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05 March, 2006

Oasis of renewal

"I have been like a desert creature
"Wandering on this earth so cracked and dry
"Only to survive"

When the current horror of Dubai becomes unbearable - with the interminable construction, roadworks and traffic jams - there is only one place in the sandlands to escape to.

The oasis city of Al Ain.

What makes Al Ain so lovely is not its peacefulness, though it is an extremely calm and tranquil place. Nor is it its undeniable beauty: Al Ain is quite simply one of the loveliest cities in the Gulf. Nor even is it its greenery and verdure, being a true garden in the desert, beloved by the late president Sheikh Zayed.

Al Ain is lovely because it has a raison d'être. It is a city that has grown up naturally around an oasis. It has its own natural resources and it has a sense of history. It is not some artificial bubble-town created to woo international businesses, or some recreated faux-Arabesque Al Disneyland with concrete windtowers and fibreglass camels.

If foreigners want to witness true "Arabia" UAE-style, they should come to Al Ain.



Blogger Transparent Soul said...

I hope it remains as beautiful it is...cause I am sure there are people who are just like you there complaining on how "un western" it is to live there...

05 March, 2006 18:27  
Blogger Balushi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

05 March, 2006 18:28  
Blogger Balushi said...

sh it i wanted to be the first one to replay

05 March, 2006 18:32  
Blogger secretdubai said...

cause I am sure there are people who are just like you there complaining on how "un western" it is to live there...

Get a life you sad fuck.

05 March, 2006 18:42  
Blogger unJane said...

We did a wonderful camel safari once from Al Ain back in '96. Does anyone know if they are still available? Also, where do you stay when you go there?

05 March, 2006 18:59  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I've only made day trips.

And a camel safari sounds brilliant - how long was it? Was it very expensive?

Ages ago I visited the camel souq, which was a memorable experience. Expect to pay heavily to escape the place, unless you are extraordinarily assertive ;)

05 March, 2006 19:02  
Blogger Transparent Soul said...

mind your language SD..thought you didn't use "swear" words..I guess you claim many things that you are NOT...but I dont blame you cause I think I touched a sensitive nerve..

05 March, 2006 20:01  
Blogger trobriander said...


My ex. and I were invited to Al Ain twice and was absolutely gorgeous. It was at this place about 15 minutes from the city, and was everything you long for away from Dubai. A well-built country house surrounded by a super nice farm and with lots of domesticated animals. In the morning we made nice breakfast in the open fresh air. It was so tranquil – the sound of the bees was so amplified. Unfortunately, those times remind me of my ex.! LOL

05 March, 2006 20:21  
Blogger secretdubai said...

mind your language SD..thought you didn't use "swear" words..I guess you claim many things that you are NOT...but I dont blame you cause I think I touched a sensitive nerve..

You thought wrong. Here's some more. You're a shit-stirring little turd, and any more trollish crap and I will just delete your stuff. Your initial comment was rude and unwarranted in this entry. If you want to slag me off, go and find that "anti-SD" blog someone kindly created.

05 March, 2006 20:46  
Blogger Transparent Soul said...

hahaha...I feel sorry for you SD.
you are full of sh*t your self..
Please dont come to Al Ain...we would like to keep it clean there...
You cheap english Tart...LOL

05 March, 2006 21:01  
Blogger Transparent Soul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

05 March, 2006 21:01  
Blogger the shadow said...

Aw come on guys let the flame war go already :(

I love Al Ain, it reminds me of what the mood of the country used to be like. I love the chilled out atmosphere especially.

But my main reason for going, besided the atmosphere and plesant change of scenery, is to get my speed kicks on the amazing Jebel Hafeet road.

The only thing I don't like about Al Ain is that they invented the art of retarded driving there. Luckily, the density of the jams is nowhere near Dubai levels.

While we're at it, what else is good to visit in Al Ain? It's changed alot over the years and I have no idea about the new stuff...still using my 1991 map.

05 March, 2006 21:17  
Blogger Papadose said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

05 March, 2006 21:54  
Blogger aussie70 said...

can someone explain what is the "un western" way to live ?? does that mean you don't by a fridge or you don't have a TV ?? What is all this bollocks ! I don't believe there is a western way to live or an unwestern way to live. The world is such a small place now with cosmopolitan cities. Most Arabs are welcoming people and will get out of their way to help foreigners or visitors to their countries. There are a minority who won't, but all in all they will help you and greet you. Most foreigners don't want to see the glitzy towers of Dubai in every emirate and would like to see the real culture and will enjoy it , so I don't really think that all expats in Dubai are your typical airhead Jumeriah Janes who are basically people who didn't have a life back home and are pretending to have one here !!!

05 March, 2006 22:02  
Blogger Papadose said...

Remember when Al Ain Fun City was the biggest theme park around here..
Ofcourse, with all the modern theme parks in Dubai, entertainment is definitely better here..; but somehow Al Ain Fun City will always be that 'special place' with all the memories it holds..

05 March, 2006 22:04  
Blogger Mohamed Elzubeir said...

I've been to Al Ain a few times. I really like the place. Though, I'm not usually there to discover 'Arabia'. I just love their Trader Vic's.. they appear to have a different measuring system, since their drinks have much more alcohol thany any of the two dubai Trader Vic's.. oh and they put a pineapple slice in the Suffering Bastard drink ;)

On a serious note, it really is a lovely city. I enjoyed the drive up (and down) Al Hafeet mountain. It's just not exactly your vibrant town.. the hotels are empty (where most activities would occur). I like going there, but I prefer living in an edgy, tense and continuously morphing city. So far Dubai has been doing the trick, but I look forward to moving on to see other places.

05 March, 2006 22:22  
Blogger Transparent Soul said...

Aussie..I met people like you , but SD is not one these people, she doesnt like the culture of the country and is always on the attack..
I think she fits the description of your last paragraph..
Thanks, :)

05 March, 2006 22:36  
Blogger secretdubai said...

On a serious note, it really is a lovely city. I enjoyed the drive up (and down) Al Hafeet mountain.

Yes - it's an amazing drive. I just wish they had a decent restaurant up the top, an Automatic-style restaurant. There are heaps of good Arabic/Lebanese restaurants in Al Ain, so why not on the mountain top?

I also am really curious as to the bizarre design of the hotel up there. You would expect panoramic views as you enter the hotel, but there are none! There's just a huge wall with no natural light coming from the view side.

05 March, 2006 22:39  
Blogger unJane said...

Regarding the camel safari - I'm sure it wasn't expensive. We started off in a hotel in Al Ain - were driven to the desert's edge in a mini bus and then got into various 4x4's to zoom out into the desert. There was a camel corral (?) out there and we each got on and followed a trail with a guide, stopping about 30 minutes into the trek to get off and watch the sun set then back on for another 30 minutes until we reached 'camp' where an Arabic tent set with majlis style seating was arranged. There was a bonfire outside and a great spread of Arabic food. Several other tourists were there. Some headed straight back. We stayed to eat and enjoy the evening and the rest were camping overnight. It wasn't posh and seemed reasonably authentic with very friendly guides. If I come across any other info, I will let you know. While I am most definitely a city girl myself, it's nice to head out into the sticks on occasion and enjoy the change of scenery.

05 March, 2006 22:39  
Blogger Brn said...

Al Ain is still beautiful and a great place to live, especially if you like a quieter life.

Other have already mentioned Jabal Hafeet, but the oasis in the middle of town is also a great place to visit. Also I would suggest taking in the restored fort on the edge of the oasis - especially if you are interested in the history of the area (Sheikh Zayed lived there before he replaced his brother as ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966).

Hili Fun City has not been very well taken care of, so it is a bit disappointing.

05 March, 2006 23:15  
Blogger the shadow said...

Defenitely interested in the old fort! Perhaps that Al Republican guy, or some of the other local posters here, could offer some other good tips regarding some good historical places to visit in Al Ain.

Last time I was in Al Ain they were building some sort of park at the bottom of Jebel Hafeet, looked like it might involve a man made lake or something. Does anyone know if that project has gone anywhere?

Also, I like that new courtyard style shopping mall in the middle of the city, had a pretty decent seafood restaurant in there.

Not "Madinat Jumeirah standards" for the picky people but a great place to stuff yourself after a day of sightseeing, before hitting the road again for the long journey home.

I guess I'm due for another visit soon (in my shiny and new-and-improved rocket sled) :]

06 March, 2006 00:19  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Not "Madinat Jumeirah standards" for the picky people

You see that's the thing - us truly discerning(!) prefer a bit of authenticity. At the end of the day I'm not here on holiday, the endless five star luxury gets a bit cloying.

Al Ain feels real.

06 March, 2006 00:21  
Blogger UaE MaX said...

here r some pics i found of the new " green mbazara" resort around the hot springs, its not 100% complete. and its packed in the weekends.

06 March, 2006 05:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe I should move, I've had just about enough of Dubai. My time here is definitely limited. I can count the days to my freedom.

06 March, 2006 07:35  
Blogger One Nine Seven One said...

I lived in Al Ain for a while. It certainly takes a little getting used to after the hustle and bustle of DXB and AUH because it is so quiet and perhaps even a little dull.

But after a while the place grows on you. For me Dubai is getting more and more unpleasant by the day..although i still prefer it to any other international city.

06 March, 2006 10:13  
Blogger Acro said...

I just love living in Al-Ain :D

06 March, 2006 11:34  
Blogger al-republican said...

"Perhaps that Al Republican guy, or some of the other local posters here, could offer some other good tips regarding some good historical places to visit in Al Ain."

Hahaha :) I am not an Arab! I know very little of Al-Ain. I was there long ago when I was too young to even sit on some of the rides at that famous entertainment park!

06 March, 2006 12:39  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

Had to throw my 2 cents in on this one, being Al Ain Taxi an'all.

Thos of you after the camel safari from Al Ain, head for the Hilton Hotel and there is an office in there that arranges the for you. Last time I went it was abour 100 dirhams per person for the 1 hour ride followed by refreshments. They'll drive you into the desert near Bina Bint Saud, you have the ride, eat the refreshments and they drive you back to the hotel.

Al Ain is beautiful and peaceful. However, many expats drive to Dubai for a piece of the action as it can be too peaceful here and the constant bumping into the same old folk can drive you a little crazy if you're used to big cities (I'm originally from London). You have to be prepared to drive to Dubai or Abu Dhabi for certain things.

SD, next time you're in Al Ain e mail me alaintaxi at and we can meet up if you like.

06 March, 2006 16:26  
Blogger MJ said...

Alain is the best place to live during the weekdays.

Then the weekend comes, and you just want to go somewhere else for some action!

I just can't stop smiling when I think that it takes me 6 minutes to drive to unvirsity, while all these people in Dubai are suffering all that traffic. Ah.

and the air here is so fresh compared to Dubai!

06 March, 2006 21:49  
Blogger Mohamed Elzubeir said...

Oh, absolutely. The air in Al Ain is spectacular. It is so fresh and clean, it is almost unbelievable. Whenever I go to Al Ain I complain to my friends as to how lucky they are, being able to enjoy the fresh air.

Most interesting thing in Al Ain to me, is the incredible attention given to greenery. In my opinion, the money spent on keeping Al Ain green is the best money ever spent.. more so than any of Dubai's mega-projects. Wonder why they wouldn't do such a thing with greenery? Shame.

07 March, 2006 00:16  
Blogger Harsha said...

Elzubier, been to Zabeel park?

07 March, 2006 09:17  
Blogger MJ said...

Every roundabout in Alain is a park!

07 March, 2006 19:57  
Blogger Stuart Friedman said...

As a visitor,Dubai is fun, but it could be any other major international city (save for the lack of a subway). Al Ain (and Muscat Omat) give you a far better feel for the region.

11 March, 2006 16:58  

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