Exploring Al Ain

Friday is the first day of the weekend in the UAE (and most of the region), but it is much more like “our” Sunday than Saturday. Many, perhaps most, things are closed Friday morning.  After Friday Prayers or Jumu’ah, many families spend the day together doing a variety of activities.  For example, today we ventured out and about and we were absolutely delighted to see so many families, of all faiths, spending time together as a family unit.  I sometimes think that as a society we do not do this enough anymore … we seem to be too busy 🙁

Arabian Leopard
Arabian Leopard

Our first stop today was the Al Ain Zoo, which we quickly discovered is a marvelous zoo.  The habitats are modern and well-designed, both for the animals and the visitors.  The zoo, like the entire city, was incredibly clean and very easy to navigate.  The zoo is home to almost 200 different species, including some very rare animals such as the Arabian oryx, Arabian leopard, and Arabian sand cat. We were especially impressed with the large “mixed” animal habitats that had a variety of animals from a particular region roaming together.  For example, the Mixed African Exhibit had rhinoceros, giraffes, and zebras and the Mixed Arabian Exhibit had Scimitar-horned oryx, Addax, Arabian oryx and Mhorr gazelle.

IMG_8082Our second stop was the Al Ain Oasis, which is one of seven oases in the city.  Today the oasis is large date farm using an intricate irrigation system based on narrow waterways that remain virtually unchanged from when they were built at least 1000 years ago.  A series of tracks meander throughout the oasis providing miles of paths for exploring. The result is a very peaceful area away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Our final stop was Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum.  Build in 1910 the palace was the home of the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his family.  The palace and surrounding grounds provide a glimpse into what life on the desert must have been like 100 years ago.