Al Mirfa is a tranquil town around 130 kms west of Abu Dhabi city with a rich history. Once a small fishing village, it has developed like other towns and yet still has a serene charm to it. Join me to discover more.
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Walking along Al Mirfa shore reminded me of the beaches I walked on when I first arrived in the UAE – simple but the perfect place for a gathering with friends or family. A group of Emirati men huddled around flasks of Arabic tea and coffee on the corniche and offered me some as I passed and greeted them. Someone was collecting some marine life along the creek, perhaps to take home for lunch. This quiet town makes for a relaxing break from the city and a fast pace of life.
Al Mirfa’s story is intertwined with pearl diving and fishing, which shaped the lifestyle and culture of its people. Pearling was the primary source of income along the coast. The trade flourished until the early 20th century, with merchants travelling far and wide with their precious and glimmering wares.
Divers searched for oysters deep in the waters of the Arabian Gulf with no specialist equipment other than a wooden nose clip. Sadly, the demand for natural pearls declined when cultured pearls took over the market in the 1930s.
Nowadays, Al Mirfa has a busy fishing and leisure port and large power and desalination plants and a thriving community and numerous developments. Read on to find out more.
Places to visit in Mirfa
Al Mirfa Beach
The beaches in Al Mirfa are a beautiful gold, and the waters are clear and a shade of turquoise. The main beach holds a Blue Flag Award.
The main beach has simple facilities such as benches, small concrete pavilions for shade and a volleyball net. Near the corniche are two separate prayer facilities and toilets for ladies and men. There are also open showers nearby. Take me to the map.
On the other side of the Mirfa Hotel is another small beach next to the mangroves and another further along. The second has a no-camping sign but the first doesn’t. Beware that that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s allowed, so you might want to double-check locally.
Given its heritage, fishing is a popular activity in Al Mirfa. You need a licence to fish anywhere in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. You can apply for an annual or weekly licence through the TAMM app and check areas where fishing is allowed and where it is restricted. The harbour and breakwater further west are popular fishing spots.
Mirfa City Walk is a walkway and park within walking distance of the corniche. Most of it is currently closed off for further development. However, there are still a few benches, shelters and barbecue areas which are accessible.
The area has a natural feel to it with sandy areas and indigenous trees rather than a grassy manicured style park. There is a parking area off the main road. Take me to the map.
Other places to interest in Mirfa
If you’re looking for a mosque, Mohammed Alfalahi Alyasi Mosque sits higher up from the corniche and has a traditional style of architecture. I visited before noon, so I didn’t have a chance to see inside.
Abu Dhabi Pearls is a project by Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The goal of the project is sustainable aquaculture followed by sustainable tourism and opportunities for Emirati entrepreneurs. It is here in Mirfa that high quality pearls are being cultured.
The site is not usually open to the public but is by invitation or appointment only.
Al Mirfa Fish Market opens from 7am till 1pm and 4pm to midnight on weekdays. You can buy a wide variety of fresh seafood which you can then grill yourself or find a local restaurant to cook it for you for your picnic.
Hotels in Mirfa
Al Mirfa Hotel has a private beach and gorgeous views over the Arabian Gulf and mangroves. Book Mirfa Hotel now.
Bab Al Nujoom Al Mugheirah is an eco-resort in Al Mugheirah further east- see more below.
Further east sits Al Mugheirah which includes a housing development, a beach, a waterfront development, a resort and a protected area which includes a mangrove forest.
Al Mugheira Beach
Before Al Mugheira Bay, there is a long stretch of empty beach. It currently has signs saying no entry into the water and no entry onto the beach. I was there on a weekday daytime, so I’m not sure whether it really means no entry onto the actual beach. A corniche and jogging track run the length of the beach.
Mamsha Al Mugheirah (Mangrove Walk)
Mamsha Al Mugheirah is a boardwalk meandering through the mangrove forest, with information stations and viewing points along the way.
It took me around 45 minutes to do the entire walkway at a leisurely pace, stopping occasionally to take photos and look around. A couple of forks on the way give you the option of a shorter walk.
The tide was out during my visit, so I didn’t see much in the water. You may consider checking on the tide timings. Dugongs live in the area and you may be lucky to spot one if the tide is in. Of course, there were plenty of birds around, including migratory ones.
Whether you see any wildlife or not, I recommend doing the boardwalk for the views of the forest and out to sea as well as the peaceful surroundings.
Entry to Al Mugheirah Bay Boardwalk is free and timings are 11am – 11pm. (These are the official timings.) Take me to the map.
At one end of the mangrove walk is the Mangrove Cafe, which opens at 2pm. On my visit, they only had drinks. (I could order a sandwich but it would take half an hour. I’m guessing it came from the resort.) They had a good variety of hot and cold drinks available.
Mangrove forests are part of protected areas because they are vital ecosystems and play a crucial role in protecting the coast, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and preserving biodiversity. Their preservation is essential for maintaining environmental balance and protecting the health of marine ecosystems. This one sits within the UNESCO-designated Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve.
Al Mugheirah Bay
Al Mugheirah Bay is a new waterfront development with cafes, restaurants, a splash park, skate park, battle park, paintball, laser tag, shaded play areas and more. Many of the outlets are not yet open, so you may want to check before your visit if you want something specific.
Al Dhafra Water Festival, Al Mugheirah
If you time your visit right, you might catch the Al Dhafra Water Festival, celebrating the region’s maritime heritage. The event includes traditional dhow boat races, beach sports, cultural performances, and a heritage market.
The date for 2024 has yet to be released, but in 2023, it was March 10-19.
Bab Al Nujoum Al Mughairah Resort
To immerse yourself even more in naure, book a stay at Bab Al Nujoum Al Mughairah Resort set inside the protected area of Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. The eco-tourism resort offers trailers with a deck and also cabins with a private plunge pool and a fire pit. Relax by the pool at the Oasis or enjoy some of the activities on site include cycling, horse-riding, kayaking, craft and cookery classes.
Tips for visiting Al Mirfa and Al Mughairah
Emirati culture is strong here and you are requested to wear modest dress to respect the local community. In practical terms, this doesn’t mean you have to be fully covered, but you should cover your shoulders and to your knees.
Places to eat in Al Mughairah are generally more expensive than in Al Mirfa. In general, coffee shops and so on don’t seem to open until mid to late afternoon, so you may consider taking a picnic or thermos.
Al Mirfa, with its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful natural surroundings, is a hidden gem in Abu Dhabi. It offers a unique blend of cultural heritage and natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for those looking to experience a different side of the UAE. Whether taking it easy on the beach, exploring Al Mugheira Bay, or participating in some fun activities, Al Mirfa promises a memorable and relaxing experience.
If you liked this, you may like my other posts on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
- Al Mirfa
- Al Dhafra Festival
- Places to visit in Al Ain
- Qasr Al Watan
- Or why not learn more about the seven best reasons to visit the Emirate of Sharjah.
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- Sign up for the Glimpses of the UAE Newsletter
- Take me to the Glimpses of the UAE Map to find nearby locations and plan my trip.
- See some of my hiking trails, walks and off-road trips on Wikiloc.
- To see my Oman trips, visit In Scotterati Footsteps.
- What are the Mirfa mangrove timings? 11am-11pm
- Where is the mangrove boardwalk in Al Mirfa Abu Dhabi? The Mangrove walk is located at Al Mugheirah after Al Mugheirah Bay.
- How to get to Al Mirfa? You can go by car or take a bus from Abu Dhabi.