Greenery in the Garden City of Al Ain
The garden city of Al Ain is one of the three cities which form the geographical triangle in the centre of the United Arab Emirates, the other two being Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As each of the three cities is located at a distance of 130 kilometres from the other two, it is an equilateral triangle which is formed with Al Ain lying to the south of Dubai and being east of Abu Dhabi.
Although this city is the second largest in the Abu Dhabi Emirate and is home to the large number of Emiratis, it offers a welcome change from its vibrant counterparts, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For the fact that that it has been inhabited for the last 4000 years and that it is the birthplace of the first president of UAE, Al Ain has been a symbol of cultural heritage attributed to have sprung from the numerous underground water springs responsible for its unique identity. But while Al Ain is known for its greenery, it also is a city, which is distinct – almost a contemporary avatar of the city. Some say that Al Ain is a green version of Abu Dhabi 20 years ago.
While bus services are provided to travel to and from Abu Dhabi, transportation from Dubai is a little more difficult in the absence of a regular bus service and the mini bus service being only one way from Dubai to Al Ain. And because, Al Ain is so close to Buraimi, short trips to Oman by car without the need to get a visa are possible. If you are hiring a car, make sure you are covered for this. Although you can fly directly to Al Ain, we would recommend flying to Abu Dhabi, and either taking a bus or taxi to Al Ain – or hiring your own car. There are heaps of cheap taxis in Al Ain.
While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have always been well known as international tourist destinations, Al Ain in contrast has always been the favourite haunt of the Sheikhs probably due to its surrounding red sand dunes and indomitable mountain ranges. An oasis in the midst of the arid surroundings, the beautiful garden city is replete with forts and settlements not to mention the recent additions of theme parks and shopping plazas. Al Ain has managed to maintain its charm and grow with the modern age.
As a visitor, this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embark on a desert safari, 4WD expeditions as well as camel trips. In fact, many of the desert safari’s booked in Dubai and Abu Dhabi come in the direction of Al Ain, as the dunes are better! Al Ain is also a shopper’s paradise since everything is cheaper here but also has some specialized stores. The city sports a soothing aura of relaxation and easy-going lifestyle as circling the gardens, fountains, sculptures and statues imparts a feeling of well being and calmness. It’s also a breath of fresh air with the balance of desert heat. You don’t get this in the main cities in the UAE.
One thing to watch out for is a remnant of past heritage in Al Ain. Although this exists elsewhere in Arabia, you must see the Falaj, the traditional irrigation system dating back to 1000 B.C. that surrounds the farms and date groves even today.