Al Ain is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With a population of 614,180 (2008 estimate), Al Ain is dubbed the Garden City of the UAE. It is located in Abu Dhabi, directly adjacent to the border with Oman. The freeways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the center of the country, each city roughly 150 kilometers from the other two.
The area, historically known as the Buraimi Oasis, has been continuously inhabited for more than four thousand years and Al Ain is considered central to the cultural heritage of the country. It is the birthplace of Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates. Today the name Buraimi refers to the Omani town whose urban area merges with that of Al Ain. Until September 14, 2006, Al Ain and Buraimi enjoyed an open border and functioned as one. On September 14th, the UAE government closed the open border and required all individuals to clear immigrations both entering and leaving the UAE. Gulf nationals cross the border at the main crossing whereas, expats are required to cross at either the Hili or "Intercontinental" border crossings.
There are numerous underground water springs in the area, which explain its attractiveness as an area of settlement. Traces of its traditional past remain, including camel racing and breeding. The ancient falaj system of irrigation is still in use in some areas distributing underground water by a network of tunnels emerging eventually into open channels whose flow can be directed and regulated.
Al Ain is located in the Eastern region of Abu Dhabi Emirate just south of Dubai and east of Abu Dhabi. The Eastern region covers an area of approximately 13,100 km. 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 unique and varies as you travel to the east. Jebel Hafeet (Hafeet mountain) is considered one of the monuments of Al Ain and lie just to the southeast and rises up to 1,300 meters in elevation. Sand dunes that vary in texture and are tinged red with iron oxide lie to the north and east of Al Ain.
In Al Ain, the mean annual rainfall is 96 mm and the average relative humidity is 60% . 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 area, 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 (100120 mm) from the period 1970 to 1992.
Present Al Ain
Al Ain has a higher proportion of Emirati nationals than elsewhere in the country, however the majority of its residents are expatriates particularly from the Indian sub-continent. Many people are from Pakistan. There are fewer Western expatriates than in the larger centers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This gives Al Ain a more authentic Arabic look and feel compared to the larger and more cosmopilitan cities of the Emirates.
It is often called the 'Garden City of the Gulf' given the many parks, tree-lined avenues and decorative roundabouts within the city. Strict height controls on new buildings, to no more than four floors, emphasises the greenery of the city.
Tourism & Recreation
Al Ain is developing as a tourist destination. It regularly records the highest summer temperatures in the country, but 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, the Al Ain Palace Museum, several restored forts and the Hili archaeological site, dating back to the Bronze Age. Jebel Hafeet, a 1340 metre high mountain dominates the surrounding area. A visit to the mineral springs at the base and a drive to the top of this mountain for sunset is popular. Other attractions include the Al Ain Oasis in the city centre and other oases dotted around the area, cool retreats in the middle of the summer heat, a zoo, amusement park named "Fun City", many well maintained parks, most popular with families in the summer evenings, and a heritage village. Another tourist attraction is Central Garden, it a major tourist attraction.
The city is home to the successful association football (soccer) club, Al Ain FC.
Another popular past time for Emiratis and expatriates alike is to spend time in coffee shops and Shisha Cafes. There are many cafes in Al Ain, ranging in sizes and quality.
Known for its underground irrigation system "falaj" which is used to bring water from boreholes to irrigate and water farms and palm trees. Falaj is an ancient irrigation system that dates back thousands of years and is used widely in Oman, UAE, China, Iran and many other countries. Al Ain has 7 oases; the largest is Al Ain Oasis which is located just south of town center and the smallest is Al Jahili oasis. The rest are: Qattara, Al Mutaredh, Al Jimi, Al Muaiji, and Hili.
Commerce and Industry
Al Ain is an important services centre for a wide area extending into Oman. There are two major shopping centres, Al Ain Mall and Al Jimi Mall, as well as traditional souks for fruit & vegetables and livestock. Industry is growing, but still small scale, and includes the Coca Cola bottling plant and a cement works. Service industries such as car sales, mechanics and other artisans are located in the area known as Sanaiya. Social and governmental infrastructure includes United Arab Emirates University, Higher Colleges of Technology, well-equipped medical facilities, including the teaching hospital at Tawam, military training areas and Al Ain International Airport.
Al Ain is home to the main university in the UAE, The United Arab Emirates University and two campuses of the Higher Colleges of Technology. Privately-owned higher education institutions include the Al Ain University of Science and Technology. Many of Al Ain's private schools, catering mainly for the expatriate population, are located in the Al Manseer area. These include a branch of the International School of Choueifat, Liwa International School, the Pakistan Islamia Higher Secondary School, Institute of Applied Technology, and the Al Ain English Speaking School.
Al Ain is the home of Tawam Hospital, a training and research hospital linked with the UAE University. It was officially inaugurated on 17th December 1979. In March 2006 , Johns Hopkins Hospital (Johns Hopkins Medicine International) (JHMI) took over the management of Tawam hospital.
Al Ain Hospital is the general hospital to deliver health services to all Al-Ain patients regardless their nationality. It is located at the Al Jimi district more centrally and is also linked with the UAE University. Al Ain Hospital is still located in old buildings (from the 70s) but a new building is planned to be built up within the next years. AAH serves with approximately 450 beds currently, providing all medical disciplines. In September 2007, Medical University of Vienna International [*] (MUVI) took over the management of AAH.
Sport, Culture and the Arts
Al Ain is a cultural retreat for residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi cities. It is home to a major festival of classical music.
Al Ain City is the home of Al Ain FC which is the most successful football club in the UAE and one of the best in Asia and holds many titles and championships under its belt.