Kids Rule, Giraffes Drool
Zebra Train at Al Ain Zoo
The Road to Al Ain is packed with adventure, and no trip to Al Ain is complete without a visit to the Al Ain Zoo. It is an impressive zoo smack in the middle of one of the world’s most uninhabited deserts: the Rub al Khali, which is also known as the “Empty Quarter” for very good reasons. As I mentioned in the first part of this road trip post, the city was not what I expected at all. Instead of being the very traditional, desert outpost that I expected, Al Ain was green and surprisingly modern. This is Part ٢, and it’s entitled “Kids Rule, Giraffes Drool,” and giraffes certainly do: fluorescent green drool.
When I say “modern,” I mean not like Saudi Arabia, just to clarify. Nothing against you, Saudi Arabia—I have never been there, but it’s pretty near the bottom of my travel bucket list, though I openly invite anyone to change my mind about that. So you know, I have so far only experienced very friendly and welcoming people in the United Arab Emirates. I think you would find exactly the same treatment should you ever decide to descend upon this very unique country. Still, I think I always expect that I will find some very traditional place when I venture so deeply into the desert, but no; it’s the same there too.
Giraffe at the Al Ain Zoo
We arrived at the zoo only to be met by circumstances absolutely unheard of when visiting any major tourist attraction in the United States: convenient and free parking, no lines, affable and competent guides and a really inexpensive, family-oriented day out—mind-blowing, I know! I am still in shock. Al Ain Zoo is a quiet, tranquil—surprisingly stocked—zoo. It charges almost nothing in admission (6 USD per adult, 5 USD per child), attempts to market next to nothing to your children in the way of cheap crap from China or horrible-for-you food, and it’s a pleasure to visit!! The latter no parent in America ever said about a zoo or theme park, because they are just not. (I take that back. I LOVE the San Diego Zoo–I’d go there in a heartbeat despite the lines).
Al Ain Zoo has a really interesting mix of the modern and traditional, which I also just love. Emirati volunteers welcome you in, in their traditional dress. There is a zebra train, included in your admission, to tour you around with a full description of the inhabitants of the zoo. What I love most about all the zoos here is that they are startlingly free of the always-looming western fear of lawsuits. Take the Giraffe Feeding Booth, for example. Giraffes are not particularly aggressive nor do they present a danger to most people, yet zoo-goers cannot usually get too close to them back home. Here, no one worries much, and I am thankful for that. At the Ain Zoo and at the Emirates’ Park Zoo, in Abu Dhabi proper, you can feed elephants and giraffes straight out of your hand–my friend last week was bitten by a giraffe just last week taking my girls to the zoo. She was, of course, unharmed. Giraffes, like camels, only have a top grooved palette and bottom teeth. In fact, giraffes were thought to be camel-like leopards by the Romans, and you all know I like camels. Now, I get the attraction. Here are some photos from our visit: [lg_slideshow folder=”Al Ain Zoo/”]
In the next installment, I’ll bring you to the mountain-top resort we stayed in Al Ain and Wadi Adventure–the greatest extreme sport park ever built. In the meantime, here are some tips to planning a visit to the Al Ain Zoo (or you can you can contact me directly–I’ll help):
Helpful Hints to Planning Your Trip:
Please always check the Al Ain Zoo website for up to date information.
Getting there: From Abu Dhabi, it took us about an hour and a half door-to-door to get to the zoo. Check the zoo website for directions and a location map.
Opening Hours: Open daily from 9am to 8pm. Holiday timings may vary.
Admission Fee: Adult – 20 AED; Children (3– 12) – 15 AED; Under 3–Free.