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A view over <a href="/content/Green_Mubazzarah" style="color:blue">Green Mubazzarah</a> in Al-Ain, at the base of <i><a href="/content/Jebel_Hafeet" style="color:blue">Jebel Hafeet</a></i> (Mount Hafeet)
A view over Green Mubazzarah in Al-Ain, at the base of Jebel Hafeet (Mount Hafeet)

Al Ain (Arabic: ٱلْعَيْن‎, al-ʿayn, literally The Spring)[4] is a city in the Eastern Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, on the United Arab Emirates' border with Oman, adjacent to the town of Al-Buraimi. It is the largest inland city in the Emirates, the fourth-largest overall (after Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah), and the second-largest[2] in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The freeways connecting Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the country, each city being roughly 130 kilometres (81 mi) from the other two.

Al-Ain is known as the "Garden City" (Arabic: مَدِيْنَة ٱلْحَدِيْقَة‎, romanizedMadīnat Al-Ḥadīqah, lit. 'City of The Garden')[1] of Abu Dhabi,[3] the UAE[4] or the Gulf,[5][6] due to its greenery, particularly with regard to the city's oases,[2] parks, tree-lined avenues and decorative roundabouts, with there being strict height controls on new buildings, to no more than seven floors,[8] and according to one author, an oasis around Al-Ain and Al-Hasa in Saudi Arabia are the most important in the Arabian Peninsula.[9] That said, the region of Al-Ain and Al-Buraimi, altogether Tawam[10] or Al-Buraimi Oasis,[7] is of cultural and historical importance.[11] For example, the area witnessed events relevant to the history of Islam during the Rashidun, Umayyad and Abbasid eras, similar to Dibba and Ras Al-Khaimah.[12] It was where Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the United Arab Emirates, spent much of his life, at least since 1927, before becoming the Ruler of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 1966. Though it is often held that he was born in Abu Dhabi,[10][13][14] some hold the view that he was born in Al-Ain.[5][15] Al-Ain may also be the site of the oldest mosque in the country, in the premises of the Sheikh Khalifa Mosque.[16][17]

Climate and geography

Al Ain is located approximately 160 kilometres (99 mi) east of the capital Abu Dhabi, and about 120 kilometres (75 mi) south of Dubai.[20] The eastern region covers an area of approximately 13,100 km2 (5,100 sq mi). Oman lies to the east, Dubai and Sharjah to the north, Abu Dhabi to the west and the Empty Quarter desert and Saudi Arabia to the south. The topography of Al-Ain is unique and varies as one travels to the east. The ecologically important Jebel Hafeet ("Mount Hafeet"),[21] an outlier of the main Hajar range, is considered one of the monuments of Al-Ain, lying just to the south of the city. Rising to 1,100–1,400 metres (0.68–0.87 miles) in elevation,[2][22][23] Jabal Hafeet is one of the highest mountains in the country,[3] and has a number of ridges which stretch to the inner part of the city, two of which are Jabal An-Naqfah[24][25][26] (which touches Al-Ain Oasis),[18][27] and the Western ridge.[28][29] Sand dunes of varying texture that are tinged red with iron oxide lie to the north and east of Al-Ain.

The city has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh), featuring long, extremely hot summers and warm winters. In Al-Ain, the mean annual rainfall is 96 mm (3.8 in) and the average relative humidity is 60% (United Arab Emirates University, 1993). Low humidity in Al-Ain, particularly during the summers, makes it a popular destination for many people at that time of year. Boer (1997) classified the UAE climate as hyper-arid and divided it into four climatic regions: the coastal zone along the Persian Gulf, the mountain areas northeast of UAE, the gravel plains around Al Ain, and the central and southern sand desert. More rainfall and lower temperatures occur in the northeast than in the southern and western regions. The monthly average rainfall around Al-Ain was 100–120 mm (3.9–4.7 in) from the period 1970 to 1992.

To the south of the city, near Oman, there is the man-made Lake Zakher, which resulted from the release of waste water from desalination plants.[30] Also in this region, to the east of Jebel Hafeet, lies the area of Mezyad, which has a border crossing with Oman, and is where the historic Mezyad Fort is located.[18][19]


With a population of 766,936 (as of 2017),[32] it has the highest proportion of Emirati nationals (30.8%) in the country, though the majority of its residents are expatriates, particularly from the Indian subcontinent. Many people are from Bangladesh and Pakistan, and afew people Afghans which is in total 23,000 Afghan approximately in whole U.A.E and majority are from province of Khost.[33]


Al Ain is an important services centre for a wide area extending into Oman. There are three major shopping centres,[34] Al Ain Mall, Al Jimi Mall and Al Bawadi Mall (opened in 2009 in Al Khrair area) as well as traditional souqs for fruit and vegetables and livestock. One such souq exists for camels near an IKEA store and Bawadi Mall on Zayed Bin Sultan Street,[2] the road which leads to Mezyad.[6] Industry is growing, but is still on a small scale, and includes the Coca-Cola bottling plant and the Al Ain Portland Cement Works. The water in Al-Ain is of good quality. Service industries such as car sales, mechanics and other artisans are located in the area known as Sanaiya and Pattan Market. Social and governmental infrastructure include the Higher Colleges of Technology, well-equipped medical facilities including the teaching hospital at Tawam, Al Ain International Airport,[35] and military training areas.. Al Ain also has world's largest Dates processing and marketing Company Al Foah Company LLC ( . Al Foah processes more than 105,000 Metric Tonnes of dates and export to more than 45 countries every year.

History and prehistory

Part of the historically important Western Hajar region,[37][38] the area of Al-Ain or Tawam has been inhabited for nearly 8,000 years, with archaeological sites showing human settlement at places like Al-Rumailah, Hili and Jabel Ḥafeet. These early cultures built "beehive" tombs for their dead and engaged in hunting and gathering in the area. The oases provided water for early farms until the modern age.[18][39] In the 1950s, Sheikh Zayed discovered the tombs, and brought this to the attention of a Danish team, leading to an excavation at the tombs in 1959. In 1971, Al Ain Museum was built to house items from this area. In the 2000s, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage lobbied for its recognition as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and in 2011, Al-Ain became the first World Heritage Site in the UAE to be recognized by UNESCO.[40]

Bronze Age burial sites often re-used materials from earlier burials. For instance, the Wadi Suq communal tomb at Qattara Oasis is thought to have been constructed from stones recovered from previous Umm Al Nar burials.[41]

Finds at Qattara include Wadi Suq era chlorite jugs and bowls and late Bronze Age short swords and daggers. Artefacts recovered also include carnelian jewellery, often associated by UAE historians with trading links to the Indus Valley. A find of particular interest from Qattara is a Bronze Age pendant discovered in the 1970s depicting a double-bodied or entwined pair of horned animals.[42] Made from electrum, an alloy of silver and gold, the motif is found repeated in a number of Bronze Age sites in the UAE. Iron age finds in and around Al Ain include aflāj (underground water channels) in Bidaa bint Saud, Al-Ain and Al-Buraimi which have been placed several centuries prior to the qanats of the Achaemenid Empire, which had previously been credited with the innovation.[43]

Al Ain was originally within the area of influence of the Dhawahir, a Bedouin tribe who settled Dhahirah before Buraimi. A later wave of settlers, the Na'im, have long had an uneasy relationship with the Dhawahir and the two tribes were frequently in dispute.[44] Numbering 4,500, the Dhawahir consists of three subsections: the Daramikah, who populated Hili, Mutared and Qattara; the Jawabir in Al Ain and the Bani Saad who lived in Jimi. Staying in the villages for the summer date season, in winter the community would move throughout the Trucial States.

The area of Tawam had come under the rule of the Wajihid Dynasty in the 9th century CE.[11]

A number of interests jostled for influence over the tribes of Buraimi, including the Sultan of Muscat, the Wahhabis (who had made a number of incursions) and the Sheikhs of the Trucial States, particularly the Bani Yas of Abu Dhabi, who acquired large tracts of land, principally from the Dhawahir. This suzerainy over Al Ain was cemented by Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, known as 'Zayed the Great', a strong and charismatic leader who took the Dhawahir's main settlement 'Ain Dhawahir (the original name of Al Ain) when the tribe rebelled against him in 1877. He built a fort, one of a number of fortifications established by the various interests vying for control over the oasis, to underline his dominion over the oasis and established a wali, appointing a member of the Dhawahir as his headman.[47]

Wilfred Thesiger visited Al-Ain in the late 1940s, during his travels across the Empty Quarter. He met Sheikh Zayed and stayed with him at Al-Muwaiji Fort. An ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Oman led to the Buraimi Dispute, a series of incidents which saw a Saudi armed force enter the oasis. Forces from the Trucial Oman Scouts, as well as the army of Muscat-Oman, arrived to recapture the oasis. With British intervention, the Saudi forces surrendered, leaving the oasis back in the hands of Abu Dhabi and Oman.[7][10]

In 1971, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Hilton Hotel in the area, during her tour of the Persian Gulf. Following independence in 1971, Al Ain experienced rapid growth and investment as part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi,[48] quickly becoming larger and more successful than Oman's Al-Buraimi. In 1972, Oman and Abu Dhabi agreed on the final borders to divide Buraimi and Al Ain. Until Sheikh Zayed's death in 2004, Al Ain's municipal code forbade construction of buildings over four stories, with the exceptions of the Hilton, Danat Al Ain Resort, and Rotana hotels. Until 2006, Buraimi and Al Ain shared an open border. This border was closed in November 2006, and passport controls were imposed.

The city's oases are known for their underground irrigation system (falaj[49] or qanāt) that brings water from boreholes to water farms and palm trees. Falaj irrigation is an ancient system dating back thousands of years, and is used widely in Oman, the UAE, China, Iran and other countries.[50][51] There are seven oases here. The largest is Al Ain Oasis,[52][53][54] near Old Sarooj, and the smallest is Al-Jahili Oasis. The rest are Al Qattara, Al-Muʿtaredh, Al-Jimi, Al-Muwaiji, and Hili.[4]

Examples of aflaj include Falaj Hazza, which is named after Sheikh Zayed's elder brother, Hazza bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and has a district named after it.[7]


The city is known for its combination of modern and pre-modern buildings. The latter offer an insight into the city's and country's cultural heritage.[49]

Al-Ain is home to the main federal university in the UAE, the United Arab Emirates University, and to two campuses of the Higher Colleges of Technology - Al Ain Men's College and Al Ain Women's College. Al-Ain is also the home of Horizon International flight academy, Etihad Airways's cadet pilot training centre. Private higher education institutions include the Al Ain University of Science and Technology and Abu Dhabi University (Al-Ain campus). Al-Ain also houses the eastern zone headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, Abu Dhabi's education authority.

Many of Al-Ain's private schools, catering mainly to the expatriate population, are located in the Al-Manaseer area. They include Al-Ain International school (British curriculum, private school, part of the Aldar group), Al Ain English Speaking School, Al Dhafra Private School, Manor Hall School, Al-Sanawbar School, Liwa International School, Al-Madar International School, Global English School, Emirates Private School, a branch of the International School of Choueifat, and an Institute of Applied Technology campus. Other private schools include the CBSE affiliated school Indian School, Al-Ain, Our Own English High School, Al Adhwa Private School, and Al Ain Juniors School [80] . A new British International School, Belvedere International School is located in the Al Hili district.

Al-Khwarizmi International College has started a Campus at Al-Ain and is offering BBA programme and various other licensed, accredited and approved courses.

The first hospital in Al-Ain was Oasis Hospital, established in 1960 at the invitation of Sheikh Zayed. Oasis serves all nationalities, and provides training for medical students from UAE University. Ground has been broken for a new hospital to be completed in 2011.[55] The hospital is part of CURE International.

Al-Ain is the home of Tawam Hospital, a training and research hospital linked with the UAE University. It was officially inaugurated on 17 December 1979. In March 2006, Johns Hopkins Hospital (Johns Hopkins Medicine International) (JHMI) took over the management of Tawam hospital.[56]

Al Ain Hospital (abbr: AAH, also known as Al-Jimi Hospital) is the general hospital delivering health services to all Al-Ain patients regardless of their nationality. It is centrally located in the Al-Jimi district and is linked with the UAE University. Al-Ain Hospital still occupies old 1970s buildings, but a new building is planned. AAH currently has about 450 beds and provides services in all medical disciplines. In September 2007, the Medical University of Vienna International[57] (MUVI) took over the management of AAH.

Currently, the city's largest mosque is that of Shaikha Salamah.[58] Once the under-construction Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mosque is complete, it is expected to be the largest in the city, and one of the biggest mosques in the country.[49][59]

Al-Ain is connected via the Dubai–Al-Ain Road to Al Faqa' and Dubai in the north, which also connects to Al Madam in the Emirate of Sharjah via Al-Shwaib.[60] It is also connected to Abu Dhabi in the west, Al-Qu'a in the southeast, and Mezyad in the southwest. Bus[3] and taxi[35][61] services are available between these areas.[62] The southern border area of Mezyad lies on the road to Dhank, Ibri and Nizwa in Oman.[19] The city's airport has flights to a few nations.[35]

Tourism and recreation

Al-Ain is developing as a tourist destination. The dry desert air makes it a welcome retreat from the coastal humidity of the larger cities. Many Emirati nationals in Abu Dhabi have holiday houses in the city making it a popular weekend destination for families from the capital city. Its attractions include the Al Ain National Museum,[63][64] the Al Ain Palace Museum, several restored forts and the Hili Archaeological Park site, dating back to the Bronze Age. Jebel Hafeet dominates the surrounding area. It is popular to visit to the mineral springs at Green Mubazzarah at the base of the mountain,[65] and to drive to the mountaintop at sunset. Other attractions include Al Ain Zoo, an amusement park named "Hili Fun City", many well-maintained parks popular with families in the summer evenings, and a heritage village. Opened in 2012, Wadi Adventure is located near Jebel Hafeet and provides a range of water-based activities including surfing, kayaking and rafting. On top of Jabel Hafeet is the Mercure Hotel. Mount Hafeet and the nearby 'beehive' tombs are part of what is known as "Jebel Hafeet Desert Park"[18][66] or "Mezyad Desert Park",[46] which is meant to preserve the nature and geology of the area, besides attracting tourists.[67]

Al-Ain has five major malls — Al Ain Mall in the town centre, Al-Jimi Mall in Al-Jimi District, Bawadi Mall in Al-Khrair District, Remal Mall located in the Sanaiya district, and Hili Mall located in the Hili District. Most commercial activity is centred in and around town centre. Another popular pastime for Emiratis and expatriates alike is spending time in coffee shops and shisha cafes. There are many Café's in Al-Ain, ranging in size and quality. The city also has an International standard go-kart circuit. Al-Ain Raceway was selected to host the 2007 Rotax Max World Karting Finals, an event which saw 220 drivers from over 55 different countries compete for the Karting world title. Al-Ain Raceway opened to the general public in May 2008 and proves a popular activity for local Emiratis and tourists alike. It was announced in late 2010 that the 2011 Rotax Max World Karting Finals will be held at Al-Ain Raceway, this will bring nearly 1000 tourists to the small garden city. Like the rest of the UAE, Al-Ain has strict laws governing the consumption and distribution of alcohol. Five facilities in the city currently serve alcohol, Four of which are hotels. Al-Ain Rotana, Hilton, Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet and Danat Al-Ain Resort, hotels all have pubs, bars, or night clubs. In addition to the hotels, the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club[68] in Al-Maqam also serves alcohol. Currently, there are only four locations that sell alcohol for private use — Spinneys near Al-Jimi District, an outlet to the left of the Hilton hotel (next to the hotel's staff quarters), High Spirits Bottle Shop behind Lulu Hypermarket Sana‘iya and the North Africa Market in Sanaiya. The city has two English-language radio stations — 100.1 Star FM, which plays English-speaking hits alternating with Arabic-speaking hits, and 105.2 Abu Dhabi Classic FM, which plays classical music.

Sport, culture, and arts

Al-Ain is a cultural retreat for residents of the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is home to a major festival of classical music, and is the home of Al Ain Club, which is one of the most successful football clubs in the UAE and Asia.[69] It has many titles and championships to its name.[70] Al-Ain Club contains also eight other games which are: handball, volleyball, basketball, swimming, Table Tennis, Athletics, Jiu jitsu, and Taekwondo.

Hili Fun City hosts two ice hockey teams, the Al Ain Vipers[71] and Ghantoot. Each team has adult and youth teams starting from age 4. The Al-Ain Vipers Men's Team won the Emirates Hockey League in the 2009-10 season.

The Palm Resort to the west of the town hosts a popular rugby club with adult and youth teams, and the Al-Ain International Soccer Club which has three youth teams, including one for 7-9 year old's. There is a water sports centre called "Wadi Adventure", with a wave pool and surf instructors. Additionally, the park has facilities for kayaking and rafting on an artificial river.

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