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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Second City

Just like Chicago is the Second City in the US, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has its own Second City, Al Ain.  This town is 160 kilometers from Abu Dhabi City. I still am not used to metric units of measure and prefer to think in terms of miles, feet, inches and Fahrenheit. I believe the United States and Liberia are the only countries in the world to use the old Imperial measures. At .62 kms/mile, Al Ain is approximately 99 good old fashioned miles from my abode on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Metrics are wimpy with all the millimeters, liters and hectares and such!

Abu Dhabi Dispatches Editorial Team, Lake Powell , Arizona Summit Meeting 2009. Your humble servant second from left.

But I digress. Back to the day trip to Al Ain.  Like I said, it is a short day trip on the smooth, fast highway. and I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a French exchange student, Anna-Lou.

We started out using my GPS, but the "Bitching Betty" audio directions proved too irritating. Anna-Lou's sharp eyesight got us where we needed to go, the closer we got to Al Ain, the greener the scenery was. It reminded me of Central Florida, my home state. 

Al Ain is an oasis in the desert and has many natural fresh water springs. It is also the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. A man I admire as he was a true patriot of the UAE as he had only the best wishes for his countrymen in mind. He is the UAE's equivalent of the US's George Washington and is very much loved by the Emiratis, for good reason. A great man! He is missed. I would have liked to meet him. He seemed a good guy!

Sheikh Zayed

Al Ain Oasis

So anyway, we found the date palm oases in the middle of town, it was a forest of trees with an irrigation system. The whole thing was an elevated alleyway that you could walk or drive on. There were surprises along the way and one could lost in the labyrinth. We saw a lot of animals and a few parrots and a chicken or two. 
Date Palm Trunk

My next house

One of the surprises

Arabic Chic!

Desert Greenery

Next stop is Jebel Hafeet. An improbable rock jutting 4000 feet (1200 meters) out of the desert floor, A very entertaining road leads to a nice hotel at the top. I saw a lot of cars puking Prestone on the way up and smelled melting brakes on the way down. Some auto manufacturers use this road as a proving ground as its average 8 percent grade puts cars to their limits.

Road up Jebel Hafeet

Google Earth View of Jebel Hafeet Road


View from Jebel Hafeet

And Another

Mon Navigateur

Who says there is no scenery in Arabia?

Al Ain is a fun and doable day trip from Abu Dhabi. Although I found the drivers even more crazy than here. Every effen roundabout is its own mini Indy 500. I survived, though and will live to race another day


Anonymous said...

Who says there is no scenery in Arabia?

You need to visit Fujairah and Khor Fakkan then Ace. Al Ain and Abu Dhabi has nothing against those places in terms of mountains, sand dunes, and beaches.

Ace said...

Check, check and check. I plan on Oman, specifically Mussandam. Fujairah, too, I need to get out more!

Anonymous said...

Mussandam, khor fakkan, and Fujairah are all in the same straight line. No, you get out too often, but I guess its best to go before hell officially starts, and its almost starting to get too hot to sit in a car, so we have about 3 weeks left. I was in Khor Fakkan this weekend! lol. Enjoy our last 3 weeks!

Ace said...

It will get hot soon and that's when the alcoholic stuff really kicks in.

Too hot to go outside and nothing left to do but sit around the Flat scratching my nuts and drinking beer

Chuck said...

Road trips are always fun and a nice break from getting on airplanes to go somewhere. Glad you had a fun time!

hemlock said...

lol. i go all the way from dubai just to drive up jabel e hafeet.
then i drive back down and come back home.

it's still totally worth it =)

Anonymous said...

Subtlety is better than force. ......................................................

Dave said...

Nice photo's and scenery. And good to see you showing Anna-Lou the sights of the UAE...

Texan in UAE said...

Nice blog and welcome to UAE!

We loved Jabel hafeet! we went in Jan. We stayed at the hotel up there. The scenery was amazing. Thumbs up to, Jabel hafeet!

Ultra blue, we wanna go to visit Fujairah! insha'a'Allah (God's willing) I hear the views are amazing! soonish, insh'aa'Allah.

Ace said...

Texan in UAE...good to here from another American here....that makes about 4 or 5 of us! LOL!

The road to Jebel Hafeet was recognized by as one of the best drives in the world. I concur!

Very demanding on the machines, though!

Best enjoyed on a motorcycle, methinks.

Anna-Lou said...

Go to Al Aïn in Jeep was a good trip, even if this car is too big for me :)
It was nice to walk in the Oasis, heard the birds sing, see the Palm trees !
And Randy you MUST go to Oman ASAP :)It's better than Al Aïn !

Neil Roberts said...

Nice piccies from Al Ain Ace. Were you using HDR on some of them? (sorry.. boring photography talk)

Rootless said...

Al Ain is nice - cap it off by tooting for wonderful takeaway schwarmas from Al Mallah in the town centre which should be eaten in the lovely park by the impressive Jahili fort with all the Pakistani workers - a real UAE experience.. Pity about the border fence of course - a certain toothless one is not too popular with the residents of Buraimi for that. His father would certainly never have countenanced it..
And the road up Jebel Hafeet is nothing compared to the road up to the Saiq plateau on Jebel Akhdar in Oman (about 4 hours drive from Al Ain) - there is even a military checkpoint which only allows 4x4s to pass (even though the road is fully paved). And then when you get up there you have the amazing terraced farm villages, green shards (hence the name) tumbling down the sides of the plateau - just stunning, far more spectacular than anything in the UAE. Oman is a real treasure. Magical atmospheric villages and towns like Bahla with the wizards and the incredible fort and 11km city wall a thousand years old, stunning Misfat Al Abri'yeen, Nizwa fort and souk, the falaj in Birkat al Mawz, the deserted villages in Wadi Ghul. And the amazing mountain scenery - if your vehicle can stand it, drive up to the plateau near the peak of Jebel Shams (much higher than Hafeet) and peer into Wadi Nakhr, Oman's nswer to the grand canyon. (Skip Al Hoota cave unless you have lots of time). And that's just the Dakhiliya (interior). On the coast you have Muscat and Sohar with Rustaq and the Wadi Bani Awf, the springs of Nakhal, delicious halwa from Barka. I haven't yet been to Sur or Salalah but looking forward to both. And Omanis are so friendly - it's nice to actually find locals checking you into your hotel, helping you in shops or cooking and serving your food. It's a real Arabian experience. It helps that my best friend is Omani - but he doesn't even seem to appreciate all his country has to offer.
Sorry I got carried away there! BTW, the Omani border point at Hafeet (friendly but not very efficient, which sums up the country) has some great free tourist information and maps. The only downside to Oman is that accommodation is scarce and expensive, especially in Muscat. You pay quite a lot for very mediocre standards.

Fujairah and Khor Fakkan are nice (get to KF via Hatta: turn left about 1 km towards the border after the Hatta Fort hotel roundabout onto the stark lunar landscape-bound mountain road towards Al Huwaylat, turn right at the village roundabout along the wadi road to the military base and then drive along the "semi-legal" gravel road along the border fence which eventually leads to a paved road near KF - shorter and much more fun than going the long way round). But Oman is so worth the extra time and effort.

Ace said...

@ Neil, I am not entirely sure what HDR is but I think it is a layering of images. I will Google it and learn. Just good old Picassa enhancing for me now.

My camera is a Canon Power Shot SX10IS with a 20X zoom. Nothing fancy I am a big fan of zooms, though.

@Rootless: Thanks so much for the suggestions! I am saving your comment to a file for when I get to the Omani side of the border. I have never heard a bad thing about Oman and really look forward to going there and will follow your recommendations. I have a Jeep Wrangler so I am equipped with a capable vehicle for the more rustic areas.

I regret I have not been to Oman yet but sometimes I suffer from a great deal of "Personal Inertia" sometimes. I am working on that.

@Anna-Lou: you are so Tres Petite we have to get you a pillow to sit on for future adventures!

mosha said...

you're showing me parts of my country that I personally have never seen before .. I love the pictures xX

Ace said...

Mosha: I understand, I grew up in a resort town and there are many places I have not seen there that the tourists frequent. Funny how that works!

The Neal said...

I loved this blog; particularly your reference to the "Sand Box"; that's how my co-workers and I all refer to Al Ain, when we are over there working.

I spent a little over a year in Al Ain; you might like my blog as well.
- Neal