Vacationing in the UAE is majorly dominated by stunners like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. That’s very typical and of course not everything about the UAE travel scene. Do your research before scheduling your trip to this country and you will be surprised to discover many hidden gems in the region.
If you’re not hesitant to tread the off-beaten path, then Al Ain is right here for you. Al Ain, literally meaning “the Spring”, is the famous garden city of UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi. This small but beautiful settlement sits against the dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains of Jebel Hafeet whereas the town itself boasts glistening green landscapes dotted with oasis and palm trees.
When it comes to visiting Al Ain, there is hardly any match in the UAE.
Below are 10 reasons to visit the age-old city of Al Ain. After you finish this, it will be hard for you to keep this incredible destination out of your bucket list.
The Lush Oasis of Al Ain
What makes the ancient town of Al Ain special is the Al Ain Oasis. Yes, you heard it right. We are talking about an ‘oasis’. This tranquil place is a cooling respite from the blistering sun with a refreshingly natural setting.
Al Ain Oasis features countless rows of date palm plantations interlinked by narrow footpaths. If you believe the official data, then the number is approximately 150,000. You can simply stroll or rent out a cycle to go around under the shades of the palm trees.
The oasis houses a small museum at the main entrance that explains vividly the importance of date palms to traditional Emirati life and culture. Al Ain Oasis still uses the traditional technique of falaj irrigation system to water the palm groves.
Al Ain Zoo
The best way to introduce your kids to wildlife is to take them to a zoo. Al Ain has one of the best child-friendly versions in the UAE. This place is the home to more than 4,000 animals and no wonder why families love to visit.
Apart from impressive collection of beautiful animals, the zoo runs a hoard of interactive sessions like camel riding, giraffe feeding and petting zoo. That’s what kids love the most! Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre also takes the responsibility to spread the knowledge about UAE’s natural environment along with its native creatures.
Al Ain Zoo is famous for its research facilities that particularly focuses on the breeding program for endangered native species. Al Ain Safari is the latest addition to the zoo which allows you to witness Arabian Gulf animals and African desert animals amidst the most natural environment.
Landscapes of the UAE are not that versatile and it wouldn’t be offensive to call it “fabulous but flat”. However, Hafeet Mountain Range is surely one of the best elevations that you can spot in this country. Al Ain is the place where craggy contours of Jebel Hafeet rise up high above the ground.
Located at a distance of 56 kilometres from the heart of Al Ain, this 1,240 metre summit is the second highest peak in the United Arab Emirates and the highest in the Abu Dhabi Emirate.
To explore this gorgeous land and its scenic panoramas, we would suggest you to drive along those winding mountain roads to reach the summit. You can stop at several viewpoints on your way to summit and cherish the unusual beauty of this precious landscape.
The summit of Jebel Hafeet is known to be the best spot to click some amazing panoramic photos overlooking the city and the expansive desert surrounding it.
Al-Jahili Fort – A Passage to Al Ain’s History
Al-Jahili is one of the oldest and largest forts in the UAE. Visiting this fort means you can travel back in time. This iconic edifice was built out of straw, palm-tree fibres and sun-dried mud-bricks. In spite of these modest ingredients, this fort stood the test of time and still fascinates visitors with its towering presence.
Al-Jahili Fort was erected in 1891 as an effective line of defence to protect the town from attack. This structure symbolizes the power of the ruling family from that era and it also served as a summer home to the same.
This ancient fort has recently been painstakingly restored back to its original shape and has been turned into a historical museum with a number of exhibits. A video in the information centre will explain about the restoration project and its interesting aspects.
The collection of the museum includes the photographs taken by the renowned British desert explorer and writer Wilfred Thesiger, depicting his journey across the Empty Quarter during 1940s. You can climb the ramparts and towers of Al-Jahili Fort for stunning views.
Beat the Heat at Wadi Adventure Park
Water sports lovers have got enough reason to rush to Al Ain this summer. Nestled in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, Wadi Adventure Park is the best place to beat the summer blues. This park has got a series of interesting and exciting elements to elevate your adventure mood.
Wadi Adventure Park is the home to world’s longest artificial white water rafting channels which is just perfect for all your kayaking and rafting needs.
The three levels of white water rafting rapids allow the absolute beginners as well as the seasoned rafters to indulge into some real blood-pumping activities. This water park has also got the largest man-made surfing wave in the world, measuring 3.3 metres.
Apart from rafting, kayaking and surfing, Wadi Adventure Park offers a range of other outdoor sport facilities including balance beams, ziplines, giant swing, wall climbing, wakeboarding and a family pool area. So, visiting this place in Al Ain is like stepping into absolute fun and thrill.
The Hot Spring Pools of Mubazzarah Park
Right at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet lies another star attraction of Al Ain in Mubazzarah Park. It is also known to many as the Jebel Hafeet Park. This small patch of land is full of greenery surrounded by arid and rocky landscape.
The park is immensely popular among locals in Al Ain because of its spectacular ambience. Families gather here for walks, games, picnics and fresh air.
The highlight of Mubazzarah Park is the natural mineral hot springs where travellers can sooth their aching heels by soaking their feet into these natural springs. The hot water is pumped out of the springs and run across the park through narrow man-made streams and channels.
Beautiful Public Gardens
As we have already mentioned, Al Ain is referred as the ‘garden city’ of capital Abu Dhabi and once you visit the public gardens of this ancient town, you will understand the reason why it is called so. Yes, Al Ain is the home to loads of impeccably manicured and well-maintained public parks and gardens.
Lush green lawns and colourful gardens of Al Ain’s public parks creates a striking contrast with the dry and monotonous desert surroundings which is surely a visual treat to your eyes. Most of these public places offer cooling shelter in hot summer days.
A number of these public parks and gardens in Al Ain showcases rare and fascinating landscaping elements, impressive lighting display, beautiful fountains and child-friendly facilities.
The Central Public Garden is the best in the town to go for a walk or catch some fresh air or playing around the kids. There’s no reason you don’t fall head over heels for the enchanting gardens and parks of Al Ain.
Archaeological Sites of Jebel Hafeet Desert Park
When you wish for a completely different experience than the bling and glamour of futuristic urban cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Al Ain’s Jebel Hafeet Desert Park is here for you. Situated at the foothills of imposing Jebel Hafeet Mountain terrain, this park offers an immersive adventure trip into nature backed by amusing landscapes and incredible history of Al Ain.
This place lets you enjoy a family time amidst the surreal surroundings of desert and mountains. Visitors can go for mountain biking, hiking, horse and camel riding to explore this fascinating stretch of about 9 kilometres.
Jebel Hafeet Desert Park is a vital component in establishing the region’s pre-historic links. This is also a prominent archaeological site that includes ancient habitation, remnants of Neolithic period (8,000 years ago) and the famous Jebel Hafeet Tombs (5,000-year-old) excavated in 1959.
The park made its entry to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the year 2011 and became the first World Heritage Site in the UAE.
The park doesn’t only preserve rich history but also maintains its unique biodiversity. A visit to this park will allow you to witness how landscape of the area changed over millions of years and finally turned into something extraordinary.
The park authority also offers three different camping opportunities to visitors. You can literally live a typical nomadic life under the starry night at least for a few days.
Qasr Al Muwaiji
Another celebrated historical site in Al Ain is the Qasr Al Muwaiji. This mud-brick made fort has been restored carefully to give it back its former glory. This well-preserved royal abode has now been turned into a state-of-the-art museum and exhibition centre. Looking at the precious exhibits, you can clearly gauge the glorious past of Al Ain.
It would not be wrong to say that Qasr Al Muwaiji is the very birthplace of the Nation’s Pride and History. This early 20th century fort was home to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan and his family between 1946 and 1966, before he became the ruler of the Emirates of Abu Dhabi.
Just outside Qasr Al Muwaiji, they have recreated the traditional Emirati falaj irrigation system in a courtyard.
Al Ain’s Camel Market
You have seen various marketplaces in your life time but have you ever been to a Camel Market? Probably not. With your trip to Al Ain, you will have an excellent chance to witness a bustling Camel Market.
To reach this very unusual marketplace in Al Ain, you have to travel for about 9 kilometres from the heart of the city. The market may smell a little stinky, but once you handle this challenge, the rest of your time here will be fascinating.
This is the last remaining camel market in the UAE. So, people from across the country and neighbouring lands come here to buy and sell camels.
Al Ain is a fabulous tourist destination powered by so many of intriguing travel elements. Your decision to visit this gorgeous garden city can never be disappointing. Every visitor has got something to cherish in Al Ain.