1 Al Ain
90 minutesBest for:
A family day trip – it’s relaxed, kid-friendly and not too taxing.The trip:
The drive to Al Ain is fuss-free: get on the Al Ain Road (Route 66) and drive. The road passes Dubai Outlet Mall, the turn-off to the camel market, Lisali fort and much more – about an hour in, the view of beautifully ochre dunes and smatterings of date farms makes for a lovely drive. It took us about an hour and a half to reach Al Ain Zoo (Dhs15 for adults, Dhs5 for children aged three to 12, free for children under three.Open daily 9am-8pm, www.awpr.ae, 03 782 0181).
We bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the zoo’s quality. A few hours spent here will enable you to spy gorillas, leopards, white tigers, cheetahs, oryx, emus, rhinos (which seem to be almost without fences), giraffes and more. Also, unlike some zoos in the region, the enclosures are large and varied, meaning a visit is enlightening, not depressing – it’s clear that the zoo that works hard to help threatened species. Our tip? Go in the later afternoon, around 4pm, when the animals are active, and stay for the evening bird show, which runs at various times but always in the evening.
After the zoo (or before, if you go late in the afternoon), follow the signs to Jebel Hafeet – a mountain that borders Oman – and drive up its amazing 11.7km road, which rises 1.4km. There are 21 corners and three lanes, and the road leads to only one hotel (the Mercure Grand), a palace and a parking lot. Coming from countries where the main highway is at times a dirt track, this road is mind boggling.Directions:
From Dubai, take the Al Ain Road (E66) and just drive. Once in Al Ain, follow the brown ‘tourist destinations’ signs until you see a sign for either the zoo or Jebel Hafeet (depending on your chosen destination), then follow those. On the way out, follow the signs for Dubai.