Al Ain is a charming, romantic little oasis city, nestled cozily at the foot of the craggy Jebel Hafeet mountain range. Al Ain’s history goes back to 3000 BC; the town is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. If you’re wondering what to do in Al Ain, how about visiting the fabulous zoo, the Wadi Adventure waterpark, the museums, public parks, camel markets, and the Jebel Hafeet Mountain?
1. Al Ain Zoo
Your kids will love the petting zoo, feeding giraffes, taking camel rides and learning about biodiversity in the children’s garden. They’ll also love the parrot and bird show and the oryx, Arabian antelope, African gazelles, giraffes, and eland at the zoo. There are lions, tigers, pumas, leopards both black and spotted and jaguars in the cat enclosure. There’s also a monkey compound, a reptile house and an aviary section. The Al Ain Safari takes you through hundreds of acres of cool forest to watch endangered animals in their natural habitat.
2. Camel Racing
Ever been to a camel race? Now you can, at the large 10-kilometer track at Al Ain. Camel racing is a part of the traditional Emirati culture. Be sure to observe various camel breeds, such as the slender the brown or black “Boushahri” breed and the white or golden “Anafi” breed.
3. Jebel Hafeet
Sign up for a 4×4 ride up the craggy Jebel Hafeet (Hafeet Mountain), and be ready to take plenty of pictures when you get to the top. The 1,240-meter-tall mountain is the second highest in the UAE. The winding mountain road with many scenic viewpoints opens up to a panoramic view of Al Ain at the top.
4. Water Fun At Wadi Adventure!
How about some fabulous kayaking, surfing and white water rafting in the UAE’s first manmade facility, the Wadi Adventure? It’s great fun and the water always feels cool under the hot sun. Take your family and splash about in the swimming pool and splash area for kids. There’s also an aerial obstacle course and a low ropes course for the whole family to enjoy.
5. Camel Market
Get a feel of the real life in the UAE by attending a traditional camel market. You don’t have to pay anyone to wander around and feed the camels. Getting up close to the huge creatures gives you a real idea of how Bedouins lived in the deserts long ago
6. The Al Ain Museums
The Palace Museum was once the home of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of UAE. Enjoy the collection of rare old weapons, and the historic garments, textiles and jewelry worn by ancient desert dwellers. There are and coins and pendants discovered locally from the Bronze and Iron Ages as well. Check out the exhibits from the Hili Archaeological Park, which includes a restored Grand Hili tomb. The Al Ain National Museum has local tools from before the Stone Ages used for dental surgery, fishing, medical procedures, weaving and more. Also check out the Sultan Bin Zayed Fort built a century ago, one of the oldest buildings.
7. Al Ain Oasis
Al Ain is famous for its expansive palm plantations which offer cool shelter. The oasis uses a 3,000-year-old falaj irrigation system, which delivers water via a network of underground channels. It’s a peaceful, green oasis and a real treat under the hot sun.
8. Al Jahili Fort
One of the largest and most magnificent forts in the UAE, the Al Jahili Fort hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions of life in the desert before oil was discovered. If you are able to, do get a copy of Wilfred Thesiger’s book ‘Arabian Sands’ before you visit the fort.
9. Qasr Al Muwaiji
The birthplace of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, this fort details the life of Sheikh Khalifa and how he founded the UAE via an interactive exhibit with a storyboard. The beautifully-restored North-West Tower is great Kodak destination.
10. Al Ain Souks
Enjoy a truly traditional shopping experience at the Souk Al Bawadi and Souk Al Qaws, where you can find spices, seafood, meats, farm produce and fruits. Visit Souk Al Zafrana for textiles and traditional clothing. The Souk Al Qattara hosts traditional cultural events and traditional handicrafts markets. Watch the Ayala dancing and observe local crafters creating Middle Eastern dishes.
11. Hili Fun City
One of the UAE’’s largest fun parks, the Hili Fun City has over 40 rides, including an elevated sky-flyer and roller coaster. Right next door is the Al Ain Ice Rink, an Olympic-sized treat for ice skaters!
Al Ain is called UAE’s Garden City for a reason. The cool oasis and the many public parks keep this little town cool and pleasant. There’s more than enough fun to be had, especially if you have children along. There’s no better place than Al Ain where you can immerse yourself in the history and glory of the Middle East.