Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Something for the Weekend? Al Ain Nights

Restored Hafit culture tombs on the foothills of Jebel Hafit

Al Ain has many things to recommend it as a weekend getaway - not least of which is its UNESCO World Heritage listed oasis, which provides a lovely walk around shaded date groves latticed with aflaj irrigation channels. There are forts and museums to visit (Al Jahili and Muwaiji Forts, the Palace Museum and the Al Ain National Museum to name just a few) as well as ancient ruins (the Hilli Archaeological Park, Bidaa bint Saud) and, of course,the great rocky outcrop of Jebel Hafit.

Jebel Hafit offers a 13Km uphill run if you fancy it - or if you're sane, you can drive up to the top and look out over the forbidding expanse of the Rub Al Khali. On the way up, you'll pass the Mercure Hotel, which usually offers a reasonable room rate and perfectly pleasant, if lacking in frills, stay. Many of the rooms have amazing views, of course. Down in the foothills on the one side you'll find the 'Green Mubazzara', a resort with en suite lake and fountain, offering chalets and hot springs. Nestled away here you'll also find a tiny old dam (the 'Mubazzara Historical Dam', according to the wee brown sign) built here by Sheikh Zayed during his time as Wali of Al Ain, when he restored much of the broken down irrigation infrastructure of the area.

On the other side of Jebel Hafit, if you follow this here pin, you'll find some odd-looking monuments that wouldn't look out of place in a Star Wars movie. These are restored Hafit Era tombs, a culture so named after this very area. The Hafit people lived, and died, in southeastern Arabia from 3,200 - 2,600 BCE and were, for many reasons, important in our story of the human development of the area.

Star Wars, anyone?

With so much to do around here, you'd be forgiven for wanting to make the journey out and stay overnight and quite right you'd be, too. There are a number of hotels here apart from the heady heights of the Mercure - although the 'big name' chains have sadly abandoned Al Ain. The Hilton Al Ain as was is now the Radisson Blu and the Intercontinental is now the Danat Al Ain. The last time we stayed at the latter (and I mean the last time) there was an almighty punch up in the pub, which had filled up with a bunch of brunchers who were clearly already boiling. Our simple dinner was punctuated with the smashing of glass, flying of fists and spilling of blood. Quite charming, my dear!!!

If you're staying in Al Ain, don't bother looking around for fine dining or anything like it these days - you're looking at hotel buffets and pub grub in the main - and smoky pubs, they are, too! The sole light in the Al Ain dining out gloom is Trader Vic's at the Al Ain Rotana - also, sadly, smoky.

Don't let that put you off - but do be prepared to eat badly and expensively unless you're up for Trader Vic's, in which case you'll eat perfectly well but expensively. Or room service, which might be a lovely idea if you can sit out on your balcony at the Mercure and enjoy the cool winter evening with a little something you thought to bring yourself!

If anyone has any better Al Ain dining ideas, please do drop a comment...

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