9 must-visit attractions in Al Ain
A 90-minute drive from Abu Dhabi lies the UAE’s Garden City, Al Ain. A treat for the eyes and the soul, places to visit in Al Ain range from gorgeous green landscapes and natural hot springs to stunning UNESCO heritage sites. The city is also the birthplace of the UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.
The question will never be what to do in Al Ain, but where do you begin exploring from? With a laidback vibe, Al Ain’s tourist places are plenty making it ideal for a short day trip or a relaxing weekend getaway. To discover more about this incredibly historical place submerged in nature, here are 9 things to do in Al Ain.
1. Al Ain Oasis
You can also study a fascinating 3D model of the falaj, the ancient irrigation system that is still operational today. We can’t think of a better way to spend a few hours than blissfully wandering around shaded pathways, taking in date-palm farms, beautiful fruit trees and lush gardens.
2. Qasr Al Muwaiji
It was abandoned for many years, and demolished in parts, but ongoing extensive restoration projects ensure this beauty still stands. A modern exhibition hall, housed in a stylish glass-walled space within the courtyard, tells the story of the fort and its inhabitants, with a focus on His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.
3. Al Jahili Fort
Step back in time when you visit one of the largest and oldest forts in the UAE, Al Jahili Fort. Built out of sun-dried mud-brick, straw and palm-tree fibres, it was first erected in the early 19th-century as a symbol of power and as a summer home for the ruling family. Today, the fort has been painstakingly restored and is a historical museum with a number of exhibits, including striking black-and-white images taken by British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger during his monumental crossing of the Rub' al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert, the largest uninterrupted sand mass in the world, in the 1940s.
4. Al Qattara Arts Centre
During the creation of the Qattara Arts Centre, excavations revealed a five-metre sequence of archaeological layers or ‘horizons’ reaching back from the Late Islamic period to the Iron Age, some 3,000 years ago. On show to the public, these emphasise Al Ain’s incredible archaeological finds and highlight the importance of the area throughout history. Today you’re able to book a number of creative classes for all ages here, from drawing to pottery, calligraphy to music, photography and more. The large art gallery constantly updates its exhibits, plus there is a permanent archaeological and heritage exhibit to appreciate.
5. Al Ain Zoo
Think parrot and birds-of-prey shows, horse, donkey and camel rides, feeding of giraffes and penguins, a petting zoo, a train tour of the wildlife area and plenty of playgrounds and picnic spots. Conservation and preservation of the UAE’s natural environment are always at the heart of Al Ain Zoo, and you can learn more about its sustainability efforts at the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. We highly recommend the Al Ain Safari, where enthusiastic guides will take you on an unforgettable hour-long wildlife drive along the base of the magnificent Jebel Hafit mountain to spot zebra, African lion, white rhino, ostrich, gazelle, Arabian oryx and much more.
6. Hili Archaeological Park
If history fascinates you, then you’ll want to add Hili Archaeological Park to your itinerary. Now a modern park where you’re able to picnic and go for peaceful walks, this UNESCO World Heritage site dates back to the Bronze Age and includes evidence of settlements dating back to about 2000 BCE, with ancient tombs. Also visit the nearby Hili 8 where, in 1977, French archaeologists began excavating and found the remains of barley, wheat and date palm as well as bronze objects, pottery and livestock. Today, you’ll find ancient tombs, built with the utmost care, and exposed building foundations.
7. Jebel Hafit
This desert park also offers dune buggy tours, horse and camel rides, and mountain biking, all taking in the area’s many historical sights. If camping is not your style, book a few nights at the Green Mubazzarah Chalets. They are fully equipped with all the necessary comforts and offer easy access to beautiful mountain streams and hot-water springs.
8. Wadi Adventure Park
Also try wakeboarding, water skiing and kneeboarding, or relax at the family pool and splash areas. There’s also an exhilarating zip ride that flies you over the park.
9. Hili Fun City
With so much rich history and culture to absorb in Al Ain, it may be a good idea to book a casual fun day at Hili Fun City, the Arabian Gulf’s first theme park, opened in 1985. The renovated and modernised park boasts an ice rink and 25 thrilling rides and attractions for kids and adults. Happy riding!