It was mid-July, it felt like a heater was on outside and we went for one day trip to Al Ain, home of the highest point in the country. Al Ain is also considered one of the greenest cities in the UAE. It is the second biggest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and it’s located by the Omani border, around 160km from Dubai.
We borrowed a car and picked up Magda’s friend Justyna in the morning. Only after this trip did I realise I was not allowed to drive, as from the moment I get a residence visa, my Portuguese driver’s license is not valid anymore unless I change it for the Emirati one. Nothing bad happened though.
Our first stop was in Jebel Hafeet Mountain. With an elevation of 1250m, it’s the highest mountain in the UAE. The way up is very smooth and beautiful. There are barbeque areas along the way, so if you want to picnic with your family or friends, this is a great escape from everyday stress. At the very top, there isn’t anything really worth seeing besides the breathtaking views. There is a small restaurant and a big car parking. The mountain itself is very dry and lifeless, but the trip to the top and the views make it a definite must. There is a Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Hotel by which we stopped for a drink, rest a bit and take some pictures. This hotel has a great pool and a small mini golf course. We didn’t have our swim suits and it was so hot… The views were again astonishing. We tried to find a cache (geocaching.com) nearby but our internet connection was so slow that it was impossible to know exactly where it was and we had to give up.
From there we went to a date oasis and still had time to stop in Al Ain FC stadium for some pictures. The oasis is like a Palm Tree farm with narrow streets between the fields of palms. I was surprised that they let us in with the car so easily. We drove around for a while and I still don’t know what would have happened if another car were to come in my direction as there was absolutely no space for two cars to pass by one another. We eventually stopped the car and wandered around a bit. It was very interesting for me to understand how this process develops, especially because before this day I had no idea where dates came from.
We were starting to get a bit hungry but it was Ramadan and therefore we had to wait until sunset to be able to eat somewhere. We decided to stop at a random, but very nice, restaurant in the city center. It was a buffet style dinner but the interesting is that when we sat, it wasn’t sunset time yet. We waited for about 20 minutes but everyone else was waiting for around 15 or 16 hours since the last time they had their last drop of water or piece of food. Impressive to watch them pouring water in their glasses but patiently waiting for the right time while talking to the person next to them. More than one person came to us and told us we could start if we wanted as we weren’t fasting and we didn’t have to wait. I think we were the only non-Muslims in that restaurant and we kindly declined and waited like the rest of the people. The food was lying there, waiting to be grabbed. As soon as we heard the prayers from the nearest mosque, normality returned and everybody made line to take their part in the food frenzy. After I finished my food, I went out to the street for a quick smoke and ended up chatting with the restaurant’s chef. It never crossed my mind how on earth could a chef cook such a variety of foods while fasting. I asked “but you can’t taste the food? How do you know when it’s seasoned correctly?” He said: ”I smell it”!
More photos from UAE here.