Dubai: If you are looking to discover the history and heritage of the UAE this long weekend, how about a road trip to Al Ain?
It is an oasis city, which has played a significant role in the UAE’s history and is also home to natural beauty. Here are six places you can visit with your family and friends.
1. Al Ain Oasis
Al Ain Oasis is a great way to reconnect with Nature, as you walk along paths that wind through the thousands of date palm trees, providing a shaded walkway.
The oasis is in fact home to 147,000 date palm trees, over 100 different varieties of vegetation and relics of the past, like the ancient irrigation system known as falaj. The falaj is an essential piece of the region’s heritage and one of the many reasons why Al Ain is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Cultural Site, according to Visit Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s official tourism website.
Timings: Every day – 9am to 7pm
Location: Al Mutawaa, Al Ain
Tickets: The oasis is free to enter
2. Jebel Hafeet
Get the perfect sunrise and sunset photos from a height of 1,249 metres at Jebel Hafeet, the second highest peak in the UAE after Jebel Jais. The drive all the way up to the mountain top is also very scenic, with a refreshment area available at the top.
At the foot of Jebel Hafeet, you can discover fascinating archaeological and historical remains, from the Neolithic period 8,000 years ago, to the 5,000-year-old Jebel Hafeet Tombs excavated in 1959.
Location: Drive down E40 (Malaqit Street) and take the exit for Hafeet Road to get to the foot of Jebel Hafeet.
3. Al Jahili Fort
Al Jahili is one of the largest forts in the UAE, built in the 1890s on the orders of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (Zayed the first), as the home to members of the ruling Al Nahyan family.
Built of sun-dried mud brick, early restoration work was done on the fort in 1985, followed by a major rehabilitation project between 2007 and 2008. The fort is also a cultural centre, housing temporary exhibition galleries as well as a permanent exhibition.
The fort is surrounded by a park, which is a great place to relax with your family, and you can also visit the historical Jahili Mosque, built around the same time as the fort.
Timings: Every day – 9am to 7pm
Location: When driving down Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan Street, you will find the fort right after you cross the Al Jahili Park.
Ticket: The fort entrance is free
4. Qasr Al Muwaiji
For more than 100 years, Qasr Al Muwaiji has played a major role in the history of the UAE, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. An exhibition hall, housed in a glass-walled space within the courtyard of Qasr Al Muwaiji, has been built to tell the story of the fort and its inhabitants, and you can also visit the Muwaiji Oasis, which is the smallest oasis in Al Ain and contains approximately 21,000 palm trees, as well as a falaj irrigation system that uses ground-level and underground water canals to bring water from the nearby mountains.
Timings: 9am to 7pm
Location: Khalifa bin Zayed Street, opposite the Ruler's Representative Court, Al Ain
Ticket: The fort is free to enter and you are welcome to book a free guided tour.
5. Al Qattara Oasis
The Al Qattara Oasis has hectares of palm and fruit trees, a 4,000-year-old tomb, historic mosques, fortified houses and a market.
The oasis has been cultivated and farmed for three centuries, but there are signs of earlier human habitation, with a 14-metre-long tomb containing a trove of 4,000-year-old artefacts.
Location: When driving down E66 (Dubai-Al Ain Road) take the exit for Al Masoudi street, which will lead you to the oasis.
6. Al Ain Zoo
Founded in 1968, Al Ain Zoo is the largest zoo in the Middle East, and currently home to over 4,000 animals across 200 species.
Take a look at the African Lion and Rothschild’s Giraffe, or take pictures while feeding the penguins. You can also visit the Sheikh Zayed desert learning centre, which provides information on the environment in Abu Dhabi and the kind of animals it has, which is a good educational experience for children.
Timings: Every day from 3pm to 10pm
Location: The zoo is located near the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) Al Ain Women’s College on Al Nahyan the First street.
Dh31.50 for adults
Dh10.50 – three to 12 years old.
10 per cent discount if you book online, through alainzoo.ae