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Al Wathba Fossil Dunes (Abu Dhabi)

No matter how grand structures humans might wish to create, nature always creates something grander or more jaw-dropping. Something just like this awaits you on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. We are talking about the Al Wathba Fossil Dunes.

Al Wathba Fossil Dunes

Just under an hour’s drive from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, these dunes are intricately carved patterns in the desert sands. The unique and eye-catching designs give an other-worldly feel to the desert landscape. These dunes have taken ages to form and today, they present a unique attraction to the handful of visitors who come here. Nature is the best artist – and these fossil dunes are a testament to the fact. And besides the visual beauty, these dunes also provide geologists with the opportunity to study the land formations of the area.

History of Al Wathba Fossil Dunes

The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes were not formed overnight. It has taken millions of years for them to take the shape that they are in today. If you could travel back several million years in time, you would find this place underwater – as was the case with much of the earth.

Over the years, sediments began to get deposited at the bottom of the water bodies. As more and more layers were deposited and the waters also receded, the structures began to take shape. Of course, they were strongly cemented by various other minerals, like salt crystals. These minerals helped to stabilize the structures and thus brave the wear & tear of time.

As the structures got exposed to winds and other elements (like atmospheric calcium carbonate), the dunes took the various interesting shapes that we see them in today. The multiple wind directions in the UAE deserts have also played a role in creating the definition-defying shapes of the dunes.


You can take the E11 or E30 highways from the Abu Dhabi International Airport. Drive for around 40 minutes till you reach the Al Dhafra Military Air Base. The dunes are located close to this airbase. However, the dunes are not too large in size and might not be very easily visible from the highway. So, it’s better to use the coordinates 24°10’16.4″N 54°34’39.1″E. Alternatively, you might also use the plus code 5HCH+HW Abu Dhabi.

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Things to See and Do

The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes are a great place to have a picnic with your friends and family. The morning times are best suited for this. The sunrise presents a spectacular sight in the background of the golden sands. Relax in the vicinity of the wonderful dunes while you enjoy your breakfast and maybe, even lunch!

If you plan to take a drive through the desert, then come in a 4×4 vehicle that can successfully traverse the rough & sandy terrain. For those coming in other vehicles, it’s best to park the car at a distance and walk to the structures.

Many tourists also camp out in the area, especially in the evenings. It presents a nice opportunity to relax amidst the serene desert atmosphere. If you don’t have such plans, you may return to Abu Dhabi in the evening. Be sure to make the most of the exciting photo opportunities that this place offers. After having your fill of the dunes, you might also explore nearby attractions like the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and the Al Wathba Salt Lake. The day would fill you with a most enriching experience.

But please remember one thing. The fossil dunes have stood the test of time, but they are quite fragile. As per the emirate’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCE) directives, visitors are forbidden to climb or otherwise touch these structures. Some of the dunes have already fallen prey to human misbehavior. So, admire the structures from a distance. And also keep the area litter-free.

Best Time to Visit

The Al Wathba Fossil Dunes are completely out in the open. So, schedule your visit between November & March when the weather is pleasant and the sun is also temperate – unless you are a brave heart who can dare the punishing Abu Dhabi summers!

Entry Fees

There are no entry fees to visit the Al Wathba Fossil Dunes.

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