Though Al Ain is a relatively sleepy city in the desert, visitors may be surprised to discover that it has surfing, safari parks, luxurious hotels and shopping malls, as well as an increasingly fine dining scene. Don’t leave the UAE without spending a few days in the Oasis City.
DAY 1: Al Ain Oasis & Hili Archaeological Garden
Begin your visit to Al Ain by visiting the city’s six UNESCO world heritage sites and take a walk back in time—nearly 4,500 years to be exact. The city of Al Ain owes its name to the Al Ain Oasis, a 1200-hectare oasis consisting of 147,000 date palms and fruit bearing trees like mangos, oranges, bananas and figs. The oasis has working examples of the falaj, an indigenous system of complex water channels that tap into underground wells.
To see an example of ancient bronze age tombs, stop by the nearby Hili Archaeological Garden, a public garden where archaeological remains dot the lush lawns. At the heart of the park is the circular Hili Grand Tomb from the Umm an-Nar period (about 2500 BCE to 2000
BCE), evidence of just how long humans have been settled in this area.
DAY 2: Jebel Hafeet viewing platform & the Camel Souk
Break up your trip with some sightseeing and camel sightings when you visit the second largest peak in the UAE: Jebel Hafeet. This ancient seabed jutting out from the sands at an altitude of 1,250 metres above sea level offers spectacular views. There’s a steep road which winds 12 miles up the mountain, with several scenic points along the way. At the top, there is a café for views and refreshments. Then drop by the Camel Souk to see a traditional livestock market. This is a working market so Yalla suggests that you stay out of the way and always ask for permission before taking anyone’s photo. Women should dress modestly as the market is mostly trafficked by men, and you’ll be watched as you as you move about the pens. The Camel Souk is located just past Bawadi Mall behind IKEA, and Google Maps is able to guide you there.
DAY 3: Make it a Museum Day
Dedicate a day to learn about the history of the UAE. Start with the oldest museum in the UAE: Al Ain National Museum. Its collection of archaeological artefacts from digs across the UAE outlines the history of settlement in this region. Drop by the birthplace of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Qasr Al Muwaiji, to learn where the story of the modern UAE began. The museum outlines the chronology of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.
Visit the former home of the late UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan: Al Ain Palace Museum. See how the family lived, and how local and international dignitaries were received. End your day at one of Al Ain’s most iconic structures: the picturesque Al Jahili Fort. The fort was built in 1891 to ensure inter-tribal peace, and to protect the mountain passes and palm plantations. www.qasralmuwaiji.ae
DAY 4: Finish with Food and Fun!
Just like its sister city to the west, Al Ain is not short on adrenalin sports and family attractions. Those with younger children will delight in the Al Ain Zoo and African Safari, while older children will find the thrilling water attractions, such as world-class surfing, kayaking, and white-water rafting irresistible at Wadi Adventure. Choose one or do both but make sure to head into the city to partake in a variety of excellent dining spots. Yalla highly recommends Pizza di Rocco for pizza, Coriander for delicious modern Indian food, and Trader Vics at the Al Ain Rotana for its legendary Polynesian food.