The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is known around the globe for its fast cars, towering skyscrapers and luxurious lifestyle. Very few people know about the rich history of the UAE and the traditional way of life. While everyone knows about the major attractions such as the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Mall, the lesser-known historical places offer the foreign traveller just as much excitement.
We have listed 12 historical places in the UAE that must be on your list when you visit this amazing country!
1. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
One of the well-known historical sights of Dubai, located in the old town of Dubai, is the densely populated neighbourhood of Al Fahidi. Also known as Al Bastakiya, stroll along the narrow lanes, lined with ancient buildings made of stone, wood and gypsum. Its proximity to the creek made it the trading and planning hub of Dubai. At present, the historic towers and buildings are used for an array of activities such as functioning as temporary art galleries and museums. During the UAE National Day, there are cultural performances and traditional activities on display.
2. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
This destination is a museum that was once the royal residence of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum. The Sheikh resided in this building from 1912 to 1958. This is one of the key historical places in Dubai, as it is though this is where the vision of Dubai as a global city was first planned. The current ruler of Dubai was raised in this building, adding more significance to this attraction, which should be on the list of everyone visiting Dubai.
3. Jazirat Al Hamra
Location: Ras Al Khaimah
As the UAE has an expansive coast, the abundance of ancient coastal villages and settlements should come as no surprise. One of the better preserved is Jazirat Al Hamra, located in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. This village offers an insight into the traditional way of life, with schools, mosques and houses still intact, depicting the traditional way of Emirati life.
4. Al Ahmadiya School
Built-in 1912, Al Ahmadiya School was the first educational establishment in the UAE. Now preserved as a museum and located in the Emirate of Dubai, visitors are offered the chance to observe the classroom layouts, the curriculum taught and other facilities.
5. Hatta Heritage Village
Location: Hatta, Dubai
Comprising of two watchtowers, a fort and a mosque, this is one of the oldest villages located on the outskirts of Dubai, in the Hatta region. While the buildings were restored in 2001, most of the materials used were from the original buildings themselves, dating back to the late 1900s.
6. Al Badiyah Mosque
Thought to be the oldest mosque in existence, Al Badiyah Mosque is located in the Eastern emirate of Fujairah. With an estimated build date of 1446, this mosque has been influenced by the Ottoman culture and hence is nicknamed as the Ottoman mosque. Located along the hillside and decorated with traditional palm mats on the inside and lined with stones on the outside, this mosque is the oldest attraction in the UAE.
7. Qasr al Muwaiji
Location: Abu Dhabi
Located in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, this is a fort that is over 100 years old. Built by the son of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa the First, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Khalifa, it is the birthplace of UAE royalty. Decked with images from the past, this fort offers a glimpse into the early days of the founding fathers of the UAE and their way of life.
8. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
With the information that dates back to 5000 years, this is an expansive complex of museums and mosques that offers visitors sightings of ancient artifacts, carvings, calligraphy and traditional tools and equipment. Located in the emirate of Sharjah, this museum complex will inform the unaware of the Islamic culture of the Arab world.
9. Qasr al Hosn
Location: Abu Dhabi
Hard to miss for anyone visiting the emirate of Abu Dhabi, this is one of the oldest forts in the country, boasting one of the tallest flag towers in the country. It is the oldest stone building in the country that served as a residence for royalty during its latter years. The way of life of the Sheikh can be seen by the visitors through a well-preserved display of items during his rule.
10. Al Maqtaa Fort
Location: Abu Dhabi
If forts and castles are your thing, pay a visit to Al Maqtaa Fort in Abu Dhabi. Forts in the UAE were used as the first line of defence against enemy groups such as bandits. This particular fort is 200 years old, on a rocky island, now connected by a modern bridge from the mainland.
The location of the fort is supposedly tricky to find, so get your map out and be patient!
11. Dibba Village
A village along the eastern coast of the UAE and bordering the neighbouring Arab country of Oman, Dibba was a key location for sea merchants during the early 1000s to the early 1970s. A natural harbour, this small village has plenty to offer for the relic hunter in you. With history etched all over the village and the carefully preserved artifacts from Iran, India and China, Dibba village is one of the historical must-visits in the United Arab Emirates.
12. Dhow Yard Ajman
Another historical place related to the early days of international trade and transport, the Dhow yard in Ajman is active to this day. The Dhow, a wooden ship that was used to transport people and cargo, was a key element in the rise of the UAE economy during the early 19th century. Get a glimpse of how these ancient wooden vessels are made and educate yourself on the various traditional shipbuilding practices that were used in the early 1800s.
With attractions listed all over the country, this list has been curated to add some culture on your visit to the wonderful country of the United Arab Emirates. Want a more authentic travel experience? Why not pick up some Arabic to prepare you for an engaging visit.