Enveloped in lush greenery, natural springs, fresh air, and historic sites, Al Ain is located just 1.5 hours away from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The “Oasis” City is the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE and was once an important stop along the caravan route between Oman and the rest of the Gulf. It is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, and has been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition for its beautiful date palm oases.
Here is a list of must visit places when visiting Al Ain:
Al Ain Palace Museum
The most special thing about this museum is that it was the original palace of the Al Nahyan family so visitors can truly experience the authenticity. It showcases Bedouin life in its humblest forms displaying the family’s personal collections and private quarters set among beautiful gardens. Visitors can also get a glimpse into the Al Nahyan family tree which is on display.
Al Ain Oasis
This UNESCO World Heritage Site protected estate is spread across 1,200 hectares and connects more than 147,000 date palms, with up to 100 varieties. Shaded walkways transport you from the heat and noise of city life, into a tranquil haven where you can enjoy the sound of birds chirping, palm leaves swishing, and even watch farmers climb to the top of the trees, to pick dates (with very little support). It boasts a 3,000 year old underground system for irrigation called “falaj”, which was used to bring water from boreholes to farms and palm trees. Visitors who stay overnight can enjoy “Weekends at the Oasis” – a program offering a variety of entertainment and shows on weekends.
Standing tall against the quiet town lies the famous 1,240 metre high Jebel Hafeet, easily accessed via a 15 minute drive along winding roads. Sweeping views of the Rub Al Khali (the world’s largest desert also known as Empty Quarter) on one side and Buraimi (Oman) on the other side reward visitors, offering picture perfect backdrops. You can take this experience one step further by staying overnight at the Mercure hotel or simply enjoying an energising lunch. Trust me, those views are hypnotising!
Al Jahili Fort
Located strategically where water sources and agriculture were abundant, this fort was built in the early 1800’s to protect the date palm farmers. Today, it holds the permanent exhibition of Sir Wilfred Thesiger’s journey through Arabia. The explorer, locally known as Mubarak bin London “the blessed one from London”, was a true friend to the Gulf having crossed the Empty Quarter 2 times peacefully and documented his journey through photographs and books. I highly recommend visiting this exhibition as his life story is incredible and once you are ready for a break, enjoy serenity underneath the shade of the fort’s palm trees.
Camels have always been very precious to the UAE, serving as their main source of transportation and survival during Bedouin life. The Camel Souk is a great place to come close with these beautiful animals, witness trading, and enjoy a photo or two. Have you ever looked closely into a camel’s eyes past their gorgeous long eyelashes? If not, this is your chance!
Another great place to visit is the Al Ain National Museum – the oldest museum in the city. It showcases what life was like before the oil boom highlighting the gruesome pearling and fishing industries. It also displays objects from the Stone Age as well as artifacts from the Hili and Umm al Nar graveyards discovered in Al Ain dating back to the Bronze Age (3200 – 3600 BC). UNFORTUNATELY the museum is temporarily closed, however stay up to date with Visit Abu Dhabi for updates. It’s really worth a visit!
Did you know: unlike Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Al Ain does not have any skyscrapers – further emphasising a slower pace of life?
Disclaimer: All views are my own and all photographs are © My Pink Diary, unless otherwise stated.