Things to do in Al Ain when visiting for a weekend
We have some family in Ali Ain so have been their a few times now and always end up doing something touristy so I thought I could put together a good blog post about it….
First of all a bit about Al Ain
Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is an inland oasis city on the eastern border with Oman. It’s known as the Garden City for its palm groves and natural springs, thought i’m not sure I can back this as it just seemed very hilly!
Now – what is their to actually do???
1. Al Ain Zoo
One of the city’s star attractions. Spread over 400 hectares – the same size as Lulu Island – you can spend at least three hours looking around its modern, spacious enclosures.
2. Wadi Adventure
An outdoor waterpark next to Green Mubazzarah Park. Book ahead if you want to try surfing in its 150m long pool, which has man-made waves over 3m high. Otherwise, try kayaking and white water rafting. If you’ve tried rafting before you might find even the fastest river tame, but this makes the 500m long, grade four black run ideal for families looking for thrills in a safe environment. While you’re there, try the 14m high, 200m long zip line over the river, a swing that drops 14m leaving your stomach behind. You can also climb a 14m climbing wall or complete an obstacle course in the air. There are two levels – one 7m high, one 14m – both of which are harder and scarier than they look. Bear in mind the entrance fee only grants you access to a lap pool; activities are extra.
Dhs50 adult entrance, Dhs25 kids’ entrance. Surfing Dhs100 for one-hour (no lesson), 55-minute surfing lesson Dhs150; 90-minute kayaking lesson Dhs150; obstacle course and zip line Dhs50; swing Dhs25; climbing wall Dhs40; adventure pass Dhs195 includes rafting, the swing, zip line and obstacle course. Directions on www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).
3. Al Ain Museum
The museum displays interesting collections of Bedouin jewellery, musical instruments, weapons and archaeological artefacts, as well as a reconstruction of traditional majlis seating.
Dhs3 adults, Dhs1 kids. Mon-Thu and Sat 8.30am-7.30pm’ Fri 3pm-7.30pm. (03 711 8331).
4. Al Ain Mall
If you fancy some shopping then head here – the best mall in Al Alin
5. Al Jahili Fort
Close to Al Ain Palace Museum. You know the image on a bottle of Al Ain water? That’s Al Jahili Fort. Built in 1891 to defend the city’s people and palm groves, it was the former headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts, the force that protected the surrounding mountain passes. It also served as a residence for the local governor. The fort and its walls have been carefully restored and now house a permanent photography exhibition by the British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger who crossed the desert of the Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali, in the 1940s.
Tue-Thu 9am-5pm, Fri 3pm-5pm; Sat 9am-5pm.
6. Al Qattara Fort
In the north of the city. The fort has been redeveloped into a modern arts centre. You can browse its exhibitions and library or enrol in a workshop. Book ahead if you want to try a class; choose from oud and piano, photography; traditional crafts and calligraphy, or drawing, painting, sculpture and pottery.
7. Hili Archaeological Park
In the same area as the fort. The park has remnants of a Bronze Age settlement dating back to 2,500-2,000 BC which was excavated and restored in 1995. Even if you’re not interested in archaeology, you can picnic by the fountains in the gardens around it while your kids run around in the children’s play area.
8. Hili Fun City
A nearby theme park is no Six Flags or Alton Towers, but it does have attractions for all ages such as a carousel, roller coasters and a 3D cinema. You can also hire three-seater bikes (Dhs30 an hour) and recumbent bikes suitable for up to six people (Dhs35 an hour).
9. Al Ain Sportplex Club
The city’s answer to Abu Dhabi’s Al Forsan International Sports Resort. It’s in the east of the city, beyond Danat Al Ain Resort. Adrenaline seekers can attend occasional car drifting events, fans can have a go at remote control flying, and everyone can sign up for paintballing or go karting on its 1.6km track.
Dhs10 all day remote control flying, Dhs120 for 5-minutes go karting, Dhs25 for 100 paintballs (30 minutes), Dhs185 for 300 (an hour), Dhs295 for 500 (90 minutes). www.alainsportplex.ae (03 768 8888).
10. Al Ain Golf Club
The club is in the shadow of Jebel Hafeet and while it touts itself as the only sand golf club in Al Ain, in reality there’s very little sand – you mostly play on gravel! But look how cheap it is!!!
11. Al Ain Equestrian & Shooting Club
A number of shooting ranges, many of which are indoors – ideal for hot days. You can try your hand at clay pigeon shooting outdoors on the field, which is the size of several football pitches, or take aim with rifles and pistols indoors.
Dhs40 for 50 bullets on the 10m rifle range, Dhs90 for 50 bullets on the 50m rifle range, Dhs120 for 50 bullets on the 15m pistol range, Dhs140 for 25 bullets for clay pigeon shooting. Al Maqam, near Tawam Hospital. www.aesgc.ae (03 768 4888).
12. Jebel Hafeet
At 1,249m high, the peak is one of the tallest in the country. A single road winds to the top, at which you’ll find a small cafe. But it’s the view you come for; you can see for miles on a clear day.
On the way down, stop for lunch at Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet, around the 915m mark. Skip its all day dining restaurant – its decor looks like the backdrop of an ’80s game show – in favour of its terrace restaurant, Eden Rock, which has city views and a wood-fired barbecue on Thursdays and Fridays. If you linger, you could also sit in Al Khayma, a tent with traditional majlis seating that’s open for shisha (Dhs45) everyday 3pm-4am. The tent is by the pool and overlooks the desert and city; if you end up there later on, an Arabic singer provides entertainment every night 9pm-1am.
www.mercure.com (03 783 8888).
Alternatively, if you can cope with the heat then stock up on picnic food at the supermarket – Abela near Tawam Hospital, next to the Oasis Village compound, is a good option. You can eat al fresco under the shade of trees at Green Mubazzarah Park in the south of the city, at the base of Jebel Hafeet. The 160-hectare park is double the size of Emirates Palace’s grounds, and gets its name from the lawns that stretch across it, which are fed by underwater springs. As well as a man-made boating lake, a stream which is heated naturally runs through the park – you can paddle in it for free. You can soak in hot springs heated to 40-45°C, too; men and women bathe separately for Dhs10. The park also has areas designated for barbecues, camping and chalets.
13. The Camel Souk
For an authentic Emirati experience – The livestock market runs all day but trading is busiest in the morning. As well as a chance to see thousands of camels, goats and sheep up close as you tour their pens, the souk gives you the opportunity to listen to Arab traders discussing the price and merits of their animals. You can also buy plants and stroke baby camels. Women should dress conservatively and if you take photos, carry Dhs10-20 change to tip the owners.
Daily 6am-7pm. Street 137 (Zayed Bin Sultan Street), also known as Mezyad Road, behind Bawadi Mall.
So those are my top things to do in Al Ain please do add any other suggestions in the comments if you have been and can recommend anything else…
Dinner and night life
The Rugby Club
We have spend a few nights here, the food is awesome pub grub both food and drink super cheap!
Al Ain Rotana’s
Ttraditional Lebanese restaurant, Min Zaman, which has a terrace overlooking the hotel’s pool and garden. You can smoke shisha there while listening to an Arabic band playing the oud, a pear-shaped string instrument. A belly dancer provides additional entertainment while you dine on mezze such as stuffed vine leaves, halloumi and zaatar salad.
Danat Al Ain Resort
Tucked behind an elaborate gold door, Tanjore is a hidden gem. Arrive early and you’ll be seated in a cosy waiting area decorated with embroidered cushions and tasselled rugs hanging from beams. The restaurant’s alcove seating is just as snug, as it’s lit by lanterns, candles and light from the open kitchen. There’s an intimate cellar feel, so at night it’s a suitable venue for a date. The extensive menu has no surprises but you’re guaranteed to enjoy your meal, as the staff are happy to recommend dishes – they might even bring a herb to the table to help you decide. Portions are generous and the menu has healthy, nut and spicy options.
Or opt for an Italian dinner at Luce. Once everyone’s finished eating, the restaurant transforms into a night club with a popular dance floor.
Sun-Thu 7pm-2am (11pm last orders), Fri-Sat 7pm-3am. www.alain.danathotels.com (03 704 6000)
If you still have energy afterwards, have a drink in the English pub, the Horse and Jockey, next door, or hang out at Shooters, a pool and dart bar.
Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 7.30pm-11pm. Details above
Hilton Al Ain
5km from the zoo, and a good option for dinner and drinks.
Its Japanese restaurant is stylish, with black walls, traditional paintings and sliding shoji doors. With just 10 tables and a sushi counter that seats five, Toki is compact – so book ahead. Sit at the counter if you’d like to watch the chefs prepare sushi, or in one of the two booths if you want privacy and an authentic Japanese experience. For one of them you’ll need to remove your footwear. Staff are Japanese, and are attentive and polite. The menu has a wide selection of quality sushi, sashimi, noodles and fried dishes.
Daily 6pm-11pm. www3.hilton.com (03 768 6666).
Pop into Paco’s, Hilton Al Ain Tex-Mex restaurant, which also has live music. Its resident band, Bolt, play a mix of chart music with a rock flare Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Sun-Thu noon-1am, Fri-Sat 2pm-2am. Details above.
The best hotel I believe is the Al Ain Rotana – full overview in below blog post
Another option slap bang in the middle of the city, a new four-star hotel with 153 rooms and suites, is a good bet. The price of a night’s stay includes the use of the hotel’s fitness studio, which has a gym, sauna, steam room, men and women’s Jacuzzis and an indoor pool, but if you just want a night in then make use of the films on demand service and the pillow menu, which has five options.
Double room Dhs500, including breakfast. Al Muttaredh, behind NMC Speciality Hospital, www.aylahotels.com (03 761 0111).
We drove but you can get a taxi which costs around Dhs20o or their are buses