With markets, forts, museums and a famous date-palm oasis, Al Ain is a breath of fresh air after the frantic pace of Dubai and even Abu Dhabi, both about a two-hour drive away. On the border with Oman, the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed has greatly benefited from his patronage and passion for greening the desert, even garnering the moniker ‘Garden City’. But the desert is never far away: simply drive the winding road up Jebel Hafeet for sweeping views of the arid splendour that is the Empty Quarter. Al Ain itself is an increasingly dynamic place with a couple of excellent museums, an archaeological park, a superb zoo and a relative abundance of greenery.
Al Ain rubs up against the town of Buraimi across the Omani border. Those who are not citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) must use the Hili border crossing in northern Al Ain and take a short taxi ride to the centre from there. GCC citizens can use the more central Al Mudeef crossing.