Mud-brick tower of Eastern Fort, Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates

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Al Ain

Fed by natural springs and set amid date-palm plantations, Al Ain was once a vital pit-stop on the caravan route between Oman and the Gulf and is the birthplace of the United Arab Emirates' founding father, Sheikh Zayed. This sprawling city, radiating out from the green heart of its central oasis, is a laid-back place. Its lack of ultramodern skyscrapers, preserved fort and smattering of Unesco World Heritage sites has given it a reputation as a cultural hub, while the zoo and Wadi Adventure water park are popular family destinations on the weekend. It's all loomed over by the craggy contours of Jebel Hafeet just south of town. Drive up the snaking road to the summit for sweeping views of the arid splendour of the Empty Quarter along the way.


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