The Road to Al Ain is Appropriately Lined with Date Palms!
Better late than never is becoming my new mantra with my two and three part blogs, it seems. In The Road to Al Ain Part ١, I wrote about visiting the zoo. Today, I offer the Road to Al Ain part ٢. Our trip to the desert was filled with dunes, camels, sweeping desert vistas, waves and white water rafting–yes, I did write that! Day two was all about hanging ten in the Empty Quarter or the Rub Al Khali desert. Right after the zoo, we headed to the Mercure Jebel Hafeet Hotel, where we would be staying overnight before we hit up Wadi Adventure the next day.
The Road to Jebel Hafeet
The road to Jebel Hafeet (Jebel means “Hill” in Arabic apparently) was WAY more exciting than the road to Al Ain. Some say, this is one of the greatest roads in the world; others say it is one of the most dangerous. This serpentine mountain road takes you from Al Ain up to the top of the Jebel Hafeet–the tallest mountain in the United Arab Emirates. The trip takes you 7.3 miles up from sea level to 4,000 feet (1,219 m) in 60 spine-tingling turns. Have a look at the pictures and the map—this road is no joke! The road is a mixture of fast straights and sweeping curves that merge perfectly from one to another forming this amazing driving road in the middle of the desert, if you are not afraid of heights, that is. I don’t love heights, and my husband LOVES to drive like a mad man on roads like this; he always has and I know this about him, so when I saw what the road looked like from the approach at a distance, I was already white-knuckling it. Don’t look down was the other mantra of the journey, and I did not–not even once going up. Going down I was able to take some photos, but not going up. If you were able to look down you would see that the road scales the mountain with a beautiful view of the desert below. It ends in the parking lot of the hotel, though, of course, there is also a palace atop the mountain, which belongs to the country’s rulers.
Al Ain at Night
There were countless fun things to do at the Mercure Jebel Hafeet: mini-golf, water slides, 5 cafés from which to partake, swim up bar, an arcade, beautiful views and fun people visiting from all over the world. There was wildlife, like this cute pair or chukar partridges wandering the grounds that I blogged about here. Check out the night view. Isn’t it dreamy? What was not to love? Well, the food was kind of unhealthy and so so. The hotel was a little dated, but we still had so much fun. I could have stayed here a few more days if the food had no been so so-so. But anyway, we needed sustenance for the next day so we ate whatever. Our next day’s plan was to hit up Wadi Adventure, as I stated earlier. It is the only man-made wave pool in the entire world constructed for pro-surfers and beginners alike in the middle of a desert. You can get a lesson there or, if you are a more experienced surfer, you can surf something like the real thing smack dab in one of the most remote deserts in the whole entire world! Crazy, huh?!
We woke up the next morning, had an infinitely better breakfast than we had dinner or lunch there, packed our bags and bid the Mecure Jebel Hafeet “Adieu.” We were off to find some adventure in Al Ain. Fortunately, the Hotel was a few minutes from Wadi Adventure–the park is right at the base of the mountain—and going down is much easier than going up! We stopped and took lots of photos. The view was very different in the morning than it was in the evening. We arrived at the park before it opened. While we waited, we asked the staff loads of questions about the park. The park’s manager was a surfer and a South African just like my husband—they had a lot to discuss. **A little note about the park**, while we wait. There is much more to do there than surfing. There is also kayaking, White-water rafting, zip-lining, a giant swing, climbing wall and a ropes’ course. You do have to plan pretty well in advance so you do not get disappointed. Even though there were not too many people at the park, all the sessions get booked up really fast. They only allow a small number of people per hour to do all the activities there. This is for each participant’s sake, so it’s never too crowded. It actually works quite well.
Husband Hanging Ten
We just stuck to the surfing because it’s all that we booked. My husband has surfed all his life, all around the world. My daughter is budding surfer. I’m the paparraza in the family—I am just fine with that. My littlest daughter’s not quite ready yet so she cheered them on and swam in the family pool with the other surf orphans. My older daughter got lessons in the whitewater with a fantastic instructor, named Roberto, while my husband surfed the advanced waves at the back. It was so much fun to watch her learn as her father enacted his passion at the
Daughter paddling in
back. We had a great time. There was a paddle-boarding competition going on somewhere in the UAE the week that we were there. There was a group of pro stand up paddle boarders that flew into Dubai that morning and went straight out to Al Ain to try Wadi Adventure. These young guys were really fun to watch. The consensus was that, while the wave was really nothing like the ocean, it was consistent, perfectly shaped, the water was warm and best of all, there were NO SHARKS.
All in all, we had a great time! I would go back to Al Ain in a heart beat. It’s a short trip from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There is honestly something for everyone there: culture, history, R & R, animals, a camel market, desert, mountains, waves, white water rafting. You may wonder is there anything you cannot do in Al Ain? You can’t ski there, not yet at least….
[lg_slideshow folder=”Al Ain /”]