Al Ain is Arabic for The Spring. It is the fourth largest city in the UAE and the birthplace of its first president. It has been inhabited for at least 4000 years and has served as an oasis for all of that time.
Originally it was just my coworkers going, but they hounded me to go, I decided that I needed a little change of pace, and, of course, I'm the one with a car.
This is really not the time of year to visit anything outdoors in the UAE, but I had read that there was a mountain to drive up -- the Jebel Hafeet -- and I hoped it would be cooler up there. If all else failed, there was a hotel at the top where we could cool off. After talking it over we decided to make that our first destination so as to have lunch.
We left at about 10:30 in the morning, and it took about an hour and a half to get to Al Ain. We headed up the mountain. My poor little Peugeot struggled with the hair pin turns and steep hills.
At the top of the mountain we discovered a rest area with a snack bar. The day was hazy and it was still blazing hot. Over 100 degrees. There were a number of toy vending machines that were playing electronic music that did not in any way fit into the surroundings, making it a little eerie. We quickly got back in the car and headed to the hotel.
As might be expected in the off season, the hotel, the Mercure Grand, was quiet. Nevertheless, they were serving a nice buffet, though it wasn't a bargain. We were able to get a window seat and look out over the pool. There were a few guests out. Even in the middle of summer I could see that the hotel might be a nice, quiet weekend getaway.
After lunch we took a quick walk around the grounds. The hotel seemed to be renovating. There was what appeared to be an old wing of the hotel being taken down, and what looked like a water flume under construction, right on the edge of a cliff.
We jumped back in the car, drove back down the mountain, and to Jahili Fort, where there was an exhibition of photographs by Wilfred Thesiger.
Wilfred Thesiger spent a number of years in the region, in the 1940s. He wrote a book that was loaned to me by a colleague when I first got here, called Arabian Sands, and he took lots of really great photos. It's worth looking up.
While at the fort an Indian security guard followed us around and tried to flirt with one of my coworkers. He asked for us to take photos of him with his cell phone camera. At one point he even kissed my coworker on the cheek while taking a picture. He asked for her phone number and, because she felt sorry for him, she gave it to him. Of course he started calling her daily. I've seen this behavior from Indian and Pakistani men before and it is remarked upon elsewhere. I don't know why they do this. Perhaps they believe that Western women are easy.
After the fort we tried to visit the Oasis. It was in a walled enclosure. I could see the tops of many palm trees. However, I couldn't find a way in and it was already past 5 pm. We were a bunch of dried up little raisins and majority rule decided that it was time to drive back home and hose off.