Famous Jahili fort in Al Ain oasis, United Arab Emirates

Things to do in  Al Ain

A green oasis in the desert

Backed by sawtooth Al Hajar Mountains, the inland city of Al Ain more than earns its “Garden City” nickname. Designated UNESCO-listed status for its date palm oases, falaj irrigation channels, and Bronze Age relics, travelers find respite here from the United Arab Emirates’ busy Persian Gulf coast. Despite its faint backwater vibe, there’s no shortage of things to do. Absorb its serene oases and preserved forts; unpack its Bedouin roots as the birthplace of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed; and take to its parks and mountains for natural springs, spectacular scenery, and outdoor pursuits.

Top 8 attractions in Al Ain

Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (Qasr al-Ain)

Bordering Al Ain’s UNESCO-listed Oasis in the city center, the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum—or Al Ain Palace Museum, as it’s also known—occupies the former home of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founder. Turned into a museum in 2001, the decorous setting provides a glimpse into his life and local culture up until the 1960s.More

Al Jahili Fort

Al Jahili Fort is one of the most historic buildings in the UAE and one of the region’s largest forts. Built at the end of the 19th century, it served as a summer residence for Sheikh Zayed I, the ruler of Abu Dhabi at the time.The fort has been well preserved and carefully restored and is now a popular cultural attraction for many visitors. It’s set in beautifully landscaped gardens and is home to exhibitions dedicated to both Sheikh Zayed and Sir Wilfred Thesiger, the British explorer, writer, and photographer who crossed the ‘Empty Quarter’ desert twice in the 1940s. There is also a visitor information center on-site.More

Al Ain National Museum

Please note: Al Ain National Museum is temporarily closed. Situated on the edge of Al Ain Oasis in the same complex as the Sultan Bin Zayed Fort (Eastern Fort), the Al Ain National Museum serves to showcase the unique heritage and ancient history of this region.Divided into three distinct sections – Archaeology, Ethnography, and Gifts – the museum's main themes explore the various aspects of UAE history and everyday life. The archaeology displays are particularly extensive, with artefacts dating back to the first millennium BC, including weapons, jewellery, pottery, and coins that were excavated from ancient tomb sites nearby.The ethnography galleries focus on the various aspects of the life of the Bedu desert dwellers, including exhibits on education, marriage, and farming, while the gift section refers to the gifts that Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan received throughout his lifetime. These include Bedouin jewellery, musical instruments, a silver dagger, and even a golden palm tree.More

Al Ain Zoo

Located at the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet mountain, Al Ain Zoo is the largest zoo in the United Arab Emirates and one of the largest in the Middle East. It boasts nearly 200 species and more than 4,000 animals. The zoo is also home to the Sheik Zayed Desert Learning Center, and offers a range of interactive experiences.More

Jebel Hafeet

Hugging the border of the United Arab Emirates and Oman, Jebel Hafeet is the highest peak in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and the second highest in the country. Rising 4,068 feet (1,240 meters) above the barren desert landscape, the mountain offers vast and stunning views of Al Ain and the far-off Oman from its limestone peak.More

Al Ain Oasis

Spread out across 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares), Al Ain Oasis is the largest green space in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and offers a respite from the city’s crowds and heat. The oasis maintains its evergreen appearance year round with the help of wells and falaj—a traditional, underground irrigation system used throughout the country.More

Hili Archeological Park

Since excavations began in the village of Al Hili, located 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Al Ain, began during the 1960s, archaeological teams have uncovered ruins of settlements and tombs dating back to the Bronze Age. By 1995 the site was fully excavated, restored and opened as the Hili Archeological Park. Today, visitors from around the United Arab Emirates and the world come to see the remains of the country’s oldest settlement, where inhabitants once worked in agriculture and the copper trade.Among the highlights of the UNESCO-listed park is a giant tomb where six hundred people were found buried. The two tomb entrances are decorated with reliefs depicting crude human and animal figures. Kids (and their parents) will appreciate the small children’s play area located within the archeological park grounds.More
Wadi Adventure

Wadi Adventure

Tucked below the UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Hafit, on the outskirts of Al Ain, Wadi Adventure—also called Al Ain Adventure—is the Middle East’s first purpose-built water adventure park. Near Jebel Hafit’s natural hot springs, it offers a host of outdoor aquatic sports and family-friendly fun, from white-water rafting to ziplining and aerial ropes.More

All about Al Ain

When to visit

Winter is the most comfortable time to visit Al Ain. The UAE’s extreme summer heat—Al Ain sizzles in average temperatures of 97.5°F (36°C) come July—transitions to relatively mild conditions from December thru March. During this time, the days are sunny and dry, with temperatures usually hovering around a sightseeing-friendly 82°F (28°C). If you’re here in February, the city’s annual DAZ Festival sees carnival rides, international food stalls, and kids’ activities light up the gardens around Al Jahili Fort.

Getting around

Al Ain has a citywide bus system, but services can be crowded and timetables a little hit and miss. Consequently, most visitors hire cabs or self-drive cars, especially if they’re only here for a short time. Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive, and ride-hailing apps like Uber and Careem are also on hand. Guided tours, which include return transport, are another option to visit Al Ain for a day from Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Traveler tips

Most visitors to Al Ain make a beeline for its central oasis to wander amid its 150,000 date palms and falaj water channels. If time allows, however, don’t miss the smaller, quieter Al Qattara oasis on the city’s northern edges. Something of a hidden gem, this pocket of peace abounds with palms and fruit trees, all of which hide a 4,000-year-old tomb, fortified houses, and a restored souk with stalls selling and showcasing traditional Emirati handicrafts.


People Also Ask

Is Al Ain worth visiting?

Yes, visiting Al Ain is worthwhile, especially as a quick escape from the UAE’s ultra-modern Persian Gulf coast. Crouched against the mountainous border with Oman, the “Garden City” rewards you with palm-shaded oases, restored forts, ancient sites, fascinating museums, and stellar desert-and-mountain scenery, all sprinkled with family-friendly parks and outdoor attractions.

What is Al Ain best known for?

Al Ain is synonymous with natural oases, lush gardens, and the hot springs that gush from under its neighboring Jebel Hafeet mountain. It’s also known as the early home of UAE founding father, Sheikh Zayed; for its Bronze Age archaeological sites; and its rugged desert-mountain landscapes, which entice lovers of the great outdoors.

How many days do you need in Al Ain?

A day trip to Al Ain from elsewhere in the UAE is ideal for getting a taster of its mellow vibe, beautiful scenery, and oases and museums. However, history buffs, sporty types, and families might want to stay a week to fully experience Al Ain’s heritage, kid-friendly attractions, and outdoor adventure offerings.

Can you drink alcohol in Al Ain?

Yes. As in most of the Emirates, visitors can drink alcohol in Al Ain, provided they’re aged 21 or over. However, alcohol is only served in licensed restaurants and bars, mostly inside international hotels. Remember that being intoxicated or just carrying drinks in public is illegal.

How should I spend a day in Al Ain?

Start at Al Ain Palace Museum, the former home of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed, before exploring the Al Jahili Fort, National Museum, and tranquil Al Ain oasis. Later, take in the camel market, view Hili Park’s archaeological relics, visit Jebel Hafeet’s summit and springs, or enjoy watersports at the Al Ain Adventure Park.

Is Al Ain cheaper than Abu Dhabi?

Yes. Al Ain is cheaper than Abu Dhabi and Dubai because it’s smaller and less oriented to tourists, with fewer hotels and blockbuster attractions. As a broad rule, you can expect accommodation, eating out, taxis, and admissions to cost around 25–30% less than in the bigger, coastal cities.

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