When you visit Dubai or the United Arab Emirates in general, you likely think about the parks, skyscrapers, sun and fun. In fact, the area is also quite interesting from a historic perspective. Some places in Dubai and Abu Dhabi remind of the cultural heritage of the Gulf Region. However, as a stop-over on a trip to the East Coast of the Emirates, I had a visit at Mleiha Archaeoligical Center – I feel that this is really a place worth sharing with you.
Mleiha Archaeological Center – Location & Admission
Mleiha – or Mileiha / Maleha, how it is sometimes written, is a village in the middle of the desert. It is part of the Shajah Emirate and located right at the E102, the Sharjah – Kalba Road and the E55. I can really recommend the drive as well. There are not too many other attractions around. The archaeological site is already quite close to the mountains, where you can explore some wadis, for example, though. Distance from Burj Khalifa is some 80 kms / one hour so that I would recommend a rental car. The site is however also organizing a driver service.
I would recommend to visit the sites during the opening times of the Archaeological Center, which is a perfect start to visit the sites. In general, the areqa is quite hilly and contains some caves – thus I did not visit all outdoor sites. The museum itself is air-conditioned, but the outdoor parts may be bothering, depending on the weather. Opening times of the exhibition are 9:00 to 19:00 hrs during the week. The museum closes at 21:00 hrs. Thursday and Friday. Adult admission is 25 AED, roughly 6 Euro.
Mleiha Archaeological Center – The Museum
The impressive builing of the Archaeological Center is located right next to the likely most important historic site, the Mleiha Tomb. There is sufficient parking avialable nearby. The building is very modern and you can also walk up the roof and enjoy the view from the roof to over the area and the tomb.
The exhibition is not overwhelmingly large, but it delivers all information on point you need to understand the importance of the site. For example, interactive screens educate you why people decided to settle in this place. The availability of water, but also the availability of protein due to the nearby mountains were two key factors, for example. A very interesting part of the exhibition is also how settling in the Gulf Region changed over time. There are, of course, some archaeological items as well.
The museum illustrates the history of Mleiha and finally closes with the excavations and an explanation of the sites.
Mleiha Archaeological Center – Excavation Sites
The Umm an-Nar Tomb is the key site, which is really interesting to visit, after you have spent time in the museum (30 to 45 minutes).
Some of the other sites are a bit of remote, so I absolutely recommend to grab a map at the museum and explore the sites by (rental) car. Some of the places, especially caves, require easy hiking.
As you see on the pictures, you may be welcomed by donkeys or camels, but these natives are definitely friendly companions. The areas are well-explained. Next to the E55 North-to-South connection is the biggest site, the Mleiha Fort. The major sites are having a simple roof against the sun.
Mleiha Archaeological Center – Services
The archaeological center also features a nice cafe, which felt to be very popular at the locals. The opening times are in line with the museum. There are a few souvenirs available as well.
Mleiha Archaeological Center – My View
I feel it is really a shame that most U.A.E. visitors at most explore the desert by an action-packed jeep tour over the dunes. Mleiha Archaeological Center is absolutely interesting – and it is also worth to enjoy the lovely nature of the U.A.E. mountains. The staff was really friendly and the museum was absolutely modern. I loved the visit there, so that I can definitely recommend it.
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