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An oasis in the heart of Al Ain

posted on 10/10/2005: 8920 views

Al Ain Oasis, one of the city's seven oases, is attracting tourists from all over the country. A big date palm oasis located in the heart of the city has been emerging as a new attraction in Al Ain, luring tourists and young adventurers from all over the country Al Ain Oasis, one of the city's seven oases, has been protected and developed for its tourism potential. It has eight entrances, some of which have arched gates.

The oasis has been maintained in a way that highlights the country's Bedouin culture and traditions. Many old style houses, mainly used as storages and accommodation for farm workers, plus mosques, restaurants, rest areas and narrow pathways are present-day features.

The oasis is divided into numerous sections for date farming and they are owned by various departments, sheikhs and other nationals. All the plantations in the oasis are walled off and irrigated by falaj, an ancient irrigation system of narrow waterways that was first used as early as 1000BC. The water comes from the mountains about 30 kilometres away.

The city, due to its fertility and date palms, was an important crossroads on ancient trading routes. The rulers of the area built two majestic forts at the eastern and western edges of Al Ain Oasis for defence purposes.

Both forts now house museums. The fort on the western edge was used by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan when he was the Ruler's representative in the Eastern Region. Many of his personal belongings such as a vintage Land Rover are on display here.

The fort on the eastern edge houses the National Museum, which contains a vast collection of relics from nearby archaeological sites.

According to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, a UAE flag that was taken to the moon on the Apollo 18 mission and brought back along with a piece of moon rock is kept here. The oasis opens at daybreak and closes at 6:30pm daily. Nobody is allowed to enter after sunset. The oasis is a maze of intricate routes and a person can get lost even though directions are clearly marked.

The main streets bear the black marks of car tyres. These marks can point a lost person toward an exit. According to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, the ideal way to explore the oasis and appreciate its tranquil setting is on foot. However, tourists are allowed to enter with their cars.

"It's adventurous to come to this oasis,” said Abdullah Hassan, an Egyptian expatriate. He said he often comes here with his schoolmates and friends. "We form teams and compete to reach a particular place via different paths,” he said, adding that it is safe and highly enjoyable. Al Ain police also patrol the area. The oasis is, however, completely safe and people are not allowed to climb over the five-foot high walls along the pathways. A police officer said this is intended to protect the tourists from insects living in the woods. (The Gulf News Feature)


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