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Places to visit in Al Ain

I decided it was time to spread my wings and visit a few places outside the northern emirates and so today we discover the best places to visit in Al Ain.

Although it had been a very long time since I last visited,  it hasn’t really changed a lot. It still has the feel of being a relaxed town with lots of greenery and culture.

Places to Visit in Al Ain

Al Ain Oasis

The joy of the oasis is being surrounded by lush greenery, something so many of us yearn for, especially in recent times. It has nearly 150,000 palm trees and over 100 varieties of dates as well as many other trees such as banana, mango, oranges, figs, papaya and sidr.

You can enter the farm area but of course being careful not to damage plants on the ground. Some areas have cleared ground, others tall green grasses and yet others a lush green carpet.

The Falaj system, the local irrigation system, runs throughout the oasis and you will different parts having water in the channels at different times. Al Ain Oasis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with other nearby locations.

In one of the photos you’ll see an art exhibit by artists Dr Najat Makki and Mehrez Ellouz. At night time the sculptures are lit from within.

There is an Emirati restaurant at the entrance but we had drinks and ice cream and mini pancakes at the cafe inside the oasis. It was a very realxing place to sit and listen to the birds in the trees.

Bicycles are available for rent for 20 dhs per hour and a family bike for 50dhs. It’s cash only, and it’s easiest to have the right money to avoid waiting for change.

Cycling through the lanes surrounded by greenery is a lovely experience when living in the desert the rest of the year! You’ll soon see why it’s one of the favourite places to visit in Al Ain.

Entrance to the oasis is free but currently you have to show your green pass in Al Hosn app (negative PCR is also accepted)

See more photos and videos here

Al Ain Palace

Let’s move next door now to Al Ain Palace Museum, which is not a palace with gold and domes and the like. It’s very simple and yet beautiful in its simplicity and its ornate elements of design and the sense of tranquility.

The unusual arches and symmetrical designs of the entrance entice you to enter to discover more. Within the first gate, there are several art pieces on the walls around the first small courtyard and the inner wall of the second. Be sure not to miss them.

The palace was the family home of Sheikh Zayed until the late 1960s and you can visit the rooms of Sheikha Fatima amongst many others.

The rooms are on two levels and set around several courtyards and two ponds which are connected by a water channel. They include bedrooms, guest rooms, majlises (reception rooms) kitchen, store, etc.

In the kitchen you’ll see an enormous cooking pot that would hold enough to feed more than a whole village.

Looking at the small, simple bed that Sheikh Zayed and his wife slept in, I couldn’t help but wonder at the stark contrast between the simple life of a ruler then and that of even an average office worker now, never mind a ruler.

The Palace is just a couple of minutes from the oasis. You can walk round or drive. Entrance is free, hours are Saturday to Thursday 10am – 6 pm, Friday 2-6pm. (Check for updates after Jan 1st)

Green pass on al Hosn or PCR are required to enter.

Qasr Al Muwaiji

Qasr Al Muwaiji was built in the second half of the 19th century and was the birthplace of the current ruler HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The fort now houses an exhibition telling the story of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and also of the fort itself and the adjoining oasis. The exhibition is set within a glass structure blending modern and traditional architecture.

You can tour the fort, exploring the North East Tower which was the home of Sheikh Zayed for some time. Although the original tower was demolished, it was rebuilt with the same materials and the same design.

You can also visit the oasis outside. If the weather allows, you can sit in the courtyard and enjoy the surroundings.

Al Qasr Al Muwaiji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with other sites of importance in Al Ain.

Entrance is free and green pass or negative PCR is required. Open daily 10-6, Fri 2-6.

Jahili Fort and Museum

Our next choice of places to visit in Al Ain is Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain was built at the end of the 19th century as a summer residence for the ruler of Abu Dhabi the time, Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan.

The cylindrical four-storey tower was the first feature to be built (initially as a simple tower). You can climb up to the second storey. Next, the fort with four watchtowers was built and a wall enclosing the whole area to create a large courtyard. The fort has its own courtyard within.

Outside the walled area is Jahili Mosque built in the same period. It has the traditional open style as was common at the time. A similar, but older, mosque is the bin Sultan Mosque in Masfoot.

The fort holds temporary exhibitions (currently Building with Earth) and is home to the permanent exhibition dedicated to Mubarak bin London, aka Wilfred Thesiger.

The displays include many photos taken by Thesiger, one of the last great explorers, during his journey from Salalah to Abu Dhabi and many within Al Ain and Abu Dhabi itself.

 

It also exhibits some of his personal items used on the trip as well as many inspiring quotes.

You may want to read his book documenting his Salalah-Abu Dhabi trip through the Empty Quarter, Travelling the Sands, before visiting. It’s also available on Audible.

Thesiger was given the name Mubarak bin London in Abu Dhabi and he continued to have close connections to the UAE and friendships with Shaikh Zayed and many others over the years. He was awarded Order of Independence by the UAE for his contributions.

Jahili Fort sits within Al Jahili park. Entrance to both is free, green pass is required for entry to the fort. Opens daily 10-6, Friday 2-6. The park has many lush green areas for sitting, plays areas and facilities.

You can see more photos of Jahili Fort and exhibition here.

 

Other places to visit in Al Ain – Green Mabazzareh, Hili Archaeolgical and Fun Parks

See more city posts at

Ajman

Ras al Khaimah

Kalba

Khor Fakkan

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