Perfect spots for a cultural retreat…

Al Ain, the UAE’s Garden City, packs something for everyone. Whether it is cultural richness, history and heritage, or nature you’re after, the city showcases everything you shouldn’t be missing out on when it comes to an alternative side to the Emirates.

Here are 7 amazing things to do in Al Ain 

Al Ain Palace Museum

This re-instated fort was once home to the Founding Father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who lived here before moving to Abu Dhabi in 1966. The bedouin-style structure houses a culturally immersive experience of life in the emirate before the discovery of oil, exhibits that give insights into the origin story of the Founding Father, and a room devoted to the Holy Quran including teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), inscribed on the ceiling.

Al Ain Palace Museum, Al Mutawaa, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 7pm daily. Tel: (0)3 711 8388

Al Jahili Fort

This heritage-infused site that was built close to two centuries ago is one of the largest that has ever been built in the UAE. Initially, Al Jahili Fort served as the summer residence of HH Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan before British forces assumed military use of the tower until 1970. Today, with major refurbishment completed and the addition of visitor features, Al Jahili Fort is home to a whole host of exhibitions.

Al Jahili Fort, Castle Park, Al Ain, 9am to 7pm daily. Tel: (0)3 711 8311

Al Qattara Arts Centre

Al Qattara Murals

Housed in a traditional mud-brick tower house, this arts centre strives to provide both a stage for the creative works of locally-based talent, and a platform to create them. Inside, you can find art, archaeological and heritage exhibits, dedicated spaces for music, handicrafts, drawing and painting, workshopping space, a digital room for photography and a special calligraphy studio. In addition to the itinerary of classes, Qattara Arts Centre also has numerous cultural exhibitions for the public.

Al Qattara Arts Centre, 124th Street, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 8pm daily. Tel: (0)3 711 8225

Al Ain Oasis

Al Ain Oasis GettyImages-1230794444

Al Ain Oasis was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2011. Spread over a vast 3,000 acres, it is one of the world’s oldest permanently inhabited settlements, dating back more than 4,000 years. Wander through its tranquil pathways, with more than 147,000 date palm trees providing a lovely green canopy, on a scenic walk and simply marvel at its beauty.

Al Ain Oasis, Central District, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 5.30pm daily. Tel: (0)3 711 8251

Zaman Lawal Heritage Village

Housed at Telal Resort Al Ain, the Zaman Lawal Heritage Village lets you step back in time to the Bedouin era. It features a traditional souq where you can shop for local crafts. Explore the House of Pearls, which showcases the region’s rich pearl diving history; Al Masjid, the Islamic place of prayer; and a traditional Arabic restaurant, Khattar, serving up traditional Middle Eastern flavours to savour as part of your culturally enriching experience.

Zaman Lawal Heritage Village, Telal Resort Al Ain, Remah. Tel: (0)3 702 0000. @telalresortalain

Qasr Al Muwaiji

Qasr Al Muwaiji is a permanent exhibition at Al Ain Palace, and is housed in a stunning glass building in the main site’s courtyard. Here, you can follow the origin story of the palace and its famous former resident, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The visionary Sheikh was born and raised in Qasr Al Muwaiji, which makes this special location the perfect place for illuminating the life of the UAE’s late ruler.

Qasr Al Muwaiji, Al Muwaiji, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 7pm daily. Tel: (0)3 711 8222

Al Ain Zoo

Al Ain Zoo

Get close to some of nature’s finest at Al Ain Zoo. Here, visitors can have breakfast with giraffes, get up, close and personal with some penguins, and more. If you’re more the type that prefers a safari-style experience, the Al Ain Zoo offers one across a 217-hectare stretch at the foothills of wonderful Jebel Jais. Keep an eye out for Africa’s Big Five, as well as zebra, ostrich, and many members of the deer family.

Al Ain Zoo, Shiab Al Ashkar, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 6pm daily. @alainzoouae

Words: Alice Holtham and Dinesh Ramanathan
Images: Getty Images and supplied