Dubai: We live in a place of superlatives. The largest this and the most expensive that. The UAE is famous around the world for massive towers, huge malls and some pretty incredible feats like… well… an indoor ski resort or a restaurant that’s located 830m above the ground.
But there’s some pretty interesting places here that have nothing to do with glamour or reflective glass on high rise towers. We are talking haunted villages, abandoned homes and a mysterious man-made lake in the middle of the desert.
Here are 7 unusual places you have to see if you live in or are visiting the UAE
1. Al Madam: The abandoned “sand-home” village in Sharjah
Al Madam is an abandoned village, dating a few decades back. The village now lies half-buried in sand, and nobody is exactly sure why. Located just on the edge of the Dubai border, it is worth the trip, just so you can see how the houses have been engulfed by the desert. Affectionately known as the “Madam Ghost Town” this area was built in the 70s, as part of a housing project. You will notice that all of the houses are the same. The village is made up of just two rows of identical houses and a mosque in the far corner.
The village, according to locals, was once inhabited by Al Kutbi tribe, one of the three prominent tribes residing in and around Al Madam, a small town governed by Sharjah emirate.
The local legend goes that jinns were the reason for the villager’s departure of the area. Jinns are supernatural creatures that Muslims believe exist in this world but not visible to human eyes.
Visible at 24.894612, 55.763894 on Google Maps
2. The Lake of Expo: A manmade lake in the Dubai desert
Located over an hour drive away from the Expo2020 site is a manmade lake called “The Lake of Expo.” People of Dubai came to know of the lake when a photo of it popped up on Instagram. The lake was photographed by a talented Dubai-based photographer named Mostafa, who goes by the Instagram name @100.pixels and when Expo 2020 Dubai shared his picture on their official Instagram feed, it caused a lot of interest.
The site of the lake is currently open to the public and it's easy to access. It’s near Bab Al Shams Hotel, beyond the Al Maktoum Airport. Gulf News also learned that the lake was not a project built by Expo 2020 Dubai. Dubai Municipality are allegedly behind the special project and have designed it for the upcoming mega event.
Visible at 24.853738, 55.248163 on Google Maps
3. The abandoned Soviet plane: in Um Al Quwain
An abandoned Russian cargo aeroplane sits beside the Barracuda Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain. It’s in tatters. Engine missing, paint scratched off and wheels deep in the sand. And the funniest part is that Palma Bach hotel used it as a billboard advertisement. The hotel, which still operates today, told Gulf News that it the plane landed in the late 1990s and has been there ever since. Apparently there was an unofficial runway in UAQ at the time. Check it out next time you visit the northern Emirate.
Visible at 25.580214, 55.652882 on Google Maps.
4. Jazirat Al Hamra: The “Ghost town” of Ras Al Khaimah
Jazirat Al Hamra (Red Island) is a former fishing village in Ras Al Khaimah that has been abandoned over 50 years ago, before the discovery of oil. The town was occupied since the 16th century and was home to hundreds of villagers. This abandoned village is of great interest to tourists and photographers. Many speculate that the town was abandoned because of Jinns, while others say that it was a rush to modernize that made people leave and start afresh.
Eight years ago the island underwent a rigorous clean-up drive and a restoration programme as part of protecting its natural and historical identity. Jazirat Al Hamra is one of the last authentic traditional towns still standing in the UAE. Once a small island, but now a long and narrow peninsula.
Visible at 25.707695, 55.792720 on Google Maps
5. Al Qasimi Palace: The haunted palace in Ras Al Khaimah
The Al Qasimi Palace has a reputation for being a haunted place. Especially since the people living in the palace only managed to stay there for just one night. It was built around 32 years ago and cost Dh500 million. Legend has it that on the first day after people moved in, strange happenings occurred that drove them away literally the next day.
If you are brave enough to visit, expect chandeliers, brightly coloured murals on the walls, mosaics of women, birds and rivers. The palace has been turned into a museum, which is open to the public.
Visible at 25.739689, 55.945406 on Google Maps
6. Al Bidaya Mosque: The UAE’s first ever mosque in Fujairah
Al Bidiya Mosque in Fujairah, the UAE’s oldest, was built in the year 1599. That’s 421 years ago. It has unusual architecture (a curvaceous, squat mud-brick structure) and a small space to pray. Al Bidya mosque is different than other mosques because it has fewer domes than you would typically find in a mosque and tiny little windows.
The mosque is accessible to the public and people can still pray in it. It is now air-conditioned and fitted with modern lighting. Definitely worth a visit.
Visible at 25.439160, 56.353833 on Google Maps
7. Jebel Hafeet: The “Beehive cemetery” tombs in Al Ain
The remains of an ancient cemetery were discovered a decade ago in the northern and eastern foothills of the mountain that date back to 3000 BC. The finds in this area show that the cemetery belonged to a community that lived in the region.
Drive down there and you will find 500 ancient graves, in different dome-shaped tombs, that lie at the bottom of Jebel Hafeet. A little bit eerie but very cool and interesting to add to your UAE bucket list.
Visible at 24.045135, 55.799815 on Google Maps