The fourth largest city in the UAE (and the country’s only major inland settlement), Al Ain makes for a pleasant day-trip from Dubai, offering the chance to escape the full-on pace of life on the coast and experience a more laid-back and traditional version of local life.
Al Ain grew up around the large string of oases which dot the desert here. The sprawling main oasis, right in the heart of the city, survives amidst the modern development and offers a beautiful retreat from the modern world, with dozens of little roads twisting between the dense forest of palms.
Elsewhere, the most notable reminders of Al Ain’s past are the string of mud-brick forts which dot the city. These include the fine Al Jahili fort and the Al Ain Palace, both recently reopened as low-key museums, and the quaint Eastern Fort. The interesting Al Ain National Museum, next door to the Eastern Fort, is also worth a look, as is the colourful food market nearby.
Buses for Al Ain leave hourly from Al Ghubaiba station in Bur Dubai (just behind the Shindagha Tower). The journey takes around 90 minutes to 2hr, depending on traffic.