When I spent around a week in Abu Dhabi, I explored a lot of the city, its many islands and the oasis city of Al Ain.
At one and a half hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi city, Al Ain is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Al Ain is the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and has the country’s highest number of Emirati nationals. The freeways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the country, each city being roughly 130 kilometers from the other two.
Al Ain was a beauty by which I was truly smitten. Literal meaning is “The Spring” and so it is also known as the Garden City due to its greenery. The temperature, they say, is 2-3 degrees less compared to Abu Dhabi which I could also feel. The oasis, the palace museum, Al Jahili Fort … it was difficult for me to move away from the history.
The city thrives in picturesque forts. One of the UAE’s most historic buildings, Al Jahili Fort was erected in 1891 to defend the city and protect precious palm groves and is home to a permanent exhibition of the work of British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger and his 1940s crossings of Rub Al Khali a.k.a. The Empty Quarter desert.
Al Qattara Fort is redeveloped and now is home to a brilliant arts centre and gallery, offering hundreds of modern exhibits and has space for a variety of workshops … from pottery to painting to music to calligraphy.
Besides the forts Al Ain is famous for its markets, museums, archaeological park, zoo and date-palm oasis. Al Ain is a breath of fresh air. With three main sections, namely, archaeology, ethnography and gifts, Al Ain National Museum lets you explore various aspects of UAE life, including Bedouin jewelry and traditional musical instrument collections.
Al Ain Palace Museum, the former home of the late UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, houses a large collection of artefacts about the ruling family. You can peep into the private rooms and gardens once occupied by the ‘Father of the Nation’ and his family.
We should not miss Al Ain oasis with its cool, shady walkways and a 3,000 year old falaj irrigation system. This date palm oasis has been recognized by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for its importance as a repository of genetic resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage.
There is also Al Ain Zoo, which houses over 4,000 animals. You can enjoy giraffe feeding, camel riding and ‘Elezba’ petting too. Unfortunately we could not visit it due to lack of time.
I was told there are plenty of green public spaces for picnics and playgrounds, a cafeteria and a train tour of the wildlife area.
Given the chance, would you go to Al Ain? 🙂
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