Al Ain Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is one of the most prosperous countries in the United Arab Emirates, and is a place that is investing much money on tourism infrastructure in order to offer an alternative and economically viable replacement for the oil and gas industries for when supplies start to dwindle.

One of the places to visit is the lovely desert oasis on Al Ain, which is justifiably famous for its lush green parks and fragrant gardens. Al Ain has always been a popular place with travellers as it used to be an important stop for the caravans which carried goods from Oman to the rest of Arabia.

Today, Al Ain is known as the ‘garden city’, as it has the reputation for being the greenest city in the Arabian Gulf. There are six oases within the city’s precincts, and this reliable supply of fresh water is probably responsible for Al Ain being one of the oldest inhabited places within the United Arab Emirates. The city’s ancient stone tombs, wells, and adobe buildings are considered important enough for Al Ain to have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of the fascinating places to visit is the camel souq, or market, where live camels are still bought and sold, and where camel meat and milk are readily traded. These days the camels are not traded for their ability to carry heavy loads over long distances, but because camel racing is a popular pastime they are now bred for speed.

Just to the southeast of Al Ain is Jebel Hafeet Mountain which, at 1,160 metres, is the highest mountain in the Emirates. These days it is possible to drive to the summit on a good road, where you can stay in a luxury hotel and enjoy the panoramic views of the desert and city below.

Jebel Hafeet is also an important archaeological site, and many of the artefacts recovered from there are now displayed in the Al Ain National Museum, which is housed in an old fort.

Al Ain is located close to the border with Oman, and is about 140 kilometres from the city of Abu Dhabi. It is actually closer to Dubai, and makes for an interesting side trip from either of those cities.

One thing you don’t expect to find in a desert is a man-made white water rafting course, but that is what you will find in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet at Wadi Adventure. As well as being able to enjoy rafting and kayaking, you can also surf on man-made waves, which can reach a height of over three metres. It’s a truly surreal experience to surf on a mountain whilst overlooking a desert, but it does adequately sum up how far the Emirates will go to encourage tourism.

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