Dubai: Summer time isn't the most obvious time of year for a visit to the zoo. We all know what the weather is like and most of us would rather be cooling down inside, with the air-conditioner turned to high.
When I heard that Al Ain Zoo was opening in the evenings I was curious both how the idea would be received by the public and if the animals were any different at night-time.
Together with a few friends, I hopped in the car and made the drive up from Dubai, aiming to arrive at the zoo shortly before sunset. I was very surprised to find queues at the ticket windows and a parking lot packed with cars.
It turns out sunset is a great time to view the animals. With the temperatures dropping the animals become more active and roam around their enclosures.
It was also feeding time for many of the large carnivores like the lions and the African wild dogs, so we got the chance to watch the animals literally tearing into their dinners.
Sunset over the Jebel Hafeet mountain is beautiful and you can't find a nicer place to watch the sun slink away than from the Mixed African Exhibit, where the zebras, ostriches, wildebeest and giraffes mingle in harmony.
Once the sun goes down floodlights and spotlights accent the enclosures, so the animals are still visible to visitors.
Make no mistake about it, even at night-time an August visit to the zoo is a sweaty affair, and the local shops and canteens were doing a brisk business in beverages and ice cream.
At a certain point you simply have to accept that in summer in the UAE you are going to sweat, but the temperature didn't keep the crowds of visitors from touring the exhibits and enjoying the spectacle of the many species on display.
If anything, the night zoo is a wonderful opportunity to not only view the animals but to people-watch as well. Families large and small make their way around the grounds, taking photos, laughing and chatting and I found myself in conversation with people from at least a dozen nationalities.
Human beings are endlessly delighted by creatures from the animal kingdom and I love watching people's reactions to a lion's roar, or a monkey's playful antics.
Al Ain Zoo is open from 4pm to 10pm and the entrance fee is Dh15 for adults, Dh5 for children and free for children under 6.