With a population of nearly 800,000, Al Ain is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates. By visiting Al Ain, whose name literally means « the source », you can discover one of the most authentic and beautiful places in this part of the world.
If you want to discover a new activity and you've already checked out our article on what to do in Dubai, discovering the Al Ain oasis is just what you need 🙂
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN AL AIN?
Originally, Al Ain was an oasis located in the heart of the desert, and a city developed around it. The reason this large city, also known as the « Garden City » flourished so much is because it was directly on the caravan route that connected Oman and the United Arab Emirates commercially. Al Ain has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO, being one of the oldest Emirati villages. By visiting this city, you will discover unique sites and a rare architectural and historical heritage, which has nothing to envy to those of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
SHEIK ZAYED'S PALACE
Originally built in 1937, this palace was the home of Zayed ben Sultan Al Nahyane, founder and president of the United Arab Emirates. Since 1998, the palace has housed a museum that is one of Al Ain's most important attractions. A visit to the Al Ain Palace Museum, will reveal many artifacts belonging to the Emir of Abu Dhabi and his family, as well as beautiful traditional gardens.
AL AIN OASIS
Al Ain Oasis was the site of one of the world's first human villages. You will find several oases in the city, the most emblematic of which is located in the center of the city and covers an area of over 2,965 acres (1,200 hectares) and is equipped with a traditional irrigation system. This authentic forest of palm trees located in the middle of a city itself immersed in the desert, is one of the most amazing places in the Middle East. It is a sight not to be missed!
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM
Founded in 1971, the Al Ain National Museum was one of the first museums in the Emirates. Here you can discover an impressive collection of artworks and archeological artifacts that pay tribute to the history of Al Ain, which has been a very important passageway and a true link between different civilizations for many centuries. By visiting this museum, you can also learn more about the way of life of the ancient inhabitants of the region.
THE CAMEL MARKET
In Al Ain, you can discover the most important camel market in the United Arab Emirates. This is a unique opportunity to really immerse yourself in the traditional culture of the region and get up close and personal with the animals. It is actually a livestock market, where you can also find sheep, cows and goats. Change of scenery guaranteed!
the Fort of Jahili
This is one of the largest forts in the country. Jahili Fort was built in 1891 to protect the crops as well as the farmers who worked in the oasis. With its impressive stature and two tall round towers, it is one of the finest examples of military architecture in Abu Dhabi. It was once used as a summer residence by the royal family.
During your visit to the fort, you can climb to the top of the observation tower and enjoy an impressive panoramic view, while on the first floor you can visit an exhibition of photographs of a famous adventurer who lived in the first half of the 20th century: Wilfred Thesiger.
Jebel Hafeet mountain
On the outskirts of the city, you can discover one of the highest mountains in the United Arab Emirates. The road to the top of Jebel Hafeet is winding but in excellent condition. At the top, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the desert. This is one of the best places to see a sunset in the area.
HOW TO REACH AL AIN FROM DUBAI?
If you are in Dubai and want to discover Al Ain during your trip, you have several options.
If you have a car at your disposal, it will take you less than two hours to reach Al Ain by road. Dubai is a very large city, and renting a car in Dubai will always make your life easier, especially if you want to get out of the city to visit the surroundings or reach the other major cities around.
You can also take the bus from Dubai to Al Ain. The buses that make this connection leave every 2 hours from Bur Dubai. Taking the bus will be the cheapest solution (the ticket costs less than $11.5 or 10 €), but once in Al Ain, you will probably have to take a cab to get around the city: in the end, renting a car might be more economical.
Finally, a good way to visit Al Ain from Dubai is to take a tour with a guide. On these tours, you will be picked up near your hotel in Dubai, and will be able to visit the city, the oasis, the National Museum and the Sheik Zayed Palace. More information on this site.
If you have time during your stay in Dubai and want to do something a little less touristy, Al Ain is a great compromise. You will see that the contrast between this Garden City and Dubai or Abu Dhabi is great: Al Ain is more typical, more remote and more local 🙂