Al Ain
© LOC

Situated some 160km east of the capital Abu Dhabi in the lee of the Omani mountains, the city of Al Ain (which means ‘Oasis in Arabic) takes its name from the profusion of watering holes and springs surrounding it. These reserves of underground water create and maintain the fertile soil for which the city is famous and stretch for over 100 square kilometres, making Al Ain one of the most verdant spots in the United Arab Emirates.

The oases, gardens and tree-lined streets have earned Al Ain the nickname of the Garden City of the Gulf. With over 71 parks scattered throughout its neighbourhoods, as well as the arable land and palm plantations beyond, the city relies on its famous underground irrigation system of interconnected wells to keep it looking green.

This regional capital provides vital services to a vast area of the country, extending right to the Oman border. In recent years, local industries have come on leaps and bounds, while the presence of the University of the United Arab Emirates, the UAE’s largest, make Al Ain an important centre of culture and learning.

Boasting many areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as the 1240m-high Mount Hafeet and its many natural springs, Al Ain’s tourist industry continues to thrive. The peaceful streets and tranquil surroundings provide a haven for visitors looking to escape the pressures of their day-to-day lives.

Football
But Al Ain is more than just a pretty place. This calm oasis has lent its name to one of the UAE’s most important football clubs. In 2003 Al Ain became the first Emirati side to win the AFC Champions League, reaching the final of the same competition two years later in 2005. Its domestic record is no less impressive, with a national record 14 league titles, the last of them coming in the 2011/12 season.

Despite its relatively small size, this football-mad city boasts two top football arenas. The Tahnoun Bin Mohamed Stadium is the home of the Al Ain club and hosts important domestic and continental ties, while its sister ground, the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, was as one of the venues for the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003.