A Travellerspoint blog

Sharjah.

Day Trip to Sharjah.

sunny

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Detail from a mosque.

Getting there.

Previously we have always visited Dubai in summer when it is too hot to do anything, so we decided on our first winter visit that we should branch out and go to another emirate for a trip. We choose Sharjah because it was so close to Dubai, supposedly doable on foot and because I had heard it had a good heritage centre. Getting there was easy we went from Union Square. Take the metro there. If I remember correctly, you exit through exit 2. Buy your ticket before entering the bus. It costs 7 AED. Returns are not available. Buses also go from Deira City Centre and Al Ghubaiba among other places. The bus took us to Al Jubail Station and we were easily able to buy a ticket back. There were two ticket offices. One was for tickets to the Deira side of the Creek, the other for tickets to the Bur Dubai side of the Creek. This bus station is located right next to the fish souq, plant souq and vegetable souq. It is pretty close to the blue souq and the King Faisal Mosque.

Sharjah vs Dubai.

Sharjah is smaller than Dubai. It is also more conservative and has a total ban on alcohol, but it is more traditional with some interesting things to see. The main things to see in Sharjah are the souqs, the heritage area, the arts area, the corniche, some lovely mosques and the museum of Islamic art.

Fruit And Vegetable Market.

Sharjah fruit and vegetable market was right next to the bus station. I think our bus went to Al Jubail Bus station. The fruit and Vegetable souq is housed in a lovely building that runs parallel to the bus station. It is quite colourful and good for photos.

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Fruit And Vegetable Market.

The Fish Souq.

The fish souq is also right next to the bus station. Follow the smell of fish. There were some interesting specimens on sale here. Had I had access to a cooker I would not have minded cooking some. Good for photos.

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The Fish Souq.

The Plant Souq.

The Plant souq stretches along the main road from the bus station. I guess people drive up, buy plants and drive away. It was quite colourful, interesting and worth a look. Plus it is on the way into town.

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The Plant Souq.

The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

Our bus passed this on our way to Sharjah. It was not far back from the bus station so we walked back to have a look. The building is lovely with beautiful tiles, You can buy all sorts of things inside: jewellery, cloth, clothes etc.

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The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

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The Blue Souq Or Central Souq.

The Bird And Animal Souq.

This was on the walk from the bus station into the old part of town. There were two parts an outdoor livestock market with cows, goats and sheep and an indoor market with birds including falcons, dogs, cats, small rodents.

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The Bird And Animal Souq.

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The Bird And Animal Souq.

The King Faisal Mosque.

As non-Muslims we could not go inside, but this stunning mosque is located opposite the blue souq. We originally passed it on our way in to Sharjah on the bus. I insisted we walked back to take a closer look, as I thought it was a pretty stunning building.

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The King Faisal Mosque.

The Heritage Area.

In winter it is possible to walk to the Heritage Area from Al Jubail bus station, but I would take a taxi in summer. The Heritage area was a bit of a disappointment as so much of it was still under construction or restoration. Things available to see were two touristic style souqs, calligraphy exhibitions and the Bait Al Naboodah Heritage House, admission 5AED. The heritage house and the souqs were quite interesting and worth a look if you happen to be in Sharjah. The best thing about the Bait Al Naboodah was getting to try some cardomum flavoured coffee very tasty.

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The Heritage Area.

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The Heritage Area.

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The Heritage Area.

Sharjah Fort.

Sharjah Fort is located between the Sharjah Heritage Area and the Sharjah Arts Area. It is an interesting building from the ouside but it had a sign on the door saying it has been closed for restoration since March 2010, so we could not go inside.

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Sharjah Fort.

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Sharjah Fort.

The Corniche.

Although it only has a pedestrian walkway for part of the way, it is quite interesting to walk along the corniche. You will pass a beautifully tiled (possibly Iranian) mosque, the heritage area, the fort, the arts area, the Museum of Islamic Culture a lovely building and supposedly very interesting, but we did not have time to visit. We walked all the way to the lovely mosque near the Radisson Hotel. Many people were fishing and there were several boats. Quite pleasant if it is not too hot.

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The Corniche.

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The Corniche.

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The Corniche.

Posted by irenevt 05:25 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Al Ain.

Town at the Oasis.

sunny

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Camels in the Desert.

On our most recent trip to Dubai in December 2014 we decided to go for a day trip to Al Ain. We travelled there by bus from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station. The journey took around two hours and we travelled through some interesting desert scenery. At one point on the moving bus I just pointed my camera at the bus window and clicked every now and again. Normally when I do that I get a picture of a pole or a tree. This time I got a picture of camels. I did not even see those camels. We both really liked Al Ain. It was a relaxed, friendly place with a pleasant, sleepy feel to it. We had no intention of trying to see everything that Al Ain had to offer on a single day and concentrated on the sights that were within walking distance of the bus station.

Tickets from Dubai to Al Ain cost 20 dirham one way. Buy your ticket from the ticket office before boarding. The actual journey time is around 2 hours, but buses will only leave when they are full and that means all seats including the pull down ones in the middle. It took 40 minutes to fill the bus on the way there and thirty minutes to fill it on the way back. The front of the bus is for women, children and families. Men should only sit there if accompanied by their wife. I sat in that section with my husband and the driver insisted we swapped seats so Peter was at the window and I was in the aisle. This was so a woman could sit on the pull down seat next to me and would not need to be next to a man. Several other people were rearranged and there was the odd argument with people who had no idea what was going on. The bus driver answered every query about people being moved with the words. "Ladies! Ladies!" Al Ain Bus Station is in a very good location for visiting some of Al Ain's historical sites. There were plenty of taxis available at the bus station plus local buses and buses to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai.

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Journey to Al Ain.

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Journey to Al Ain.

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Journey to Al Ain.

We started by visiting Murabba Fort which used to be Al Ain's police station. Then we visited the Eastern Fort and the Al Ain National Museum. These sights are on the same compound and there is an entry fee of three dirham to visit them. After that we took a stroll through Al Ain's oasis and ended up at the beautiful Al Ain Palace Museum.

Al Ain belongs to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is Abu Dhabi's second largest city and has a population of around 600,000. Al Ain is far inland and surrounded by desert but the town grew up around an oasis. This area has been inhabited for over 4,000 years. Archaeological sites can be found at Al Hili and Jabel Ḥafeeṫ; including the remains of several beehive style tombs. Al Ain is the place where Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates, was born. Jabel Hafeet is a tall mountain in Al Ain which apparently has great views over the desert. We did not visit it this time. Maybe next time we will.

Oman is to the east of Al Ain and Saudi Arabia is to the south. We have now visited Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from Dubai. If I was to state a preference, I would put Al Ain at the top. That is because I am interested in history. Al Ain has lots of forts, more than we visited and archaeological remains. In the cooler winter months the sights we went to are all doable on foot easily. This also made it an easy place to visit. The only down side was it took a long time to get there and back over five hours in total including waiting time. Next visit I would not mind staying overnight in Al Ain if we get the chance. Overall it was a very easy-going, relaxed, friendly sort of place.

Al Murabba Fort.

The first sight we visited in Al Ain was Al Murabba Fort because we could see it from the bus station. This fort is three stories high and square in shape; murabba is Arabic for square. The square fort is surrounded by walls and is entered via the main gate. We could not actually go inside the fort. I believe you can only visit if you make an appointment to do so. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was responsible for building Al Murabba Fort. Construction of the fort began in 1948. At first the fort was used as a surveillance tower. Later it became a a police station and prison.

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Al Murabba Fort.

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Al Murabba Fort.

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Al Murabba Fort.

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Al Murabba Fort.

The Al Ain Palace Museum.

I strongly recommend a visit here as it was probably the loveliest place we visited on this day trip. We got here by walking through the date palm oasis from the entrance at the Al Ain National Museum. We went straight then headed left when we emerged from the oasis. The palace is really beautiful. Entry is free. The gardens were also pleasant to stroll through with their colourful arrangements of flowers and gently trickling fountains. Many of the palace rooms were open to the public and some were beautifully decorated. I loved the low, plush opulent couches and beautifully patterned carpets. Each room seemed to be colour co-ordinated. There are clean public toilets at this location. There are also some ceramic pictures on view. I very much enjoyed visiting this sight. This palace is the former home of UAE founder Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was built in 1910 and opened as a museum in 1998. It is open daily from 8.30am to 7.30pm except Mondays and on Fridays it is open from 3pm to 7pm.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

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The Al Ain Palace Museum.

The Al Ain Oasis.

One of the best things about Al Ain was that there were several sights close together and close to the main bus station. The Al Ain Oasis is right next to the The Al Ain National Museum. Enter it through the large archway. We walked all the way through from this entrance, keeping on the straight road when we emerged at the other side, off to the left was the Al Ain Royal Palace Museum. The oasis is shady and beautiful. It is filled with date palms. At the oasis, you can see an underground irrigation system, known as "falaj", which brings water from boreholes to the palm trees. The falaj irrigation system dates back thousands of years and is used widely in Oman, the UAE and other countries. To see it leave the main path and go among the trees or you can even view it over the walls. Walking through the oasis was a very tranquil experience.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

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The Al Ain Oasis.

The Al Ain National Museum.

I really liked the paintings of the forts of Al Ain on the outside of this museum. There are many forts we have still to visit. On this visit we concentrated on the more centrally located ones. Without your own transport Al Ain could easily occupy you for two days. My favourite part of the museum was a wall of photographs showing Abu Dhabi in the past before it became so developed. Overall this museum is well worth a visit and can easily be combined with a visit to the fort next to it. This museum is on the same compound as the Eastern Fort. Entry to both places is 3 dirham. Clean toilets are available at this sight. The Al Ain National Museum contains items about the history and culture of the UAE such as a display of writing implements from old UAE schools, a collection of tools used in circumcision ceremonies, models of women in traditional clothes, models of men using a well, models of men flying falcons, traditional armour and much more. I especially liked the gallery of old photos showing the UAE of days gone by. The museum also displayed some of the archaeological findings from the Hili Tomb Area. There was also a selection of gifts that had been presented to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Near the entrance you can look into a traditional Arabic room. The Al Ain National Museum is the oldest museum in the UAE. It was built by the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It opened in 1971.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

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The Al Ain National Museum.

The Al Ain National Museum.The Eastern Fort.

The Eastern Fort is also called the Sultan Fort. It was constructed by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It was used as a residence for him and his family until he became the ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1922. We could not actually go inside the fort. The Eastern Fort is on the same compound as the Al Ain National Museum and it costs 3 dirham to go in. Clean toilets are available at this sight.

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The Eastern Fort.

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The Eastern Fort.

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The Eastern Fort.

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The Eastern Fort.

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The Eastern Fort.

Posted by irenevt 05:04 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Abu Dhabi.

Day Trip to the U.A.E. Capital.

sunny

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Floor Tile, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Abu Dhabi.

We decided to visit Abu Dhabi from Dubai for the day by taking one of the inter-emirate buses from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station. The ticket cost 25 AED one way; no need to pre-book; buses were leaving almost continuously; journey time was 2 hours to Al Wadha Bus Station. There were two queues for boarding the bus: a men only queue and a family queue for women, children and men travelling with women. We decided to do the day trip under our own steam rather than on an organized tour, as we like to see things at our own pace and decide for ourselves where we want to go. I spent ages researching bus information in Abu Dhabi. Our intention was to arrive, buy an ojra day ticket and travel around by bus. Problems began straight away. There was nowhere to buy the day ticket. My info said purchase it in the nearby Al Wahda Mall at a red crescent stall. No-one there knew where to purchase it. The buses that claimed to go from Al Wahda did not seem to go from there at all and when we finally found the correct bus stops having given up on the day tickets and deciding on pay as you go (2AED a trip), there just were not very many buses. The end result was we used taxis all day. That was fine, they were metered and honest and reasonable. If we go again, I think we will use a mixture of buses and taxis. We now have a better concept of where things are, what there is to see and how to get around.

Our main aim was to see the spectacular Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque which we passed on the way in, so we started by taking a taxi there. The mosque was truly stunning and was the highlight of the trip. From there we made the mistake of taking a taxi to the white fort. This was a mistake because the fort was closed, being renovated and hidden behind barricades. Fortunately, we could walk from there to the Corniche Beach Park, so the destination was not all bad. Next we took a taxi to the Heritage Village. From there there were great views of the Abu Dhabi skyline (particularly lovely as the sun went down turning the buildings into glinting gold). There were also views of the famous Emirates Palace Hotel and the Presidential Palace. We were also very close to the Marina Mall. We tried to take a taxi back from the Heritage Village to the bus station but as the Heritage Village had shut by then, there were no taxis, so we had to walk to Marina Mall and take a taxi from there. The queues for taxis were lengthy and it took us about 20 minutes to get one. When we arrived back at the bus station, there were hundreds of people waiting to go to Dubai but no buses. It was chaotic and when buses came in, they did not stop at the front of the queue and there was an element of a free for all that was causing the security people to be reluctant to let people on the buses. Eventually we got on one to Ibn Battuta Bus Station. We had not intended to go there, but as we knew the bus station was next to the metro, it was OK. The journey back was comfortable and there was a food and drink service which we did not have on the way there. It was about one and a half hours to Ibn Battuta. I would happily go back to Abu Dhabi. Next time I would take a bus to the Marina Mall (lots go there). I would explore the mall, walk to the best vantage point for taking photos of the Emirates Palace Hotel and Presidential Palace, maybe revisit the Heritage Centre, too. Then I would take a taxi to the dhow building yards in Al Bateen, then a taxi from there to the souqs in the Al Mina district.

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

We took a taxi to this mosque from near Al Wahda Mall. There were lots of taxis parked outside, too, so we had no trouble getting back. I think some buses do go near, too, but taxis are probably the best bet. The mosque was truly stunning. It is free to go inside and open to non-Muslims, but you must dress appropriately and be fairly covered up. Women need to go and get themselves an abaya before they will be allowed in. This is also free of charge, but you must hand over your passport or ID card in order to guarantee you will return it. You will be given a receipt and your documents will be returned when you return the abaya. There are signs up denying you the right to even photograph the mosque if you are not dressed appropriately. I got told off for trying to take a last photo after I had returned my abaya. To go inside the mosque you must take off your shoes and women must have their heads covered inside the mosque and in the courtyard outside. All of the above is worth complying with as the mosque is well worth seeing. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was created by the late President of the United Arab Emirates, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His grave is located on the grounds of the mosque. The mosque was constructed between 1996 and 2007. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world. Inside the mosque is truly beautiful and you are allowed to take photos. The floor is covered by the world's largest carpet, created in Iran. The ceilings are hung with enormous lights created in Germany. There are flower covered floor and wall tiles. There are wooden panels inlaid with mother of pearl.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

Inside the mosque is very beautiful with the world's largest carpet. The carpet measures 5,627 square metres (60,570 sq ft), and was made by around 12,001,300 carpet knotters. The ceilings are adorned with seven immense chandeliers imported from Germany. These are made up of millions of Swarovski crystals. The part that impressed me most were the beautiful floral floor and wall tiles.

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Inside Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Inside Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Inside Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Inside Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

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Inside Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

Qasr al Hosn Fort.

This fort is located on Sheikh Zayed First Street. It is sometimes called the White Fort as it is, well sort of white!!!! and Old Fort as it is, well sort of old!!!! It dates from around 1761 and was originally a watch tower. It was expanded into a fort in around 1793 and became the residence of the ruling sheikh. The fort remained as the royal palace and seat of government until 1966. At the moment the fort is not worth visiting (December 2013) as it is being restored and is hidden behind barricades.

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Qasr al Hosn Fort.

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Cat at the fort.

The Corniche Beach Park.

We walked from the White Fort to the Corniche Beach Park. I liked the paintings on the walls of the underpass on route. Along the edge of the beach was a walkway with shade and a breeze. The beach was clean and spacious; the water looked inviting. Sadly we did not have time for a swim.

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The Corniche Beach Park.

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The Corniche Beach Park.

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The Corniche Beach Park.

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Underpass near the park.

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Underpass near the park.

Heritage Village.

OK, if I am being honest with our usual superb timing, we arrived here 10 minutes after it shut. That is it was still open, you could still go in, but the shops and any display of craft had finished. This did not bother me as I fully expected it to be like Dubai's heritage village. None too exciting. The best bit was the views from it over towards the Abu Dhabi skyline and towards the Emirates Palace Hotel. This is right next door to a little mosque, a big flagpole and other viewing points. Opening Times: Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm, and Friday from 3.30pm to 9pm. Where: Near Marina Mall, Breakwater, Abu Dhabi city. Entrance free.

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Heritage Village.

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Heritage Village.

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Heritage Village.

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Heritage Village.

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Heritage Village.

Emirates Palace Hotel.

This is the poshest hotel in Abu Dhabi and I would have loved to visit except I don't think you can unless you are staying there or have a meal reservation. I was not sure where to view it from and discovered I could see it from the Heritage Village, though the best view is from the main road near Marina Mall. We arrived at this view point in the dark, but next time we'll be there in time for the picture.

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Emirates Palace Hotel.

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Emirates Palace Hotel.

Marina Mall.

We photographed it and we queued outside for a taxi. What we did not really have time to do was actually going inside. The mall has around 400 shops, 48 cafes and restaurants, cinemas and bowling.

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Marina Mall.

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Marina Mall.

Al Wahda Mall.

This mall is right next to the main bus station where buses go to and from Dubai and other emirates. We rushed round trying to find where to buy an Orja Card for the buses so did not really do the place justice. This mall has more than 300 shops, around 50 restaurants/cafes, cinemas and Wanasa Land for entertainment such as bowling, paintball.

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Al Wahda Mall.

Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

Right next to the Heritage Village is a little mosque, a flagpole which was once the tallest in the world, till Jordan exceeded it, and best of all gorgeous views over the Abu Dhabi skyline. I especially recommend the views as the sun is going down. It reflects off the buildings turning them into gold.

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Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

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Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

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Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

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Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

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Flagpoles, Mosques and Cityscapes.

Posted by irenevt 02:54 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

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