Al Ain UAE March 2014

Al Ain UAE March 2014

Al Ain, known as the Oasis or Garden city of the Emirates, is located 140Kms from Dubai at the foot of the mountains. It was once a vital oasis on the caravan route from the UAE to Oman. The city is one of the world's oldest permanently inhabited settlements and can be explored through visits to the Al Ain National Museum. First we went to Hili Archaeological Park, which houses the largest Bronze Age complex in the UAE, dating from 3rd millennium BC. The site known as Hili “1”, located next to the GrandTomb inside the park, was once a high tower standing above ground. Foundations of a thick circular boundary which contains remnants of several rooms and a well in the centre of the building is located here. Remains of similar buildings were discovered in other areas of Hili. These remains provide evidence that the people of south-east Arabia once lived in houses of sun dried mud brick and buried their dead in collective graves built of stones. Remains of these tombs are also located inside the park. 4000 years old Grand Tomb is situated here. UNESCO also highlighted Hili’s significance as it features “one of the oldest examples of the sophisticated aflaj irrigation system which dates back to the Iron Age”. The property provides important testimony to the transition of cultures in the region from hunting and gathering to sedentarization,” UNESCO said.  
 
Next, we visited the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (or commonly called the Al Ain Palace Museum). The museum is based in the palace of the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was originally built in 1937 on the western side of the Al Ain Oasis. Sheikh Zayed lived here until 1966 and it was later made into a museum in 2001. In one of the courts there is a replica grand court tent, representing a link with Bedouin life. This palace is a beautiful cinnamon-colored building set around several courtyards amid beds of cacti, magnolia trees and lofty palms. We were allowed to step inside the majlis (meeting room) where the ruler received visitors, see his wife's curtained, canopied bed and snap a photo of the Land Rover he used to visit the desert Bedu.  
 
We also went to the Al Ain National Museum, the oldest in the UAE. It is on the eastern side and the largest oasis in Al Ain. The museum has two main sections on ethnographic and archaeological aspects of the country. We get an overall view of country’s 7500 years old traditions and culture. The ethnographical section focused on the history of UAE in the days before oil was discovered and used as a key economic driver. On display is objects catering to the many daily routine activities of the community, such as traditional education and teaching, recreational pastimes, house hold equipment, and professional gear such as those used for weaving, fishing and medical procedures. Traditional art forms and musical instruments are also present. The Archaeological section displays objects right from Stone Age to Islamic period, definitely a treasure trove for the history buff. Several items are exhibited including age old tools such as those made of flint, stone, fine arrowheads. The section also contains artifacts from the grave at Hili and Umm an Nar, such as pottery, stone vessels, copper objects.  
 
The final stop of the day is a visit to the Al Ain Camel Market and the Al Nassma Camel Farm. The Al Ain Camel Market is the last camel souk of its kind in the UAE, east of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain. It is an excellent opportunity to see camels up close, and to see traders discussing the price and merits of their animals. In the livestock section, we watched locals arrive in pickups laden with goats and sheep, ready to do some hard bargaining. The Al Nassma Camel Farm and chocolate factory is owned by a wealthy Emirati family and boasts over 2300 camels. They allow you to feed, pet and photograph the camels, after taking proper sanitary precautions (to protect the camels). This was the first time in my life I have ever tasted chocolate made from camel's milk - it was "camelicious". The camel milk chocolate has been made in Austria since 2008 with 10 tonnes of camel milk powder shipped annually to Vienna to produce 35 tonnes of chocolate. Because the milk powder was not licensed for sale in Europe, the chocolate made from the camel milk powder has had to be returned to the UAE for sale. Al Nassma Chocolate is the world's only producer of camel milk chocolate. Camelicious, which is owned by the Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products and is the brand name for products made from camel milk, received approval in January to export its products to the EU. The milk is also used for the manufacture of cosmetics and medicines. I love the Arabian flavor the best, dark chocolate with just a hint of cardamom and cinnamon. The best part is that they gave chocolate samples to visitors! Delicious!!

Al Ain, known as the Oasis or Garden city of the Emirates, is located 140Kms from Dubai at the foot of the mountains. It was once a vital oasis on the caravan route from the UAE to Oman. The city is one of the world's oldest permanently inhabited settlements and can be explored through visits to the Al Ain National Museum. First we went to Hili Archaeological Park, which houses the largest Bronze Age complex in the UAE, dating from 3rd millennium BC. The site known as Hili “1”, located next to the GrandTomb inside the park, was once a high tower standing above ground. Foundations of a thick circular boundary which contains remnants of several rooms and a well in the centre of the building is located here. Remains of similar buildings were discovered in other areas of Hili. These remains provide evidence that the people of south-east Arabia once lived in houses of sun dried mud brick and buried their dead in collective graves built of stones. Remains of these tombs are also located inside the park. 4000 years old Grand Tomb is situated here. UNESCO also highlighted Hili’s significance as it features “one of the oldest examples of the sophisticated aflaj irrigation system which dates back to the Iron Age”. The property provides important testimony to the transition of cultures in the region from hunting and gathering to sedentarization,” UNESCO said.  
 
Next, we visited the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum (or commonly called the Al Ain Palace Museum). The museum is based in the palace of the former UAE President, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was originally built in 1937 on the western side of the Al Ain Oasis. Sheikh Zayed lived here until 1966 and it was later made into a museum in 2001. In one of the courts there is a replica grand court tent, representing a link with Bedouin life. This palace is a beautiful cinnamon-colored building set around several courtyards amid beds of cacti, magnolia trees and lofty palms. We were allowed to step inside the majlis (meeting room) where the ruler received visitors, see his wife's curtained, canopied bed and snap a photo of the Land Rover he used to visit the desert Bedu.  
 
We also went to the Al Ain National Museum, the oldest in the UAE. It is on the eastern side and the largest oasis in Al Ain. The museum has two main sections on ethnographic and archaeological aspects of the country. We get an overall view of country’s 7500 years old traditions and culture. The ethnographical section focused on the history of UAE in the days before oil was discovered and used as a key economic driver. On display is objects catering to the many daily routine activities of the community, such as traditional education and teaching, recreational pastimes, house hold equipment, and professional gear such as those used for weaving, fishing and medical procedures. Traditional art forms and musical instruments are also present. The Archaeological section displays objects right from Stone Age to Islamic period, definitely a treasure trove for the history buff. Several items are exhibited including age old tools such as those made of flint, stone, fine arrowheads. The section also contains artifacts from the grave at Hili and Umm an Nar, such as pottery, stone vessels, copper objects.  
 
The final stop of the day is a visit to the Al Ain Camel Market and the Al Nassma Camel Farm. The Al Ain Camel Market is the last camel souk of its kind in the UAE, east of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain. It is an excellent opportunity to see camels up close, and to see traders discussing the price and merits of their animals. In the livestock section, we watched locals arrive in pickups laden with goats and sheep, ready to do some hard bargaining. The Al Nassma Camel Farm and chocolate factory is owned by a wealthy Emirati family and boasts over 2300 camels. They allow you to feed, pet and photograph the camels, after taking proper sanitary precautions (to protect the camels). This was the first time in my life I have ever tasted chocolate made from camel's milk - it was "camelicious". The camel milk chocolate has been made in Austria since 2008 with 10 tonnes of camel milk powder shipped annually to Vienna to produce 35 tonnes of chocolate. Because the milk powder was not licensed for sale in Europe, the chocolate made from the camel milk powder has had to be returned to the UAE for sale. Al Nassma Chocolate is the world's only producer of camel milk chocolate. Camelicious, which is owned by the Emirates Industry for Camel Milk and Products and is the brand name for products made from camel milk, received approval in January to export its products to the EU. The milk is also used for the manufacture of cosmetics and medicines. I love the Arabian flavor the best, dark chocolate with just a hint of cardamom and cinnamon. The best part is that they gave chocolate samples to visitors! Delicious!!