ain routes stop within walking distance of the museum. You can visit the palace between 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday through Thursday and from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays; admission is free. For more information, check out 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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