1. Al Ain Palace Museum This noble compound was the home of the late UAE founder, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was built in the late 1930s, renovated in the late 1990s, and eventually became a museum in 2001. You can meander around its courtyards, step inside the majlis (meeting room) where the Sheikh used to receive visitors, explore the old kitchen, and see some of the private bedrooms of the ruling family. Take the opportunity to learn about traditional Emirati crafts by attending one of the several free workshops covering the crafts of Sadu, pottery, Tali, ropes, and Burqa, currently on offer at the palace until April 2019.
2. Al Ain National Museum For a deeper insight into what life used to be like in the country before the discovery of oil, stop at this fascinating museum. It houses ancient handwritten copies of the Holy Quran, agricultural tools, and jewellery, as well as antiquities such as stone tools and beautiful pottery from the country’s ancient past, beginning with the Stone Age and ending with the Islamic Age.
3. Al Ain Oasis Located in the heart of the city, this oasis is spread over nearly 3,000 acres and contains more than 147,000 centuries-old date palms, which grow on various plantations, many of which are still working farms today. Irrigation systems known as aflaj have existed in the Al Ain region for thousands of years. By way of a series of underground and surface channels, water was carried across the desert to large oases. You can see and learn more about these too. The onsite EcoCentre is definitely worth a visit as there are a number of interactive exhibits that provide a lot of information about this delicate oasis ecosystem.
4. Qasr Al Muwaiji This stately fortress is where His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the current President of the United Arab Emirates and the eldest son of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was born. Due to a significant rehabilitation project, there is now a striking glass museum onsite that not only houses exhibits celebrating the life and achievements of Sheikh Khalifa, but is also home to displays about the history of the building and fascinating archaeological finds from the region.
5. Al Jahili Fort Surrounded by a manicured, verdant park, this fort, which looks like a sandcastle, was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a royal summer residence. It was also the birthplace of the country’s founding President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Today, music concerts and notable events are hosted in its courtyards. And don’t miss the excellent permanent exhibit of photographs taken by British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger during his crossings of the Rub’ Al Khali (The Empty Quarter) desert in the 1940s.