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Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Mezyad Fort

This mysterious abandoned fort looks like something pulled right from Arabian legend. 

The United Arab Emirates have no shortage of desert fortresses, most of which are recently renovated and designed to cater for the huge swath of tourists who visit every year. But for those with a more intrepid spirit, seeking an alternative to the pomp of the major emirate cities, the abandoned fort of Mezyad may be just the thing.

While its creators are unknown, Mezyad is thought to have been built during the 19th century, but very little of its origin story survives. According to a report by Gulf News, at various points in its history it has doubled as a police station, been used as a border post, and was also occupied by a British paramilitary group, the Trucial Oman Scouts, during the 1950s.

The fortress shows signs of restoration, but in recent years it has been neglected and deeply undervalued despite its hugely dramatic appeal at the base of the grand Jebel Hafeet. Its camouflaged mud walls and backdrop of cool palm trees only add to its picturesque value.

Unfortunately the fort is only viewable from the outside as the entrance is heavily padlocked but its secluded location gives it a sense of historic exoticism as you wander around the lonely grounds. Mezyad has all the charm to indeed be the basis of a tale straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights, but with new tourist developments encroaching on the site, who knows whether it will manage to retain that enigmatic quality for much longer.