Umm Al Quwain - People & Places: What's an aircraft doing in the UAE desert?

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Located 30km south of Ras Al Khaimah, it is a wetland that serves as a natural habitat for marine animals, turtles and birds.

Do you recollect that friend who first told you about the abandoned aircraft in the desert, somewhere in the Northern Emirates? The mysterious, yet notable landmark - an abandoned Russian aircraft - can be traced to Khor Al Baida in Umm Al Quwain.

Located 30km south of Ras Al Khaimah, it is a wetland that serves as a natural habitat for marine animals, turtles and birds. A popular hangout destination off the bustling city ambience, Khor Al Baida is one of the key communities in Umm Al Quwain where residents have close access to various resorts and other leisure facilities. It includes Barracuda Beach Resort, Dreamland Aqua Park, Umm Al Quwain Motor Racing Club, Al Hamra Mall, Al Hamra Marina and Yacht Club.

However, it is the abandoned Russian aircraft that is a conversation starter and chances are that you have already heard conspiracy theories about the arrival of the flight. Many theories are doing waves about the secret behind this deserted aircraft which appeared in the country from nowhere. How did the plane, which was once part of the Russian Air Forces, end up as a road billboard with a nest for birds, and turn into an attraction Left abandoned for over two decades, the Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane is stationed along the old road to Ras Al Khaimah.

Some say the flight, with advertisement of the Palma Beach Hotel, is linked to the arms dealer Viktor Bout, while others said it made a crash landing after the aircraft missed the runway.

The place, where the flight landed was a non-official airfield. Parachuters who often land in the area said they were surprised to spot one morning in 1990.

The Soviet plane, according to the Aero Transport Data Bank, was built in 1975 in Uzbekistan, following which it flew as a Soviet military transport plane. In the early nineties, it was sold to the Air Ces a company formed by Sergei Bout in Belgium that moved to Sharjah in 1997.

The cargo plane, owned by the brother of arms dealer Viktor Bout, was transferred to a company called Air Pass. This company was disbanded when South Africa's Civil Aviation Authority charged Air Cess with 146 breaches of civil aviation law.

The plane, listed as "derelict" under the Centrafrican Airlines, 1998 to 2000, ended operations in 2001. However, it is said to have been bought by someone who transformed it into a café shop.

Mohammed Al Shqar, an Egyptian lawyer, said he and friends have visited the abandoned aircraft many times. "It is a real mystery. It is to be a big attraction for residents and visitors, mainly those passing by the site on a regular basis."

Rashid Abdullah, an Emirati national, said: "If you are heading to Ras Al Khaimah, use the E11 road Etihad road, and you won't miss the sight."

Ahmed Jabr, an inspector with a local school, said the flight is stationed close to the beach and many other attractions in the emirate. "You can stop to take photos of the mysterious plane, and then head to the nearby resorts to have food or relax at the beach."

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Ahmed Shaaban

Originally from Egypt, I am a sound professional with a 23-year diverse experience as a researcher, lecturer, instructor, reporter, journalist, copy writer, translator, interpreter, proofreader, correspondent, and voice-over specialist with so many public and private entities in USA, UAE and Egypt. I have full command of all English and Arabic languages skills. I have a “Doctorate of Business Administration” degree, Swiss Business School. I have two Master’s degrees; one in Media Sciences, Mass Communication College, Cairo University, 2014, and one in Applied Business Research, Swiss Business School, 2018. I have a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Translation, Al-Alsun College for Languages & Translation, Ain Shams University, Egypt, 1996. I have three post graduate diplomas in Education, Curricula and Instruction, and Islamic Studies. I enjoy reading, writing and adventuring.

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