Day 5. 10 April 2012. Our last day in Abu Dhabi. We spent visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Sheikh Khalifa Park, passing through Capital Gate Tower, visiting Qasr Al Hosn (unfortunately closed), having lunch at Sari Rasa Indonesian Restaurant, souvenir shopping at Hamdan Center, peeking into The Souk Central Market (newly open), visiting Emirates Palace then Marina Mall, Heritage Village and Breakwater Area, and enjoying sunset overlooking Etihad Tower and Emirates Palace. Along the way, passing through corniche and driving around grid-system of Abu Dhabi roads. wrapped the day with dinner at Al Wahda Mall, just side-by-side with our Grand Millenium Hotel Al Wahda.
Day 4. 9 April 2012. We left Dubai quite early, around 8am. An hour later we arrived at Yas Island. IKEA, our first stop, was not open yet. We decided to leisurely drive around Yas Island, an artificial island near Abu Dhabi International Airport. It is work in progress in Yas Island. When completed it will see 1,700 hectares development of attractions, residence and lodging, entertainment venues and leisure and other miscellaneous spot. Yas is home to Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World.
Ferrari World is Ferrari themed amusement park, featuring Ferrari based visitor experiences ranging from thrill attractions, to 4-D movie and to gallery. Here are some pictures inside Ferrari World. We were lucky that day that there are only minimum visitors making repeat entry entirely possible and take no time.
Day 3. 8 April 2012. We left Al Ain and continued the trip to Dubai. A lot of information available on Dubai so I don’t want to repeat here. In fact, we only stayed for one night. From Al Ain, we took Road E66 (Dubai – Al Ain road) and directly headed to Hard Rock Cafe Dubai at Dubai Festival Center. Arrived there exactly when the store is open. 10am. Bought the 23th HRC shot glass, then left for Betawi Cafe – rated by many as the best Indonesian restaurant in Dubai. We’re not lucky, as they’re still closed – open only after 12pm.
Decided to check-in at Metro Central Hotel & Apartment with two stops: Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah (Atlantis Hotel). Our hotel is just at doorstep of one of the entrances to Dubai Internet City metro station. We parked our car at hotel and used metro to Dubai Mall. Centered around Kids interests: Kidzania, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, and The Dubai Fountain, we left Dubai Mall around 8pm to go to Mall of the Emirates for dinner with using metro.
We left Dubai the next morning for Abu Dhabi.
Enjoy the pictures below! …or more in my Facebook.
Day 2. 7 April 2012. We’ve just finished our quick breakfast in Liwa Hotel and ready for another city hopping. This time is to Al Ain: a city 360km away from Liwa. Unlike our arrival through the middle access road (E45) via Madinat Zayed, our departure is through the east access road (E65) via Hamim. This means we firstly need to drive 66km along two-lane dual carriageway dotted with date-palm plantations and small villages. The road is snaking up and down following geographical contours. It was very pleasant drive, traffic was quite, road is of excellent quality and scenery is just superb.
We stop by at two forts located about 11 km (Al Meel Fort) and 40km (Al Jabbanah Fort) east of Mezaira’a. These two forts are located on your left as you drive toward Hamim, so that you need to make a U-turn in dedicated u-turn point (that safely provided with adequate half-ellipsoidal receiving road on the other side).
Just 2km after turn-off to Qasr Al Sarab Anantara resort (that is another 12km inward) you will see an ADNOC petrol Station in Hamim. After this there is no petrol station (as far as I can remember) for the whole stretch of road E45 (except one small petrol station near Auto Museum). Make sure you either fill up your tank in Mezaira’a and/or in Hamim.
After Hamim, Road E45 is rather straight. It is only two lanes without physical road median, but its broad road shoulders help in ensuring safe overtaking. It seems that unwritten traffic rule is for the overtook vehicle to move aside to road shoulder to give way to overtaking vehicle. Everybody seems know about it. This to be honest helps a lot in keeping away my mounting worry before departure when deciding to use this road to Al Ain. The road is also surprisingly not that silent as claimed by many travelers. The road is mainly used by oil and gas field related workers and supporting vehicles.
Emirates Auto National Museum
About six kilometers after passing Maharqah Waste Landfill, an airplane, pyramid and huge truck dominating view on your right. That’s Emirates Auto National Museum (ENAM, http://www.enam.ae 50AED adult, children free) .
ENAM houses the private collection of Shaikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan with around 200 exhibition items. The collections are housed inside a metal pyramid, except two items located on the yard of the pyramid: the big globe, and portable house.
Shaikh Hamad is also known as Rainbow Sheikh, and it is apparent how his loving of rainbow manifested into his car collections. Look at his rainbow-colored Mercedes, seven Mercedes are colored one in each color of the rainbow for each day of the week. Several other vehicles are also rainbow painted or have a rainbow logo.
Sheikh’s collection seems bought directly from owners, imported from their original places : California Highway Patrol, NYC Taxi, Walt Disney to name a few. Other collections include electric motor vehicles, military vehicles, ambulance, fire truck, and disco car. But, central to the collection is a 5-m high Dodge fitted with complete apartment inside it.
Finished with a rainbow tour, we continued our drive to Al Ain. Along with Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Al Ain forms imaginary equilateral triangle cities, with distance between cities about 140-160km. From Road E65 we drive north to meet Road E11 then drive east to Road E22 Abu Dhabi – Al Ain road
It’s lunch time when we reached Al Ain. I directed my car to Hili. This modern suburb of Al Ain is famous among local residents for its beautiful park and garden. What’s more, the garden and its immediate hinterland are the location of a large number of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, dating to circa 2500–400 BC. We visited Hili Archaeological Park for a quick lunch break, or say picnic. The main point of interest in this free park is the reconstructed Grand Tomb. Nearby are Hili Settlement and smaller tombs amidst playground and shady grass areas. Though it is weekend the park wears deserted look.
With full stomach we continue to Al Ain Oasis with a stop at Hili Fort. Hili Fort is around fort with central round tower, located at the edge of Hili Oasis.
On the eastern side of Al Ain Oasis is Al Ain National Museum (Sat-Thu 8am-7.30pm Fri 3pm – 7.30 pm, Mon closed, Adults: AED 3 Children under 10: AED 1). The museum, the oldest in the UAE, is located next to the Eastern Fort (or Sultan Fort). Built by the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the museum has an extensive archaeological and ethnographical collection. Reconstructions of a majilis (traditional reception area) and traditional life in general are also very interesting.
Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis in the region basically only open to tourist and owners. Made up of thousands of date palms, the oasis is known for its underground irrigation system “falaj” which brings water from boreholes to water farms and palm trees. The falaj irrigation is an ancient system dating back thousands of years. Tight roads run through the oasis (hardly adequate for two cars passing) , so you can drive through it, or you can walk. A small restaurant/coffee shop (currently closed) is located in the middle.
Though close to Al Ain Oasis, we didn’t visit Al Ain Palace Museum (on the west of Al Ain Oasis) and Al Jahili Fort (further west of Al Ain Oasis).
Our next stop is Al Ain Wildlife Park (daily 9am-8pm, Adult 15 AED, Children 5AED), located on the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet. The park/zoo is well organized, has variety of animals/exhibits, picnic areas and playground and scheduled shows of bird and animals. Currently under construction nearby the park is Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center.
Jebel Hafeet is our last stop in Al AIn. The mountain is actually straddles part of the border with Oman. Its mountain top area where it has big parking lots, restaurant and 360 deg. view, divides the mountain into two for UAE and Oman. At the foothills of Jabal Hafeet lies the Green Mubazarrah, where green meets brown in a very contrasting panorama. There is a lake formed by hot-water springs with a fountain in the middle.
Jebel Hafeet rises 1249 meters and offers an impressive view over the city. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road scales the mountain, extends for about 14km up the mountain, with several viewing platform/stops along the road. There is one stop equipped with playground and one other stop with restaurant. The road, with 21 corners and three lanes (two climbing and one descending) is rated one of the best mountain road.
We stayed one night at Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Hotel, at elevation of 915m, and 2.4km from the top of Jebel Hafeet. Entrance road to hotel is impressive, through a man-made opening of rocky hill cut provides a little surprise after short bend. The large hotel swimming pools at the back of the hotel have stunning over low land areas.
Liwa Oasis, is our first stop on Day 1 of our UAE Driving Trip2012. Access to Liwa from Doha is through a usual Saudi road from Abu Samra and continues to Emirates Coastal Highway E11, until a turn-off just few kilometers after Tarif. Both Liwa and Madinat Zayed (a town between Tarif and Liwa) is well-signposted. Ignore suggestion from GPS if it directs you through a closer turn-off via Ghayathi (near Ruwais) or Habshan (before Tarif). Road to Habshan is exclusively for a gas company operating gas field in the area.
Unlike 3 years ago, Road E11 is now taken off from Ruwais town center providing a 3-lane dual carriageway break of mostly 2-lane dual carriageway Road E11. Unfortunately it lasts for about 30km or so. Nevertheless all stretch of Road E11 is of excellent quality. Only thing is a confusion about speed limit where sign posts indicating 100km/h but big warning boards indicating 120 or 140km/h. Cameras are many.
On the contrary, a 129-km Saudi road is a 2-lane dual carriageway but without vehicle crash barriers in the middle. Patches of asphalt are common.
Back to Liwa. Located about 100 km south of the Persian Gulf coast and 150 km SSW of the city of Abu Dhabi, Liwa Oasis is on the northern edge of Rub’ al Khali desert (Empty Quarter). Its geographical and economic center Mezaira’a, where the main entry highway from Abu Dhabi (Road E45) enters the oasis and then divides 65km to the east and 45km to the west . Other alternative to Liwa from Road E11 is through Gayathi on the west and Road E65 on the east (the road out from Hameem (where we used it to access National Auto Museum and Al Ain from Liwa). Though it is only two lanes (with broad shoulders) it is rarely used, straight and provides better desert scenery.
Liwa Oasis is the historical homegrown of the Nahyan family, the leaders of Abu Dhabi emirate and the UAE. It was traditionally, and continues to this day, a date-palm farming region for bedouin tribes, especially the Bani Yas. The cultivated palm forests are very obvious and provide a great contrast to desert.
Locally known as Tal Mireb (Scarry Hill), Moreeb Dunes is the most impressive dunes in the Emirates and also one of the highest dunes in the world. It is reported that the dune is measured a 120-m high, 1600m long and has 50 degree slip face. To me, it is not the dune itself but the way to the dune that makes it worth visiting. Access to Moreeb Dunes is through a two-lane single carriageway. Look for a brown direction sign as you leave Mezaira’a to the west.
The lonely road to Moreeb Dunes – about 25km from Mezaira’a – is winding, up and down very breathtaking golden brown-orangish dunes, and 2-3 salt flat areas. Every so often we stopped just to admire the scenery and take some photographs. Two-lane single carriageway is in very good condition however beware of sand encroachment partially or fully covering the road.
Few cars use the road as nearly nobody lives along it, except an industrial area and a camel farm few kilometers from main Liwa road.
Moreeb Dune is lively during an event organized by Abu Dhabi Motors Club. In Moreeb Dunes area there are camel racing track, car parking, helipad, park and market, motorcycle rental, family camp area, public camp area, mosque, and a fenced area for the event (store, VIP area, pit area and crowd area).
During our short stay in Liwa, we managed to visit three out of many forts in Liwa area. All forts seem to be built around 19th century and built near water sources and are now bordered by date-palm fields. Watchtowers and high walls with gun holes at certain spaces indicate that there was a genuine necessity for protection and observation. All the forts were well restored (though may not be not very authentic)
We stayed one night at Liwa Hotel – probably the only hotel in Mezaira’a (other hotel being Tilal Liwa in Madinat Zayed and Anantara in Hameem). The hotel, used to be a sheikh’s palace, is located at the most stunning location by perching on a hill overlooking the green Liwa Oasis and the barren Rub Al Khali desert: contrasting views of green and golden brown.
Its lush green garden of around 25 acres, sports facilities, a central big swimming pool and range of activities, the hotel provides a good retreat from bustling city. Life seems simple here in Liwa.
We booked a double room in one of the many rooms housed inside a two-story almost circular white palace. There are also three 3-bedroom villas with private swimming pool available for stay. Our room is spacious with an individual balcony overlooking a big parking lot L. The roomy feeling is also helped by very high ceiling it has. Wifi is available for free and it is reliable and speedy. Breakfast comes with room package. Fortunately though the hotel policy was children pay for breakfast we were quoted for free. Nice gesture.
Overall it was very nice stay and recommended hotel.
Turnoff to Madinat Zayed/Liwa from E11 24°1’40″N 53°51’44″E
Moreeb Dune 22°58’35″N 53°47’14″E
Mezairah Fort 23°8’20″N 53°46’50″E
Al Jabbanah Fort 23°3’45″N 54°4’17″E
Al Meel Fort 23°8’28″N 53°53’48″E
Qutuf Fort 9km west of Mezaira N 23.110812, E 53.730209
Fiuhhh tired…but alhamdulillah we safely arrived at home after a 7-hour driving trip from Abu Dhabi as part of the last driving section of the whole UAE Driving Trip 2012 (6-11 April 2012).
So, we’ve got lots of pictures, invaluable memories, nice experiences, short escape from routines ….. all waiting to be put in writing. Be patient as I recover from drive-lag 🙂 …. amidst to go back to office for a full-day HAZOP meeting just one day after arrival.
There are many updates on the border processes, stories from new places not visited before (Liwa Oasis, Mezaira’a Fort, Moreeb Dunes, National Auto Museum, Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain Oasis, Hili Fort, AL AIn Zoo, Hili Archaelogical Park, Ferrari World, Emirates Palace, Heritage Village, and many more…)
[travelblogs in waiting. recovery & life resetting mode]
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