Five spots to celebrate Emirati heritage on National Day

Make a National Day of it at one of these UAE heritage sights Discuss this article

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1. Al Ain Oasis
The UAE’s first Unesco World Heritage site is a glorious green space just waiting to be explored. Spread out over nearly 3,000 acres of lush land, and filled with 147,000 date palms, the scenic spot makes for a perfect weekend escape from big city life.

Visitors can make the most of the rare beauty on their doorstep over the next few months after culture chiefs announced the return of the Weekends at the Oasis scheme.

Taking place each Friday and Saturday until the end of March, the curated programme of events includes children’s workshops, with a range of arts and crafts, as well as traditional cooking demonstrations and an on-site communal market featuring traditional, hand-made and modern Emirati products and produce, sourced from the natural materials found in the vast area.

Culture lovers will also be able to go horse riding through the ancient Oasis, check out food trucks and get in touch with Emirati roots, by learning about handicrafts inspired by the Oasis. What a way to spend a weekend.
Free. Every Fri and Sat until end of March. 2pm-midnight . Western Plaza, Al Ain Oasis, Al Ain (02 599 5438).

2. Al Jahili Fort
The landmark fort is high on the list of anyone looking to wow their Instagram followers, but a visit here offers much more than just picture perfect views.

One of the most iconic sites in Al Ain – its formidable towers feature on the logo for the local mineral water brand and adorn the badge of Al Ain FC – the structure was built in 1891 as a defence for the city and was revamped a decade ago as part of its transformation into a popular visitor attraction.

The impressive fort is home to an information centre and exhibition spaces, while the north wing of the courtyard is devoted to a permanent exhibition of evocative black and white pictures by the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who travelled across the vast Rub Al Khali desert with Bedouins during the 1940s, embarking on an epic journey from Salalah in the far south of Oman all the way to Abu Dhabi. The exhibition includes a number of Thesiger’s belongings and images documenting his remarkable Arabian adventures.

The fort will also be open for a special National Day celebration on December 2.
Open Tue-Thu and Sat 9am-5pm, Fri 3pm-5pm. Al Mutawaa area, near Al Jahili Park (03 711 8311).

3. Heritage Village
Take a peek into the past at this striking re-imagining of a traditional oasis village nestled away on the Corniche breakwater.

Emirati life through the years is put on display, including a chance to stop by at an open museum where you can get up close with traditional aspects of the desert way of life, from a goats’ hair tent to a campfire with coffee pots.
History is also brought to life at a series of workshops where craftsman and ladies demonstrate skills such as metal work and pottery.

For a true taste of Emirati tradition, and a fun day out, make your way to the Heritage Village this weekend.
Open Sat-Thur 9am-4pm, Fri 3.30pm-9pm. Corniche Breakwater, near Marina Mall (02 681 4455).

4. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This architectural marvel attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world each and every week and remains the gleaming jewel in the UAE capital’s crown.

Voted the world’s second favourite landmark by TripAdvisor earlier this year (ranking above iconic sights such as the Taj Mahal and the Sydney Opera House), the magnificent building took a staggering 11 years to construct, with more than 3,000 workers involved in the process.

It features 82 dazzling domes, the largest hand-woven Persian carpet on the planet and a grand chandelier embedded with one million Swarovski crystals.

A remarkable feat of imagination, enterprise and architecture, the marvellous mosque should have a place right at the very top of any cultural bucket-list.

Guided tours are held throughout the week, with staff on hand to answer questions and enlighten visitors on all aspects of Islamic culture. Men are asked to dress conservatively (so leave the shorts at home) and ladies must don a headscarf.
Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm, Fri 4.30pm-10pm. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street (02 419 1919).

5. The Empty Quarter
Where better to get away from it all and immerse yourself in local life than the largest uninterrupted sand mass in the entire world?

The vast desert was the stunning backdrop to Hollywood blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens but while it might look out of this world, it really isn’t a galaxy far, far away.

The magnificent Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara can provide a high-class base for your adventures, with desert walks, dune bashing and fat biking among the wealth of activities laid on at the luxury hotel.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Qasr Al Sarab (02 886 2088).


Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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