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Why you should visit Al Ain, the UAE’s ancient oasis

Why you should visit Al Ain, the UAE’s ancient oasis

Think of the United Arab Emirates and one might picture rolling deserts, the gleaming skyscrapers of Dubai and a lavish lifestyle. But in the east of the country, along the border with Oman, about a 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a surprisingly laid-back place.

The oasis city of Al Ain doesn’t appear on the itineraries of most Emirati tourists, but it doesn’t always do so. An important stop on ancient trade routes through the Arabian Peninsula, Al Ain’s lush oases and abundant water sources provide a welcome relief from the long and arduous journey by camel through the surrounding desert.archeology Find History around Al Ain shows that trading caravans passed through the area as early as 1300 BC during the Iron Age.

Today, these oases still exist, and modern cities have developed around them. Al Ain’s six oases are spread over working farms with some 147,000 date palms and thousands of other fruit trees, offering a glimpse into a way of life long before it swept across the country’s other cities rapid urbanization process. While they don’t fit the storybook image of palm-fringed pools appearing like mirages among the dunes, the oases here are large, well-organized plantations of date palms separated by stone paths and walls with waterways running through them. them. Look up to the treetops and you may see farmers tending their crops, climbing barefoot on dates, supported by ropes and thick belts, the same technique they have used for centuries.

The best way to explore is on one of the bikes that can be picked up at the rental station at the main entrance Al Ain OasisAn easy ride along the flagstone paths, the sun dappled through the palm fronds and the chirping of birds filling the air make this lush setting home.When you need a break, stomp your way to lovely Ether The café, an oasis within an oasis, is full of flowering plants and fluttering curtains, serving dates, sandalwood tea and a slice of saffron milk cake.

Oasis Farm by the ancient paralysis The irrigation system, an ingenious network of underground and surface channels, some of which are 3000 years old. But the history here goes back even further. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of human life in Al Ain dating back 8,000 years to the Neolithic period.

Yurts at Jebel Hafeet Desert Park

How does a BBQ dinner under the stars next to a yurt sound?

Courtesy of DCT Abu Dhabi

One of the best places to learn about Al Ain’s ancient history – and one of the best places to spend the night – is Jebel Hafeet Desert Park. Located at the foot of Jebel Hafit, the only mountain in Abu Dhabi, just a 20-minute drive from the city centre, this 5-mile stretch of gravel sand is dotted with thorny acacia trees and is home to more than 500 mountains bronze age tombs, dating back 5,000 years. Nicknamed “The Beehive” for their conical shape, some of the tombs have been fully restored and returned to their original shape, while others are nothing more than a pile of stones still holding their secrets.There are Plaj Bel Hafeet Transparent yurts for overnight stays, each with its own bathroom and fireplace. Bring your own BBQ supplies and firewood and you can cook dinner under the stars. In the morning, head to the cemetery for an easy hike, and you will most likely have the entire site to yourself. Overnight stays with breakfast start at AED 1,024 (about US$ 280), including entry to the mausoleum.

It wasn’t just ancient travelers who passed through Al Ain when crossing the Arabian Peninsula. In the 1940s, British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger and his Bedouin guides stopped in Al Ain on a grueling camel expedition across the vast desert. Rub Khali Empty Area. He made two trips and recorded the experience in his book Arabian Beach. Thesiger’s fascinating photos taken during the trip are permanently housed in Al Ain’s gallery Jahiri Fortan elegant mud-brick structure with jagged walls and circular watchtowers, dates from the 1890s.

Al Jahili's mudbrick walls have stood for about 130 years.

Al Jahili’s mudbrick walls have stood for about 130 years.

Courtesy of DCT Abu Dhabi

In the past, Al Ain was a place where travelers came to rest and recover. While the city doesn’t have the range of upscale restaurants that Abu Dhabi or Dubai have, there are still plenty of places to refuel your journey.For traditional Emirati flavors, head to Fanal, is part of a small chain of restaurants in the UAE specializing in quality, delicious local food. Ignore the rather uninspiring location of this branch next to the convention center – the food is really good.The setting inside is a nostalgic mix of traditional architectural details, with columns, arches and wood mashrabiya Screens surrounding the inner courtyard.Appetizers include tasty salads such as Salat Hamba Wa Jarjeera mixture of pepper rocket leaves and sour green mango, while seafood-based appetizers include choir Fried fish roe. Mains specializes in hearty Emirati shared dishes, many of which draw on the flavors of the UAE’s neighbors and historic trading partners.This yawn Here’s a pile of fluffy rice topped with seafood, lamb or chicken, and machine sound The style is similar, but it packs an extra punch with braised yellow rice in a stock, dried lemon and Arabic spices.

More nostalgia can be found here Decoy Muhammad bin Khalifa. Built in 1958, the pastel-coloured house, once a focal point for the community, opened in 2022 as a cultural space following an extensive restoration, featuring exhibits on the architectural revival and Al Ain’s UNESCO World Heritage Site for A space rented by the creative community, and an on-site café. The building provides insight into a period of major transformation in the UAE, where the discovery of oil in Abu Dhabi in 1958 led to a stronger economy and the beginning of urbanization. Its hybrid architecture reflects this change, combining “new” materials such as concrete, steel and aluminum with a traditional layout featuring a central courtyard, communal meeting areas and private family quarters. While these colors might seem like the result of Instagram-friendly urban planning, they’re not. When the house was restored, conservationists scraped away layers of paint to uncover the original hue. Pale blues, greens, and orange-reds seemed to be the colors of the day.

Al Ain White Water Rafting

Rafting on a man-made river might not be the most sustainable way to see Al Ain, but it will get your heart rate up before a day of easy exploring.

Courtesy of DCT Abu Dhabi

But it’s not just the nostalgia that makes a trip to Al Ain worthwhile.Those looking for an adrenaline rush can take on the Middle East’s first man-made white-water rafting channel or surf on man-made waves ain adventure water park. The road ascends the 4,000-foot Jebel Hafeet Mountain overlooking the desert and into Oman. Don’t forget to look up and down – you might spot the rare Egyptian vulture riding the thermal. Jebel Hafeet is their only habitat in the country. on the edge of the mountain, Mercure Hotel When the desert sky turns shades of pink and orange and the city lights up, it’s worth stopping to enjoy the sunset.

Ancient travelers who passed by knew Al Ain was a special place. It still is for those who want to experience a different pace of life in the UAE.

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