Al Ain, the largest city in the Eastern Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), looks set to take its turn in the spotlight in 2004 thanks to a number of ambitious initiatives from the Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Authority.The city’s origins date back over four millennium, as evidenced at the many archaeological excavations. Its more recent history has origins in the seven retained plantations or oases where numerous restored and ruined forts and settlements can be seen.
Al Ain has undergone a progressive development as a tourism destination over the last 3 years. Cultural tourism and economic development are the policies behind this growth.
According to Ibrahim Ahli, the Director of Tourism Promotion Department,
Al Ain always had the potential to be a tourist destination, but previously the city only attracted visitors from within the United Emirates.
With its sights set on the European marketplace, namely the UK, Germany and Switzerland, Al Ain wants to compete with its neighbours within the UAE region. To accommodate future tourist demands, the government of Al Ain is developing the infrastructure and expanding the international airport. Many local hotels have become involved in this initiative.
In order to promote themselves internationally, Al Ain exhibited at this year’s Arabian Travel Market, for the first time, where they took the largest stand space in the exhibition.
Ibrahim commented: “I think it is very important for us to be at this show, so we can really showcase two of our main our products; firstly, the participation of Abu Dhabi Emirates, and secondly, the plan for Al Ain on the whole city”.
According to Ibrahim, the mixture of desert and mountains is central to the city’s appeal.
Al Ain is known as the Garden City because it combines fertile land, natural water supply, extensive forestation and planting. The city famously sits in an oasis in the middle of the desert.
HH Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born in Al Ain and invested in the protection of the culture and the development of the city. Over 150 million trees and flowers have been planted in the desert of Al Ain in order to maintain its tradition. Ibrahim revealed: “The city has more than 70 public parks and gardens. It is amazing to have such greenery in the middle of the desert”.
Visitors can enjoy the contrast of modern day Arabia combined with old traditions, such as thriving camel markets. Al Ain also boasts the largest theme park in the region and the famous Al Ain zoo, which houses one of the largest animal collections in the world.
The Arabic words Al Ain mean “spring” and were taken as the city’s name due to the abundant ground water springs in the area. This ground water provided for natural oases in the desert which were the attraction to human settlement.
Using ancient but efficient non-mechanized “falaj” irrigation systems, the oases were developed into major date plantations. Modern day Al Ain has its origins in the plantations.
Al Ain is probably best known for its forts and museums, all of which are dedicated to showcasing 7,000 years of living in Al Ain. Ibrahim commented: “The history of Al Ain goes back to 3000BC, when they discovered the tombs, in parallel with Egypt and other icons. We also have more than 76 important castles and palaces”. He added: “People like to come and see the culture, history and the traditions of the destination. This is to be our main marketing tool”.
Although the official Al Ain website is not yet live, this will be implemented soon.
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