Looking to explore the Garden City? Yalla offers a one-stop shop to see every site in Al Ain.
The garden city of Al Ain sits between the desert and the mountains that provide the springs for its extensive and ancient oasis. As the old centre of government, many of the Emirate's traditional forts are found in Al Ain. Until cars and motorways made it an easy 1.5 hour trip between Abu Dhabi island and the oasis, it took caravans and people walking over the dunes for over five days to cover the distance. Bear that crossing in mind as you drive into the dunes and prepare to experience the gentler and cooler pace of life in Al Ain.
Though there’s much to see and do in Al Ain for all types of travellers, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to the numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here is Yalla’s not-to-miss culture and heritage site list in Al Ain.
Al Jahili Fort
Set in lush landscaped gardens, the picturesque Al Jahili Fort and the stepped layers of the main tower are one of Al Ain’s most iconic structures. The fort was built in 1891 to protect palm plantations, to ensure inter-tribal peace, and to protect against intruders from the mountain passes. Inside the fort, the small photo exhibition of Wilfred Thesiger is in itself worth the stopover. The British explorer crossed the Empty Quarter by camel in the mid-1940s and documented what he saw with his camera, making this exhibition a voyage back in time where you can immerse yourself in the early Bedouin life of the region. Make sure you see the documentary movie on site and view the small exhibition about Sheikh Zayed the First. Sultan Bin Zayed Al Awwal Street, Al Ain. Free entry, 03 711 8311
Al Ain Oasis
Walking through an oasis comprised of 147,000 date palms and fruit bearing trees, such as mangos, oranges, bananas, and figs, is an immersive experience for all the family. The city of Al Ain owes its name to this huge 1200-hectare oasis, which has been cultivated for several thousand years. The oasis has plenty of working examples of the falaj, an indigenous system of complex water channels that tap into underground wells. Explore narrated trails that traverse the interior paths of the oasis either by foot or using the bike rentals available. There is also a small Eco Centre and Information Pavilion by the West Gate and bike pickup/drop-off places at either side of the oasis, that work via a self-service system (for which you need a credit card). Not far from Al Jahili Fort on Hessa bint Mohamed Street, Al Mutawaa. Free entry. 02 599 5438
Al Ain Palace Museum
Al Ain Palace Museum, the former home of the late UAE founder, HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was once a political and social hub. The meandering complex of courtyards was renovated to reflect traditional designs and opened as a museum to the public in 2001. You can see how the ruling family lived, and how local and international dignitaries were received, including the tent that Sheikh Zayed used to host guests during the winter.
Western edge of Al Ain Oasis, Hessa Bint Mohamed Street, Al Mutawaa. Free entry. 03 711 8388
QASR AL MUWAIJI
Qasr Al Muwaiji was home to generations of the ruling Al Nahyan family, and saw the birth of UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 1948. The UNESCO World Heritage Site functioned not only as a home and an oasis in the desert but also as a place of rule and a focus for the community. The architectural gem now offers its visitors a variety of historical and traditional experiences associated with the venue. Khalifa Bin Zayed St, 03 767 4444
AL QATTARA ARTS CENTRE
Overlooking the date palm gardens of Al Qattara Oasis, Al Qattara Arts Centre is located inside Al Qattara Fort, which has been repurposed to house this brilliant arts centre and gallery. With traditional exterior facades, the restored Al Qattara Arts Centre carefully maintains a blend of traditional architecture with state-of-the-art facilities. The Centre’s aim is to offer a space where arts and culture can be studied, practised, and developed by people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels. Just off 121 Street across the road from Souk Al Qattara. 03 761 8080
AL AIN EXTRAS
If you have extra days in Al Ain, make sure to add in the drive to the top of Jebel Hafeet for amazing city views. Be sure to also visit the Camel Souk, which is a working livestock market near Bawadi Mall, to your itinerary!