Al Jahili Fort

Historic Site in Al Ain

Surrounded by a lush park, this squat fort was constructed in the 1890s as the summer residence of Sheikh Zayed I (1836–1909) and expanded by the British in the 1950s. The original parts are the square fort in the far-left corner of the courtyard and the wedding-cake-tiered tower opposite. It won the prestigious Terra Award for the best earthen architecture in the world in 2016.

The highlight here is the superb exhibit, in the fort's west wing, of photographs taken by British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, which concentrate on his multiple crossings of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) in the 1940s. There's a fascinating documentary about his Arabian Peninsula expeditions to watch as well with interviews with both Thesiger and some of the Bedouin who were his companions on the journeys. The east wing of the compound houses a tourist centre with friendly staff who can supply a free map of town and a couple of brochures.