WHAT TO SEE IN AL AIN, A CITY WHERE YOU CAN DISOVER THE AUTHENTIC BEDOUIN SPIRIT OF THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Al Ain is not so well known as a touristic attraction, at least we hadn't heard a lot about it till we started to inform about the United Arab Emirates. It turned out that Al Ain is a very interesting place and very different form the glittering skyscrapers of Abu Dhabi despite being not so far, just a two hours drive.
Two nights are probably the best solution to visit all the attractions of Al Ain, but also in a single day you can see many interesting things.
al ain - accomodations and restaurants
We stayed at Ayla Hotel paying AED 411 ( almost € 100 ) for a night in a double room that was huge, nice and close enough to all the main attractions of Al Ain.
Talking about food, if you want to eat local food without spending a fortune you can try the Golden Sheep, located on the main street of Al Ain. The hummus is really tasty and the Kunafa delicious. Portions, as in almost all the Emirati restaurants, are so huge.
al ain - what to see
Al Ain is a millennial city, where people have been living for 4000 years thanks to the presence of oases that allowed life. Its history makes Al Ain one of the main destinations of the UAE thanks to the different UNESCO World Heritage sites present in the city. The city is also the birth place of Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, father of the nation, that helped to modernize and to develop the country and Al Ain.
The atmosphere that you live in Al Ain is so different from the world of Abu Dhabi and the best place that shows this difference is the Camel Souq, located just out from the city centre, close to the Bawadi Mall. This place is what you'd expect from authentic Arabia: dust, sand, camels, cattle, merchants, animated bargaining and the desert in the background. The first impression in the Camel Souq could be a bit negative since you'll be the only tourist, but don't be afraid the merchants are very gentle and, although they can't speak English, they will invite you to take pictures of their camels and cattle. You won't realize that time flies in this place where you can rediscover the athentic soul soul of Arabia and of its bedouin traditions.
A tip for your visit: try to visit the Camel Souq early in the morning when it is more lively than in the hottest hours.
The Suq of Al Qattara is more touristic than the Camel Souq but it is, however, a nice attraction in Al Ain. Built at the beginning of the XX century, the Suq of Al Qattara was recently renovated and now it hosts numerous stalls and shops that offer all kind of goods. In the evening there are also folkloristic spectacles. In October and November the Suq of Al Qattara is also the location of the crafts market of Al Ain. Close to the Suq you can find the Al Qattara Fort, the arts centre of Al Ain. Afternoon is the right moment to visit the Suq of Al Qattar in order to find it full of people, unfortunately we could visit it only in the morning and it was a bit empty but however interesting.
In the centre of Al Ain you can find the Al Jahili Fort, built by the Sheikh Zayed I at the end of XX century and it is the oldest building in town. Originally it was designed to defend the precious palm groves of Al Ain, nowadays it has become a museum that hosts a exhibition on the Rub Al Khali crossing made by the British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger. The Al Jahili Fort is a nice attractions that will take you almost an hour.
Speaking about history, on the other end of the street you can find another important attraction of Al Ain: the Al Ain Palace Museum. Despite being very similar to the Al Jahili Fort, the Al Ain Palace Museum was built in the 1937 by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan that used it as a summer residence till 1966. Once again the visit is completely free and it makes you better understand the life of the royal family thanks to a recreation of the interiors.
Finally, another cultural attraction of Al Ain is surely the Al Ain National Museum where you can discover archeological evidences and information about the different populations that lived here in the United Arab Emirates. Entrance Fee: AED € 3.
Al Ain is not only interesting for its souq and its palaces, Al Ain is interesting also from a naturalistic point of view. As a matter of fact the city stands behind the second tallest mountain of the United Arab Emirates: the Jebel Hafeet that overlooks the desert from its 1240 meters above the sea. The road to the summit is new and perfect and every now and then you can find viewpoints where you can stop to admire the landscape. Sunset is surely the best moment of the day to climb the Jebel Hafeet, but you won't be alone. We were a bit unlucky ant due to the mist the view wasn't clear but however nice.
Al Ain is also famous for its Oasis located close to the Al Ain National Museum. It is an endless palm grove, irrigated with 3000 thousand old system, that will help you to escape from the heat of the central hours.
Finally if you have enough time, you can try to discover the Al Ain Zoo that it is said to be nice and full of diverse animals, or you can visit the Hili Archaeological Park.
the beauty of al ain
A part from its attractions, the beauty of Al Ain lays in its authenticity, it lays in the hundreds of tailors' shop that you'll find in the city centre that show beautiful white tissues used for kandura ( the traditional male dress ) or black ones used of abaya ( the traditional female dress ). The beauty of Al Ain lays in the perfume shops where ampoules full colorful and scented potions substitute classic brands! The beauty of Al Ain lays in the fact that it is a city where the veil of modernity and opulence that covers the UAE seems to less thick giving the opportunity to discover the traditional soul of Arabia!
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES