A two hour leisurely drive from Abu Dhabi (and once a five day camel trek!), you will be amazed as you travel alongside a green, lush and tree-lined landscape until your arrival at Al Ain. This scenery is in vast contrast to the stunningly beautiful desert dunes you will have passed along your journey to Al Ain. Suddenly you will emerge into civilisation! This eastern half of the Buraimi Oasis, Al Ain belongs to the UAE, and its relatively dry, cool climate is a welcome respite from the hot and harsh conditions found elsewhere in the emirate. Its verdant streets and incandescent, kooky roundabouts, in addition to its “green desert” are in thanks to the birthplace and patronage of Sheikh Zayeed. However the desert is never far away from this capital of the eastern region of the Abu Dhabi emirate. Al Ain is a breath of fresh air, and well worth a few days stay in which to explore its many treasures, including a myriad of fortes, museums, a famous date-palm oasis, lively markets and souks. Follow the winding road up to the Jabel Harfeet lookout and you will enjoy a panoramic view of the “Empty Quarter” (formerly occupied by Saudi Arabia), along with a magnificent view of a hotel perched precariously on a precipice.
Buraimi, The Oasis’ other half, has kept its original name, and is now across the border in Oman. This area is in stark contrast to Al Ain and is not nearly as affluent, an indication of what the presence of ample oil reserves can have on the economy of a nation. The border dividing the two countries came into being in 1966, after Al Ain and Buraimi requested the assistance of the British to fend off occupying Saudi Arabia which had occupied and laid claim to the entire oasis in 1953. The Saudis eventually relinquished their claim in 1974.
The historical past and background of the Oasis City of Al Ain is truly fascinating and is among the world’s earliest permanently inhabited settlements. For the history enthusiast, this could possibly be explored even more by visiting the Al Ain forts; one of these also has been reconstructed as an Arts Centre; a visit to the 4000 year old tombs at Hili Fort, and ultimately, a trip to the Al Ain National Museum.
For a true view of the heritage of Al Ain, view the Al Ain oasis, one of the few last surviving camel markets, and Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort. For the adventurer, “Wadi Adventure”, a man-made kayaking, white water rafting and surfing playground, located within the shadow of Jabel Hafeet, and the world’s most innovative go-karting facilities is a must for those so inclined.
For family thrills and spills, a visit to the newly renovated Hili Fun-City, one of the Gulfs oldest theme parks, cannot be missed, with the park offering truly amazing value for money.