Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are not popular with urban explorers. They’re considered to be too modern and very recently built for some of their sites to be abandoned already. However this is far from true. Some of its construction sites were abandoned even before the projects were completed, especially at times where their financing couldn’t be guaranteed. And others because of ghosts and supernatural activities!
Here are some great abandoned places to discover in the UAE, regardless if you’re an experienced urban explorer of derelict places or just a curious newbie! Or just a traveller with a thing for abandoned places or even haunted and sometimes morbid attractions!
1. Al Qasimi Palace, Ras Al Khaimah
There’s not much detailed information about this palace online, but the basic storyline is this:
-The royal family of RAK (Ras Al Khaimah) moved in this residence some time around the late 1980s
-It cost around 500 million dirhams (more than $136 million)
-They sensed some supernatural activity going on (like visions of children staring through the windows from the outside etc)
-Legend has it that the Moroccan artists responsible for the artwork of the palace filled the place with black magic
-The owners abandoned their haunted home after staying there for only 1 night
The building is now sitting in disrepair while there’s been no interest in returning to it for the almost 3 decades. The only person in the premises is the watchman.
Even though access is not allowed inside the former royal residence, but a little tip at the door can go a long way!
How to get there:
2. Jazirat Al Hamra ghost village, Ras Al Khaimah
Jazirat Al Hamra (The Red Island in Arabic) was created in the 14th or 16th century on a peninsula, way long before oil was discovered in the UAE. Pearling was the main source of income for the inhabitants, followed by fishing. By 1830 it was home for around 200 people and 400 depending on which source you trust more! A lot of its houses were built of coral stone and bricks made of sand and seashells.
The most recent inhabitants left in 1968. However, the town’s decline started earlier as the global market for pearls declined.
Others claim that it was disputes among some local families that played a role to the relocation of its residents from Jazira Al Hamra to the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Another version of the story wants the inhabitants to leave everything behind because the village was haunted!
No matter what actually happened this ghost town is unique to the region and it’s an experience of its own to wander around it and hop from house to house while having it all to yourself! There are hardly any visitors (most likely none when you’re there), guards or residents, so you’re the only one around! It goes without saying, but not all of the constructions are safe, so be careful while climbing up the minaret of the mosque, if you decide to take the risk: It looks like it’s gonna collapse anytime soon and its staircase is missing steps and some of them are very unstable! The view’s pretty cool though…
How to get there:
3. Abandoned airplane, Umm Al Quwain
The plane is an Ilyushin IL 76, an aircraft made in the Soviet Union. It was designed to be used for military purposes. Apparently it arrived unexpectedly in this airfield in the emirate of Umm Al Quwain in 1999. The airfield itself was closed down not vey long ago.
There’s a lot of mystery and speculation around the airplane and its history through the years. Most scenarios are connected to Viktor Bout, a notorious Tajik arms dealer. It was one of the planes he was using in the 1990s to transport cargo and arms from eastern Europe to Africa via the UAE. For the record, he was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after having been accused of intending to smuggle arms for use against U.S. forces. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 25 year imprisonment in the USA. Read more details about the story here.
It’s a very impressive sight and it’s fantastic that you can actually have a look and walk inside it! As well as on top of it! That’s what we did! And when the photos started to look cool like this one…
…we were informed by the police that it’s not allowed to get on the aircraft or even be around these premises. We didn’t see any relevant signs and there were people there before and after our visit, so again the risk is yours!
How to get there:
All the above sites can be visited on the same day and are located within less than 2 hours from Downtown Dubai. My next stop in my #URBEX UAE adventure will be something more easily accessible even: an abandoned theme park in Dubai! If all goes well, the visit will take place in February and you can tune into the social media of Hide In My Suitcase (Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat)to see how this will go!