Al Ain

…enchanting.
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Al Ain is the “garden city” which is located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and has quite a lot to offer.
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Distance: 90min drive from Abu Dhabi
Ideal stay: either day trip or weekend getaway
Temperature: similar to Abu Dhabi
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Since Al Ain is a kind of neighbouring city to Abu Dhabi I had the pleasure to visit it quite a few times. Each time I was lucky to see something I had not seen before.
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It all starts with the amazing views while road-tripping all the way to the green city.
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..it is daily business to encounter camels or sheep which are tied on the old-school Toyota pick-ups..
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First stop: Al Ain Oasis
The Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis and was crowned as a UNESCO world heritage site.
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It is def. the perfect getaway from the turbulent, hectic city vibes since here you hear – correct – nothing.
Calm, shady and silent – just you and nature (ok – and some tourists from time to time).
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..stroll around and get lost in the walkaways..
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Historical: Al Jahili Fort
The Al Jahili Fort is one of the most historic buildings which originally served to protect the palm groves and defend the city.
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Nowadays it is an active visitors destination due to its information centre and diverse exhibition area.
Check TCAs website to get the latest updates on exhibitions and events.
It is open daily from 09h00 to 17h00 (except Mondays). Enjoy!
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Ancient: National Museum
The Al Ain National Museum is the oldest museum in the UAE.
It shows the full history from the stone age through to the recent foundation of the UAE (Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born here).
The fort is a well-preserved mudbrick structure which is divided into three main sections: ethnography, archaeology and souvenirs.
Yes, contrary to popular belief: there is a huge historical background to be seen! See for yourself.
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..as usual cultural sights are free of charge in the UAE..
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Dribbling: Camel Market
This traditional (one of the last of its kind) Camel Market delivers the real experience on how it was in former days.
“Livestock” feeling in the middle of the desert – they are not only bargaining with camels but also goats, sheep and chicken.
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The camel owners tend to be slightly pushy and intrusive but don`t worry: just a have a look around on your own without tipping them whenever you take a picture with the camels.
Try to look for the BABY camels 🙂 They are def. the CUTEST ❤
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High: Jebel Hafeet
With its 1240m height – Jebel Hafeet is the highest peak in the UAE and among the the worlds greatest driving roads.
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Once you (finally) reach the top by either car or bike you will be rewarded with incredibly stunning views.
(Un)Fortunately there is (only) one hotel (Mercure Al Ain) which will be able to satisy your thirst.
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Service and seating falls in the 3* hotel category but gets clearly outvoted by the magnificent surrounding vistas.
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Underwater: Wadi Adventure
At the foot of Jebel Hafeet you come upon the region’s first man-made kayaking, surf and white water rafting facility: Wadi Adventure.
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The almost 3m high man-made surf wave is (obviously) the world largest! Be brave. Be you.
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Wadi Adventure was quite “wild” for me but is for worth a day trip for families.
Caution: at first sight the entrance fee seems quite low – but in fact all activities get charged separately – so in the end you still end up paying quite a high amount (surcharges for locker; rafting; high rope course etc.).
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Also I have noticed that staff near the rafting site are not appropriately trained as they are not able to handle “dangerous” situations.
Yet the flying fox was AMAZING!
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Animal-ly: Al Ain Zoo
Although I am not a big fan of keeping wild animals in locked cages; I have to admit that Al Ain Zoo leads by example.
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All animals have spacious compounds and look quite healthy.
Al Ain Zoo is home to 4000 animals and provides plenty of green public spaces and kids activities.
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If you get the chance: Visit the new Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre – I heard it is quite good but unfortunately you can only access it in combination with the Zoo ticket.
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As you can see from the pictures: quite beautiful and yet different from bustling Abu Dhabi.
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Hotel-wise I would recommend the Al Ain Rotana or the brand new Aloft.
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Whether you are looking for a quick renewal of body and soul or some activities outside of the capital – Al Ain will satisfy either way.

 

Fake Place

..I don’t want to hear it anymore.. 

Why is it a fake place? Why an artificially raised metropolis?

Did your home countries simply exist? All of a sudden? No, they were also built. The main difference is that this happened way earlier than here in the UAE.
What’s so bad about that?
In fact I do see it as a great chance to implement all “successful” or “unsuccessful” things of other countries right from the beginning.  The UAE is actively being shaped according to people’s needs and yes, even exceeding it from time to time.
Of course, the UAE is well known for its record breaking buildings, malls and other kind of achievements within a small time frame but definitely not limited to this!

Quoting His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE – “what makes us proud is not the height of our buildings but rather the openness and tolerance of our nation” – which I totally agree with!
Rather than focusing on World Records we should highlight the fact that we all live here together in peace and safety.
This is a great gift, keeping in mind the hatred and fights which are surrounding us nowadays!

But now, let’s have a look at the “fake city”:

1. Saadiyat Beach 

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“People are paid to distribute diverse shells and stones among Saadiyat Beach” – NOT.
Saadiyat Beach is a beautiful, natural beach with amazing waves and stunning different kind of shells.
If you are lucky enough you might even be able to see dolphins, turtles, rays & crabs:

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Spot the ray!

2. Desert 

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“Everyday tons and tons of sand are shoveled all over the place” – NOT.
Liwa Desert for e.g. is beautiful! It offers high, endless dunes which you are able to access by feet or 4×4. Don’t even try to crest it with your “regular” car – it will def. not work! Desert rule: never go alone! The best way to enjoy a desert camping or BBQ is to drive in with 2/3 cars – be ready to be helped and to actively help whenever someone is in need & stuck in the sand. Follow the Local’s example.

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If you are visiting feel free to book one of the organized “Desert Safaris” which include pick-up/drop-off from/to the hotel; camel farm stop; dune bashing; sun downer; sand boarding; belly dance show; desert BBQ; shisha; henna painting; Arabic coffee & dates and upon extra charge you may even get the quad experience.
Never (!) book this through your agency back home since they will get their commission on it. Rather book it with local partners like for e.g. Desert Rose at around AED 250 p.P..

3. Eastern Mangroves 

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I cannot even think of a potential “rumor” why the Eastern Mangroves should be fake.. They def. are not.
The best way to explore this natural reserve is by Kayak. The Kayak Tour takes up to 2h, costs around AED 160 p.P. includes a snack and a stop on a small sandbank. I did mine with Noukhada and was more than happy with their service – departure point: Anantara Eastern Mangroves.

4. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

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“Every day these flamingos are dropped off at 9h and picked up at 17h” – NOT.
This place is just lovely. To reach Al Wathba you have to calculate an hour drive from AD city center (between Baniyas, Mussafah and Al Ain Truck Road) .
You will find lovely walking trails alongside different plants and over hundred birds. My favorite spot is the bird hide which provides close view to the free-roaming Flamingos.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is an ecologically sensitive area therefore the visiting hours are quite limited: Thursdays and Saturdays from 8.00am to 2.00pm – free entrance.

5. Jebel Hafeet

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“This is an artificially built mountain” – NOT.
Jebel Hafeet is one of the tallest mountains we have with its 1240m. It’s worth a drive or a cycle up to enjoy a tremendous view over Al Ain.
Enjoy a coffee or a shisha at the Mercure Jebel Hafeet Hotel and absorb this moment to the max.

…soooo Fake?… 😉