Have you ever been to Al Ain? If you haven’t, then you should definitely include this city in your travel bucket list! Located just 90 minutes by car from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain is famous for its lush greenery, refreshing oases, historic forts, and many other exciting attractions.
Notably, Al Ain’s natural wonders has led to many people calling it as the “Garden City” of Abu Dhabi, if not the entire UAE. Among its charming destinations is an ancient oasis, a sports destination, a desert park, a historic fort, a water park, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let’s get to know more about each of these captivating destinations in Al Ain!
Top Places to See in Al Ain
1. Al Ain Oasis
If you are looking for the perfect place to “get away” from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to Al Ain Oasis, a 1,200-hectare area dating back to 4,000 years. The place features more than 147,000 date palms and fruit trees, tree-lined walkways, and a falaj — an ancient irrigation system that has been nourishing the area’s plants until today!
Also located inside Al Ain Oasis is the Eco-Centre, an eco-friendly building that, through interactive screens and educational activities — exhibits the history of Al Ain and the emirate of Abu Dhabi in general.
2. Al Ain Sportplex
As the name says, Al Ain Sportplex is the place to go for sports enthusiasts. It has facilities for playing soccer, cricket, paintball, and other fun activities. It also houses the Al Ain Raceway, a 1.6-kilometre track for go-karts and other motor sports.
Interestingly, Al Ain Sportplex has hosted major international sports events, such as the biggest event in global karting, the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals. Wow!
3. Al Ain Heritage Heritage and Culture Village
Located within Al Ain Sportplex is Al Ain Heritage and Culture Village, which brings to life traditional Emirati culture. The village has a traditional cafe, a souk (traditional market), and a couple of theatres featuring art shows, poetry, and various performances.
4. Al Reef Handicrafts Training Centre
Still within Al Ain Sportplex is Al Reef Handicrafts Training Centre. As you may have guessed, it provides training sessions on making traditional Emirati handicrafts. They have sessions for visitors of all ages, so be sure to sign up!
5. Al Ain Zoo
Kids (and kids at heart) will definitely love visiting Al Ain Zoo! It is home to more than 4,000 animals, including camels, hippos, lions, tigers, sheep, zebras, and the Arabian oryx. Guests can learn more about the environment at the zoo’s Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. Meanwhile, there’s also Al Ain Safari, for an exciting animal experience!
Moreover, Al Ain Zoo has playgrounds and plenty of spaces for picnics, as well as cafes and restaurants for guests who need to grab a bite!
6. Al Jahili Fort
Built in the 1890s, Al Jahili Fort was established through the orders of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a.k.a. “Zayed the First.” Since then, it became home to members of the ruling Al Nahyan family. It is one of the UAE’s biggest forts.
In 2008, Al Jahili Fort was restored and transformed by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. It became a cultural centre that features historical exhibits, including one about the renowned explorer, Sir Wilfred Thesiger.
7. Al Qattara Arts Centre
In 2011, the former Al Qattara Fort was transformed into Al Qattara Arts Centre. As the name suggests, it is a place for learning, practicing, and developing creative arts. Here, you will find art exhibits as well as studios for various art classes.
The centre’s training venues include the Dry Studio, which holds music and handicraft lessons, and the Wet Studio, which features drawing and painting lessons. Also located in the centre is a Calligraphy Studio and a Pottery Studio.
8. Jebel Hafit Desert Park
Adventurous travelers should not miss a trip to Jebel Hafit Desert Park, which is situated at the base of Abu Dhabi’s tallest peak: Jebel Hafit mountain. The place offers three camping experiences that you can choose from:
- Basic Camping – where you’ll need to bring your own tent and equipment;
- Fully Serviced Camping – where you’ll be staying in a Bedouin tent and enjoy a traditional breakfast; and
- “Bubble” Glamping – where you’ll be staying in a bubble-shaped glamping tent that is fully air-conditioned!
Of course, before staying in your tent, be sure to enjoy an exciting day of hiking, mountain biking, horse-riding, or camel-riding.
9. Wadi Adventure
Also located at the base of Jebel Hafit mountain is a family-friendly theme park, Wadi Adventure. Here, your family can enjoy water activities for people of all ages. There’s a swimming pool, a splash pool, and even man-made whitewater rafting channels! Thrill seekers will also enjoy surfing, wakeboarding, crossing the 1,200-metre long zip line, or riding the 14-metre high giant swing. Cool!
10. Qasr Al Muwaiji
Qasr Al Muwaiji happens to be the birthplace of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Today, the historic fort has been restored and transformed into a museum that features information about the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
Having served as a home and as an important seat of governance in the UAE, Qasr Al Muwaiji has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
11. Al Ain Mall
Of course, a trip to Al Ain would not be complete without shopping! Fortunately, there’s Al Ain Mall, which houses more than 175 retail stores. Here, you can buy anything and everything — clothes, jewellery, perfumes, beauty products, furniture, shoes, bags, accessories, and many more!
12. Al Ain Souk
Meanwhile, if you are looking for souvenirs, then Al Ain Souk, a.k.a. “Central Souk” or “Old Souk,” is the place to go! Here, you can buy Emirati handicrafts, traditional fabrics, carpets, perfumes, spices, and much, much more!
Featuring beautiful landscapes, historical landmarks, and exciting activities… the “Garden City” of Al Ain certainly lives up to its name. It’s got the best of everything, including traditional attractions and modern facilities. The next time you go to Abu Dhabi, be sure to visit Al Ain and go to all of these places!