The Liwa Oasis Forts Route

Fort Jabannah is the first fort of our Liwa Oasis Forts Route. It has three towers and a rectangular fortified enclosure with a well in the middle. Note the beautiful wooden door, unique entrance to the fort.

Fort Mezaira'a is the most famous fortress in the Liwa Oasis with the green dune of a presidential palace in the background. Located in a semi-urban area, it is one of the most accessible forts in the Al Gharbia region.

The Al Hamily fort, which is also called Dhafeer Fort, is a fine example of a fortified home in the Liwa Oasis. The view from its upper terrace, with the dunes in the background, is exceptional.

Small in size, the fort Qutuf is very peaceful, with its small mosque, and its breathtaking views of date palms and sand dunes.

Fort Mariah Al Gharbiya is the most basic of the forts of the Liwa Oasis. Devoid of rooms to live, it consists of a small square wall with a guard tower in the center.

The Liwa oasis stretches over 113km and has many fortresses that once protected this strategic site - what we call the route of the forts is a very unknown circuit, little tourist and almost ignored by the Abu Dhabi Tourist Board - yet it is one of the most beautiful experiences in the country.

Entrance to Fort Mezaira'a, Liwa Oasis, United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

We discovered the existence of the route des forts thanks to the French travel guide Le Petit Futé, probably the best paper travel guide for the UAE, unfortunatly not available in English language. This article will repeat the main elements described by the little smart by providing additional advice and information from our experience (we go there about once a year).

A little history

The big empty quarter is an inhospitable desert where it seems impossible to survive as water is scarce. But there is in the heart of the Liwa desert an oasis of 113 kilometers where life is possible, as evidenced by its thousands of palm trees. It is therefore natural that for centuries men have settled there and developed food crops. In the basement, a gigantic groundwater table that was filled two million years ago when precipitation was more abundant.

It is difficult to trace the history of the Oasis because few testimonies remain. The forts that we will present to you would have been built in the late 19th century or early 20th century, and are historically valuable. They have been restored under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of Abu Dhabi, maybe to excess, and it is very difficult to know if the restoration has remained faithful to the original.

The nomadic tribes that inhabited the region of Al Gharbia lived in summer in the oasis of Liwa which brought a certain freshness, and the winter on the coast where they engaged in fishing.

Today the Liwa Oasis has another strategic function: the city of Abu Dhabi has only three days of water supply, which is very little in case of conflict, and the neutralization of its desalination plant could kneel the population. Then hundreds of kilometers of water pipes connect the groundwater of the oasis of Liwa to Abu Dhabi, bringing to 90 days the water reserve of the city. And the Mirfa desalination plant injects desalinated water into the natural reservoir of the Liwa Oasis.

Some tips before approaching the route of the forts

Although some forts are isolated, it is not necessary to own an all-terrain vehicle to visit the route of the forts in the version we present to you, provided you still take certain precautions: in case of doubt about the state of the road, leave the car and continue on foot.

The forts are located in the northern part of the Liwa Oasis, which is traversed at its center by a four-lane road, separated by a median strip. So you have to go from East to West, not the other way around. Coming from Abu Dhabi, take the E65 (the road to Qasr al Sarab) to the service station in Hamim (the one with a tower). If you come from the Qasr al Sarab hotel, go back to the petrol station and it will be easier for the future. This will be the starting point. Refuel yourself with water and fuel.

Map with the forts of Liwa Oasis, Al Gharbia region, Emirate of Abu Dhabi ©OpenStreetMap contributors

Fort Jabbanah

From the Hameem gas station, drive 26 kilometers and get off the road at a parking lot with shops. Our article dedicated to Fort Jabannah contains more information to access the fort, with a detailed plan.

It is a medium-sized fortress with three guard towers. To visit it, open the door. Admission is free and there is no guide. Sometimes it's the guardian who will open the doors for you; in this case do not forget to thank him with a tip.

Around the central courtyard, observe the living rooms which are nowadays empty. On the floor, the way of guard with a beautiful sight on the desert and the palm plantation. The three towers are accessible from the first floor, and the bravest will climb to their summit using traditional ladders.

Allow a maximum of fifteen minutes to visit and take pictures. Do not forget to close the doors that you opened before leaving.

Fort Attab

According to our information, Fort Attab would be located 26 kilometers away, and would be visible from the road. We have not been able to locate this fort, so we will try to give more information to our next visit to the Liwa Oasis. If you find it, please email us the gps coordinates and picture!

Fort Mezaira'a

Take the main road towards the locality of Mezaira'a, which marks the center of the oasis. Count two roundabouts, then take the first paved road on your right (350 meters after the second roundabout). Continue on this lane which turns on the left for 400 meters, you will see on the right the fort Mezaira'a.

It is a pretty little fort with its watchtowers, with in the background the green hill of a presidential palace. Like all palaces, photos are not allowed. In practice, if you take pictures of the fort without steeping the hill with a powerful telephoto lens, you should not be in trouble.

Dhafeer Fort

Returning to the main road, Al Hamily fort is on the right. When the road becomes curve and goes down slightly, slow down, you will see the fortified house on your right along the road.

Fort Qutuf

A little further on the road (3,6km), the fort Qutuf. Its adjoining mosque and its reduced dimensions give it a certain charm, and there is a magnificent view of the dunes and the palm grove. The fort is not visible from the road. To find it quickly, refer to the instructions and access plans on the article dedicated to Fort Qutuf.

Fort Mariah Al Gharbiya

Returning to the main road, continue 16 kilometers ahead always in the same direction, then turn right towards Khannoun. Turn left at the first roundabout, continue straight at the second roundabout, and at the next forked intersection turn left. Continue on the road for 300 meters, you will easily see the fort on your right.

Returning to the main road, continue 16 kilometers ahead always in the same direction, then turn right towards Khannoun. Turn left at the first roundabout, continue straight at the second roundabout, and at the next forked intersection turn left. Continue on the road for 300 meters, you will easily see the fort on your right.

Practical information: right next to the fort, there is a small grocery store that sells cold drinks and some snacks.

Continuation of the itinerary

There are two other sites more ahead on the road. The Al Hayla Tower would be located in a zone of cultures. We could not locate it, and we sanded our vehicle looking for it. The site of Umm Hisin would be an old fort in ruins. If you want to visit these sites, plan time, a 4x4 vehicle and some more precise information about exact location (and please email us the gps coordinates, picture and your feedback).

If you have seen enough forts for the day, go to the Moreeb dune for a beautiful sunset, then join your hotel (Tital Liwa hotel is a good choice) or face the long road to return to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. To go to Al Ain, you have to go back to Abu Dhabi.