Day 2. 7 April 2012. We’ve just finished our quick breakfast in Liwa Hotel and ready for another city hopping. This time is to Al Ain: a city 360km away from Liwa. Unlike our arrival through the middle access road (E45) via Madinat Zayed, our departure is through the east access road (E65) via Hamim. This means we firstly need to drive 66km along two-lane dual carriageway dotted with date-palm plantations and small villages. The road is snaking up and down following geographical contours. It was very pleasant drive, traffic was quite, road is of excellent quality and scenery is just superb.
We stop by at two forts located about 11 km (Al Meel Fort) and 40km (Al Jabbanah Fort) east of Mezaira’a. These two forts are located on your left as you drive toward Hamim, so that you need to make a U-turn in dedicated u-turn point (that safely provided with adequate half-ellipsoidal receiving road on the other side).
Just 2km after turn-off to Qasr Al Sarab Anantara resort (that is another 12km inward) you will see an ADNOC petrol Station in Hamim. After this there is no petrol station (as far as I can remember) for the whole stretch of road E45 (except one small petrol station near Auto Museum). Make sure you either fill up your tank in Mezaira’a and/or in Hamim.
After Hamim, Road E45 is rather straight. It is only two lanes without physical road median, but its broad road shoulders help in ensuring safe overtaking. It seems that unwritten traffic rule is for the overtook vehicle to move aside to road shoulder to give way to overtaking vehicle. Everybody seems know about it. This to be honest helps a lot in keeping away my mounting worry before departure when deciding to use this road to Al Ain. The road is also surprisingly not that silent as claimed by many travelers. The road is mainly used by oil and gas field related workers and supporting vehicles.
Emirates Auto National Museum
About six kilometers after passing Maharqah Waste Landfill, an airplane, pyramid and huge truck dominating view on your right. That’s Emirates Auto National Museum (ENAM, http://www.enam.ae 50AED adult, children free) .
ENAM houses the private collection of Shaikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan with around 200 exhibition items. The collections are housed inside a metal pyramid, except two items located on the yard of the pyramid: the big globe, and portable house.
Shaikh Hamad is also known as Rainbow Sheikh, and it is apparent how his loving of rainbow manifested into his car collections. Look at his rainbow-colored Mercedes, seven Mercedes are colored one in each color of the rainbow for each day of the week. Several other vehicles are also rainbow painted or have a rainbow logo.
Sheikh’s collection seems bought directly from owners, imported from their original places : California Highway Patrol, NYC Taxi, Walt Disney to name a few. Other collections include electric motor vehicles, military vehicles, ambulance, fire truck, and disco car. But, central to the collection is a 5-m high Dodge fitted with complete apartment inside it.
Finished with a rainbow tour, we continued our drive to Al Ain. Along with Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Al Ain forms imaginary equilateral triangle cities, with distance between cities about 140-160km. From Road E65 we drive north to meet Road E11 then drive east to Road E22 Abu Dhabi – Al Ain road
It’s lunch time when we reached Al Ain. I directed my car to Hili. This modern suburb of Al Ain is famous among local residents for its beautiful park and garden. What’s more, the garden and its immediate hinterland are the location of a large number of Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, dating to circa 2500–400 BC. We visited Hili Archaeological Park for a quick lunch break, or say picnic. The main point of interest in this free park is the reconstructed Grand Tomb. Nearby are Hili Settlement and smaller tombs amidst playground and shady grass areas. Though it is weekend the park wears deserted look.
With full stomach we continue to Al Ain Oasis with a stop at Hili Fort. Hili Fort is around fort with central round tower, located at the edge of Hili Oasis.
On the eastern side of Al Ain Oasis is Al Ain National Museum (Sat-Thu 8am-7.30pm Fri 3pm – 7.30 pm, Mon closed, Adults: AED 3 Children under 10: AED 1). The museum, the oldest in the UAE, is located next to the Eastern Fort (or Sultan Fort). Built by the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the museum has an extensive archaeological and ethnographical collection. Reconstructions of a majilis (traditional reception area) and traditional life in general are also very interesting.
Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis in the region basically only open to tourist and owners. Made up of thousands of date palms, the oasis is known for its underground irrigation system “falaj” which brings water from boreholes to water farms and palm trees. The falaj irrigation is an ancient system dating back thousands of years. Tight roads run through the oasis (hardly adequate for two cars passing) , so you can drive through it, or you can walk. A small restaurant/coffee shop (currently closed) is located in the middle.
Though close to Al Ain Oasis, we didn’t visit Al Ain Palace Museum (on the west of Al Ain Oasis) and Al Jahili Fort (further west of Al Ain Oasis).
Our next stop is Al Ain Wildlife Park (daily 9am-8pm, Adult 15 AED, Children 5AED), located on the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet. The park/zoo is well organized, has variety of animals/exhibits, picnic areas and playground and scheduled shows of bird and animals. Currently under construction nearby the park is Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center.
Jebel Hafeet is our last stop in Al AIn. The mountain is actually straddles part of the border with Oman. Its mountain top area where it has big parking lots, restaurant and 360 deg. view, divides the mountain into two for UAE and Oman. At the foothills of Jabal Hafeet lies the Green Mubazarrah, where green meets brown in a very contrasting panorama. There is a lake formed by hot-water springs with a fountain in the middle.
Jebel Hafeet rises 1249 meters and offers an impressive view over the city. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road scales the mountain, extends for about 14km up the mountain, with several viewing platform/stops along the road. There is one stop equipped with playground and one other stop with restaurant. The road, with 21 corners and three lanes (two climbing and one descending) is rated one of the best mountain road.
We stayed one night at Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Hotel, at elevation of 915m, and 2.4km from the top of Jebel Hafeet. Entrance road to hotel is impressive, through a man-made opening of rocky hill cut provides a little surprise after short bend. The large hotel swimming pools at the back of the hotel have stunning over low land areas.