We spent a full day in Al Ain earlier this fall while we were hosting friends from abroad. Rated highly on TripAdvisor, we decided to take the 2-hour drive from downtown Abu Dhabi to Al Ain to see a new part of UAE and learn more about UAE culture. Read on further for my suggested full day itinerary of Al Ain.
What to expect:
Al Ain is a very quiet city compared to downtown Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We went during October when the weather started to cool down. There were hardly any other tourists along the way and at the attractions but possibly the weather was still too hot. You can expect to see mountainous terrains which is a bit different than other parts of Abu Dhabi. While driving there, you will pass by dozens of large sand dunes and see wild camels and camel farms. Many of the attractions were self-guided and there is not much entertainment available for kids. Visitors love to come here as it is one of the oldest permanently inhabited settlements (and a UNESCO World Heritage site).
Full Day Itinerary
- Visit the Camel Market – when you arrive you will see many shepherds with their flock of sheep or farm of camels in cages or in groups. It looks like an industrial area but they sell/trade their animals here. While we were here, there were not many people around so we did feel a bit out of place. An officer did approach us to provide us a quick overview of the area and to let us know to be cautious as some of the camels do bite. As well, do not offer any money to any of the vendors in exchange for photos or a tour. The men are happy to provide a tour of their camel farm/ flock for free. Al Ain is known for this market as it is one of the last few camel markets that exists.
- Al Ain Oasis – the oasis is rated highly on TripAdvisor as a main activity in Abu Dhabi. However, our group was disappointed as the site itself did not look/feel special. Its mainly an area with lots of palm/date trees, we found a water stream and a mosque. The Oasis was made popular as they use a 3000-year-old falaj irrigation system. From here we walked to the Al Jahili Fort and the Al Ain National Museum. The Fort was a bit underwhelming as there was not much else there. We went inside the Museum which had in place some history and living styles back then. The exhibits showcased different artifacts from pottery, to clothing to boats they used.
- Al Ain Zoo – the whole family will enjoy their time at the Zoo, home to more than 4000 animals. You can get a camel ride here, along with visit a petting zoo and enjoy feeding the giraffes.
- Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum – this was an interesting visit to see the home of the UAE founder. We went through his palace and I was surprised to see how many sitting rooms there were.
- Jebel Hafeet – the best part of the day was taking a 1240 metre drive up the Jabel Hafeet. It is the highest mountain peak in Abu Dhabi (2nd in UAE). You will find the drives has nicely paved roads with fun curvy turns – currently labelled as one of the world’s best drives! 4×4 vehicle not required! The best time is to come here is for the sun-set to see all the amazing colors of the sky overlooking Al Ain. There is a restaurant, a hotel and a few cafes at the top.