x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

New map outlines wonders of Abu Dhabi's Western Region

It will enable visitors to easily explore some of the UAE's most dramatic desert and coastal scenery as it features 3D representations of attractions.

ABU DHABI // It already has open desert, oasis towns, beaches, islands and more. Now Al Gharbia has the finishing touch - a new tourist map to guide visitors to all those attractions.

The map features 3-D representations of attractions, including detailed plotting of the eight early 19th century forts and towers across the oasis town of Liwa.

It also includes details of the archaeological and conservation destination of Sir Bani Yas Island, home to one of Arabia's largest wildlife reserves with more than 10,000 free-roaming animals.

"Al Gharbia is becoming increasingly popular with visitors and our new map features all the region's key places of interest and highlights the region's fascinating festivals and cultural events," said Saeed Al Dhaheri, customer service section manager at Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which produced the map with the Western Region Development Council.

Al Gharbia occupies two thirds of Abu Dhabi emirate and is becoming one of the country's most popular tourism experiences.

The region is home to a varied range of wildlife, and it is a hotspot for hunting with falcons.

The rare Arabian oryx is being reintroduced in areas including Sir Bani Yas Island, and the region is also home to gazelles, eagles, flamingos, dolphins and the endangered dugong.

Sir Bani Yas Island hosts the once-private nature reserve of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE's founding president. It also has an archeological site where the UAE's only Christian monastery, which dates to AD600, was discovered.

Beyond the island, Al Gharbia in general plays host to annual festivals and cultural attractions such as Al Dhafrah Camel Beauty Contest, Al Gharbia Watersports Festival and the Liwa International Festival.

The Liwa festival takes place in the crescent-shaped oasis town that leads into Rub Al Khali - the world's largest uninterrupted sand mass.

Liwa is a luscious, green town with an abundance of farms but it also home to the forts and the Emirates National Auto Museum.

The town is also a perfect place to stargaze, according to Hasan Al Hariri, chairman of the Dubai Astronomy Group, who often goes to Liwa's Qasr Al Sarab, "one of the best resorts in the UAE" for stargazing.

"When you talk about resorts, it's really a seven-star one. And the sky there is so beautiful, it's amazing because it's very, very clear - definitely one of the UAE's good spots.

"Rub Al Khali's huge dunes and isolated location make it an ideal place for looking out over the desert landscape, or the night sky.

"Its dunes pose a challenge even to the most seasoned of hikers. However, it is not advised anyone goes there unless they are extremely experienced and travel in a large group, with at least two cars."

Every year, the Tel Moreeb Festival challenges hardened dune- bashers to reach the peak of Al Gharbia's enormous Tel Moreeb sand dune.

Vehicles of all kinds, customised, super-powered 4x4s and motorbikes, compete to see who can reach the furthest point on the dune, which stands at more than 300 metres tall and has a 50 degree incline.

Abdulaziz Al Muhairi works for Borouge, a joint venture between Adnoc and Austrian firm Borealis, and has lived in Al Ruwais, in Al Gharbia, for a decade.

"There's been a lot of development since His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed became leader," he said.

Sheikh Hamdan is the ruler's representative in the Western Region.

Al Gharbia has hundreds of kilometers of coastline and its fishing, herding and farming settlements can be traced back 6,000 to 8,000 years.

Delma Island, a historical pearl-diving hub, has been inhabited for more than 7,000 years and visitors can travel there by taking a ferry from Jebel Dhanna.

"It's a unique experience being in Al Gharbia," said Mohammad Al Dhahiri, the tourism authority's director of strategy and policy.

"It's the only place I've been where you can be on an island in the morning and dune-bashing or having a barbecue in the desert in the evening."



Top 10 things to do in area

Ÿ Stargazing in Liwa

Ÿ Liwa's historic forts and towers

Ÿ Al Dhafrah Camel Beauty Contest

Ÿ Al Gharbia Watersports Festival

Ÿ Liwa International Festival

Ÿ Tel Moreeb Festival

Ÿ Dolphin watching at Al Mirfa beach

Ÿ Sir Bani Yas Island's Arabian Wildlife Park

Ÿ The UAE's only Christian monastery

Ÿ Extreme trekking in Rub Al Khali