Al Ain

15 Feb

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Abu Dhabi is an island, a city and an emirate: the name applies to all three. So you can live on Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi. And you thought New York, New York was good. Well, Al Ain is Abu Dhabi’s other city.

A bit of history: In the first half of the 20th Century, before the discovery of oil, the movements of the Bedouin people who lived in this harsh desert land were dictated by the seasons. In the cooler winter months they would come to the coast and make a living diving for pearls. As the temperature soared, the humidity at the coast also became intolerable and they would head inland to an oasis where the climate was more bearable. Al Ain was the biggest of these oasis and many Emiratis still have holiday homes there. It was also an important point in the trade routes of the area.

Situated on the border with Oman, the city has remained on a much smaller, and lower, scale than the capital. The minarets of the mosque still tower over the surrounding buildings. Even though you arrive in the city on a palm tree-lined highway the surrounding desert is very apparent, the reddish dunes becoming more dominant the nearer you get. And above it all rises Jebel Hafeet mountain. This was where we were headed when, with a few days off, we figured it was time we explored.

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