Over the last few years, as transport links and business opportunities have improved, more and more expats are living in Al Ain and appreciating all that this desert city has to offer. To live in Al Ain is to know the real UAE, where ancient culture and customs thrive alongside modern enterprise.
Al Ain is nowhere near as vast as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but the intense heat makes walking for more than a few minutes a near impossible task. There is a public bus service that operates in and around Al Ain, but it is crowded and unreliable, so the best way of getting around is by car or taxi. Taxis are inexpensive and plentiful, although you should always make sure that you are in a licensed taxi that uses a meter. If you are driving, remember that cars drive on the right hand side of the road. The roads are generally straight and well-tended, but speeding is common along the long desert highways, so exercise caution.
Al Ain is known as the Garden City, as it is an oasis of greenery among the endless Emirates desert: the city is home to a beautiful inner city oasis with just under 150,000 date palms and a rich biodiversity.
It is famous as the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the first president of the UAE and the head of the current royal dynasty. The Al Ain Palace Museum is a great place to learn more about the rich culture of the Emirati royals, while the Al Ain National Museum offers a glimpse into the city’s long history.
Al Ain has been populated for at least 4,000 years, and there is a fascinating archaeological site at Hili, which dates back to the Bronze Age. For kids, Al Ain Zoo and the Hili Fun City are popular amusement parks, while the city’s malls offer plenty of entertainment options as well as shopping.
Al Ain is a relatively safe and secure city for both expatriates and locals, but some caution should be exercised when it comes to following local customs. The United Arab Emirates are very conservative, but while Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become westernized in recent years, Al Ain is still very traditional.
Women will be expected to cover their shoulders and knees in all public places, and it is advisable that they cover their heads when near religious or state buildings. The consumption of alcohol is forbidden outside of the city’s five regulated premises, and you must have a license to keep alcohol in your own home. These laws are strictly enforced in Al Ain, and it is not a good idea to risk flouting the law as an expat, as hefty fines or even prison sentences might be the consequence.