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Al Ain,which Gritchka informs me, means the well, or the eye, is a growing town (or small city) in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Abu Dhabi (city), Dubai (city) and Al Ain more-or-less form an equilateral triangle, with each side being approximately 150km of tree-lined freeway.

Al Ain is located on the border with Oman and is inland, while Abu Dhabi and Dubai are on the coast of the Arabian, or Persian, Gulf. During the hot summer months, when temperatures hover just below 50 degrees Celsius (because if it exceeds 50 degrees, people get to stay off work!), and humidity on the coast is a constant, choking 100%, Al Ain enjoys "dry" air.

The town sprung up around the Buraimi Oasis, in the Hajar Mountains. The Buraimi (or Buraymi) Oasis straddles the border and the town on the Omanian side has the same name. The border between Al Ain and Buraymi is free, making Al Ain and Buraymi a convenient combined day-trip from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi (but you won't get a stamp for your passport, if that's important).

Al Ain's dry mountain air and oasis make it a favourite of the Sheikhs of the seven Emirates, and many have summer palaces there.

Al Ain is nestled in the mountains, and views both of and from the top of Jebel Hafit* are supposed to be superb.

There is plenty to do (for one day) in Al Ain: forts, souqs, walking through the oasis, driving to the top of Jebel Hafit. It's also worth it just for the experience of driving 150km through the sandy desert on a tree-lined dual carriageway motorway. My friends were treated to the spectacle of a ute / pick-up passing them at about 160km/h (100mph) on this motorway with two camels strapped onto the back. My friends are, of course, toast, for not taking me with them =(

Information courtesy of the ever-reliable word-of-mouth with names and facts checked in Lonely Planet: Dubai


*Jebel Hafit apparently stands on its own on one side of the town, with the mountain range on the other. My friends who visited Al Ain somehow managed to miss it, but they're both Muppets =)

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