Al Ain Blog

My Favourite Restaurant in Sanaiya, Al Ain

Many people never venture into the Industrial Area of Al Ain as it’s very busy and the parking/driving can be a little chaotic, however there is nothing to fear and everything to find – you can read my original post on the area here.

I am a big fan of Lebanese food and am often to be found at the Halaby Restaurant, just up from the big light shop (BFT) at the Al Ain Gift Market Traffic Lights.  GPS N24 11.820 E55 45.780.

2015-01-08 11.13.26

Given it’s location, you may be surprised how well appointed the restaurant is – comfortable chairs, clean tables with tablecloths (albeit plastic, wipe clean) and plenty of light – the ceiling lights are mini chandeliers!

Most importantly, it is spotlessly clean throughout and has a “western” loo!

The service is also pretty good – Nijad Ala and his colleagues can explain each dish in perfect english and can suggest some to try, if you are unfamiliar with Lebanese cuisine.

I love their lentil soup, followed by a bowl of muttable and arabic bread to dip – a bargain at 14aed.  They also do a great mixed grill which at 30aed is a cheap meal if you are very hungry; this dish also comes in a 1kg super size too and is enough for 3-4 adults. The Halaby offer a takeaway service too, delivering all over Al Ain (and beyond) – call 03 7610612.

Please note this is not a paid review – this is one of the best Lebanese restaurants I’ve come across!

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Offroading in All its Forms – Updated October 2014

I’m often being asked “will you take me offroading with you”?  This begs the question – how does one define offroading in Arabia?

For some people are chuffed to bits just driving up a gatch track (gatch is an arabic word for a special kind of limestone which these tracks are traditionally made from) or a sand track, find a sheltered spot, pitch a tent, have a bbq and watch the stars!  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Others like to drive over some small gentle dunes for an hour or two of an afternoon, stop at sunset, have a bbq and watch the stars!  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Another type of offroading popular in Oman and the UAE is navigating through dried up wadis and up and down mountain tracks.  Stop at sunset, have a bbq, watch the stars!  And there’s nothing wrong with that either. (But count me out as I am soooooo scared of heights: I don’t do mountain roads!)

For me, offroading means planning a long route on google earth, with start and end points, a couple of waypoints for interesting places or something to avoid (oh how I hate “Hell’s Bowl” near Al Yaher!), and a group of experienced drivers will make their way from point to point, tackling whatever obstacles appear.

Not all 4x4s are suitable for my kind of heavy-duty dune bashing but equally, I think it’s a sin to have a 4.8 litre Nissan Patrol just used for camping trips! When I take friends out to the desert, whether privately or in my capacity as a marshal of Oasis Offroad, it’s important to me that the rest of the group sustain as little damage to their car as possible during the trip.  If you want your car scratch and ding free then I would stay off the desert with it – in fact I wouldn’t even take it onto the roads here!  Small scratches from plants are almost inevitable, although many will polish out.  Other common areas for damage are bumpers, especially on relatively low cars such as Ford Explorers and Mitsubishi Pajeros and also low slung radiators for example on the Dodge Durango.

Lots of 4wd cars will take you into the desert for camping trips, but in my opinion, unless they have a gearbox with both 4high and 4low options and good ground clearance, they aren’t really suitable for dune bashing.  Approach and departure angles are also a consideration as you will encounter sand bowls which can be real bumper killers if not negotiated carefully. Below I’ve made a list of my personal choices for  a dune bashing car would be along with any pros and cons.  No doubt many will disagree with me!
Marina’s top 10 Cars for Dune Bashing – (all available second hand) in alphabetical order (which is the only reason the Jeep is at the top and the Nissans and Toyotas are at the bottom of the list!)
Jeep Wrangler
one of the most customisable cars for the desert, although some modifications now will not pass registration test. Very easy to drive. Can have reliability issues, newer ones(JK)  are known to have electrical issues. Possible to pick up quite cheaply in the summer.
Mercedes G Wagen
amazing in desert with no mods, extremely expensive to buy, parts not cheap, holds value well
Mitsubishi Pajero
good in desert but needs to be driven carefully to avoid bumper damage.  Get the 3.5 or 3.8L version as 3.0L is gutless on the dunes.  Essential to re-inforce rear bumper before taking it onto the sand. 7 seater available.
Nissan Pathfinder -
1995-2005 (2nd generation) a very good budget choice for gentle/intermediate offroading.
2006-2012 models (3rd generation) good in desert, but really need lifted by 2″.  Fantastic power, 7 seater available.
2013 on (4th generation) this once capable offroader has turned into a softroader and is not suitable for the desert!
Nissan Patrol SWB
excellent in desert, hard to pick up a clean second hand model, but hold their value well, get it lifted by 2″ and you can take it anywhere, older models only available in manual gear.  Get any second hand model checked by your local garage to ensure it hasn’t been thrashed to death.  If you find a good clean one, expect to be chased down the road by locals calling “you want to sell your car?”
Nissan Patrol LWB
excellent in desert, slightly more likely to get “crested” than the SWB but great for a family.  There are more of these in the marketplace so good second hand models are available and will hold their value well.  7 seat option available.
Nissan Xterra
great family car for the desert, but worth putting a lift kit on to minimise underside damage.  Automatic gearbox only but gear ratios are great for duning! Came out in 2007 so only newer models available second hand.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
excellent in desert, like the Xterra, it came out in 2007 so no old budget models available, greatly improved clearance when lifted 2″, excellent gear ratios for desert driving.  Only available in automatic gear. Not everyone likes the “suicide” back doors. I was lucky enough to test drive the 2014 Xtreme model in May 2014.
Toyota Landcruiser SWB
as Nissan Patrol SWB but has leaf springs so less comfortable ride.
Toyota Landcruiser LWB
as Nissan Patrol LWB

Also worth considering –

Ford F150

it didn’t used to be possible to register pick-up trucks privately in AD Emirate but it is now, providing you have the 4 door model. Some dealerships offer models with a lift kit and these are the ones you should go for – if you take this truck to the sand unlifted it is almost certain you will sustain bumper damage.  The Raptor which has a 4″ lift kit and V8 is very capable and desert-ready.

Jeep Cherokee (old style)

excellent in desert with a few minor modifications.  Can have reliability issues. Can pick up cheap second hand models but get it checked out before you buy by a trustworthy mechanic – I have friends who have bought Cherokees and then spent a fortune keeping them on the road/in the sand.
Hyundai Galloper

 older car but quite capable for easy/intermediate level dune bashing.
Hummer H3

Although popular for the desert, these come in to their own for wadi driving, relatively new to market so no bargain secondhand models available. 
Landrover Discovery

can be picked up cheaply, able offroader but centre of gravity higher than many competitors, maintenance costs can be high.  Newer models – LR3 and LR4 are packed full of electrics which require a competent auto electrician to fix, which you may not find in your city (such as Al Ain) and certainly won’t find if it breaks down in the desert!

You may note that 8 out of my top 10 choices are Japanese and this is not a coincidence.  Japanese cars in general are able to cope with the hot roads and dust better than most others, they simple and easy to to maintain, and you can sell them quickly and for a decent price any time of the year.

Full 4x4s are excellent for offroading, however clearance and the strength of your tyre sidewall will dictate if it is suitable for wadi bashing.  Lots of sharp rocks have to be negotiated and if you have a tyre with a soft sidewall, which is ideal for sand dune bashing, they can get damaged easily.
4×4 cars which aren’t particularly suitable for dune bashing – this list is not exhaustive – I have marked the ones that I personally will not accept on a trip.
Jeep Commander – very low bumper, bad entry/exit angles – possible to take out but must have a lift kit.
Jeep Cherokee (latest models) – very low bumper, essential to remove lower trim before starting a trip (or else the sand dunes will do it for you), lots of electrics, more of a softroader.
Nissan Pathfinder(2013) – bumper too low (will not accept on an Oasis Offroad trip)
Nissan Armada – bumper too low, very heavy car (will not accept on an Oasis Offroad trip)
Toyota Sequoia – too heavy, too long, too low (will not accept on an Oasis Offroad trip)
It doesn’t matter if your car is new, old or really old, the crucial thing is that it has to be very well maintained. 
Some car insurance companies offer “offroad recovery” however from experience I know that this service is not always available when you really need it.  The rule is that if your car is rattling/banging/overheating etc on the road, it will be far far worse on the sand!

From experience, I don’t recommend you buy a new car for the desert as there are plenty of good second hand options out there.  If you become a sand addict it’s best to have two cars – a comfortable family vehicle and a second hand offroader. If your car goes offroad regularly it will be in the garage for repairs/preventative maintenance more often and if you have access to another car it will save you the hassle of being car-less when this happens.

RSA, AXA and Zurich insurers cover offroad damage with their fully comprehensive policies though only for cars about 6 years old or less.  There is no limit to the age of car you can buy here, and so long as they are well maintained you can take the oldest of vehicles out into the desert.

See you on the sand my friends!

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Real Estate in Al Ain



Very soon, lots of newcomers who arrived in Al Ain at the end of the summer will have completed residency procedures and will now be able to rent their own villa or apartment.

For many of us, the way things are done in the UAE are a million miles away from what we are accustomed to at home, and this is very true of the real estate sector.

The tenant pays the realtor, typically 5% of the annual rental price, but this is a one off-cost and if you stay in your villa for multiple years you won’t need to pay it again.  Average villa rental prices are AED 120-150k per year, which means you have to find AED 6k-7.5k right at the start of your lease.

Rental is paid annually, in either one or two cheques – the second postdated for 6 months. Some landlords will take up to four cheques but that is rare in the Garden City – and whatever the payment terms are, you have to submit all the cheques at the signing of the lease.

Leases should be attested.  Once your lease is signed you need to take it to the main Municipality Building along with all your residency paperwork plus a copy of the landlord’s passport and they will stamp it.  Any lease that is not stamped is strictly not legal.  Once you have this stamp you can get your electricity supply sorted out (Al Ain Distribution Service), sponsor family members etc etc. The reason for this is to stop landlords letting property which is on land “gifted” by the state for their family’s use only.

Most landlords don’t worry which agent lets their property.  This means that multiple agents are trying to get tenants for exactly the same property – sometimes at different rental prices!  In my short time as a rental agent for an Abu Dhabi company who were trying to get a foothold in Al Ain, I was expected to drive around and physically search for empty properties, then locate the landlord to see if he was willing to rent it out; once done, then I had to go and find a tenant for it!

Not all agents are legally registered.  It is very easy to set up as an illegal lettings agent here, but it’s best to use a legal one.  Those who are “above board” will have your best interests at heart, as they will care about the reputation of their business, so you can count on them to smooth out the whole process for you.  If something goes wrong then you can complain about a legal letting agent to the Municipality, although it should be said that it is seldom necessary, however if you are dealing with someone who is not a registered agent then you have no comeback whatsoever.  The Company I will use next time will be Capital Relocations as they have friendly and helpful English speaking staff who will do all they can to help you settle.

Leases are for 12 months at a time.  The standard lease will be for 12 months and normally it is renewed for the same amount of time each year although I have heard of people negotiating a shorter renewal term if their work contract will end part way through the year.  If you want to leave before the contract ends it is up to you to negotiate this with your landlord, although you can expect to pay at least 2 months’ rent as a penalty.

Rentals are no longer capped.  In Abu Dhabi Emirate rents were capped at 5% per annum for a number of years, however in late 2013 this cap was removed and prices jumped considerably.  After the initial spike it seems that rental prices have settled down to reflect supply and demand.

Maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord.  Despite what it says on the lease document. Not all landlords are prompt at repairing problems so if you have a good one – try to stay where you are!

Some employers provide accommodation.  The upside is that you don’t have to pay agent’s fees, nor have to find a year’s rent up front but the downside is that you have to go where you are put.

Not all employers advance the rental payment to their staff.  A few years ago it was not uncommon for employers to pay the rental on a property found by the employee but those days are all but gone.  Nowadays most get their rental allowance as a monthly payment with their salary; those who have not access to enough cash will have to borrow money from the bank to fund their rental.  It is a good idea to minimise your borrowings as if your employment stops for any reason then the bank loan becomes payable in full the moment your final salary payment hits the bank, which has caused problems for many expats, particularly back in the crash of 2008/9.

Now for some good news; there are some truly amazing villas here available for rent.  Generally room sizes are very much bigger than my home country of Scotland and at the mid-top end of the market here all rooms come with ensuite bathrooms.   Nearly all come with maid’s rooms which are ensuite but often without a window, and they make great camping storage rooms if you don’t have domestic help!

Any further questions?  Please ask them in the comments section.  Good luck with your move and I hope you come to love Al Ain as much as I do!





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Sign of The Times


The times they are a changing.  The shops/stores/workshops in Sanaiya used to all have huge, often garish, brightly coloured signs illuminated by internal fluorescent lighting, but a recent edict from the government has seen a move towards standardization.  Whenever a business trading license is renewed, the owner has three months to upgrade/update his sign.

Throughout history, whenever “progress” is made a little of the old life disappears and many lament its passing.  However the new signs are all lit by LEDs which are far more environmentally friendly and no doubt in time the old banner type signs will be forgotten; Al Ain has a very transient population and many residents in 5-10 years from now will know no different.

So, in a bid to record the “old”, here’s some pictures I took when wandering round Sanaiya yesterday evening.

One of my favourite Indian restaurants – and they deliver to Mehran’s garage, so you can pick up your car and a curry at the same time.  Their Chicken Chachina is truly wonderful!


Another favourite restaurant, this time Lebanese.  They will deliver all over the area but their restaurant is by Saniaya standards, very comfortable – it’s even got tablecloths and chandeliers!


The good thing about the old signs for non-arabic speakers (and especially those who cannot read arabic) is that the business name often had a picture of their product, which helped no end in finding them!


You see I haven’t a clue what this business sells


nor this one – time I learned more arabic words (and script too)!


Some of the business names are classic – “Successful Line Machinery Trading Est” – and its got pictures too so at least I know what they sell. If I wanted to kit out an industrial workshop at least I would find the right shop!


The old signs are very colourful, and this is what has given night-time Sanaiya a “Las Vegas” feel.



I’ve never been to this restaurant but might just give it a go – if I can find it again (better go before they change their sign)


There’s plenty of bakeries in Sanaiya too, the recovery truck driver at Mehran’s came in with some amazing Iranian style flat bread last night and he was good enough to share it.  I don’t know if it was from this bakery but there’s quite a few to choose from in this area


While wandering about I found not one but two branches of the famous “Abdul Azziz” Pakistani Restaurant – very good curry all for about 10aed (£1.70) per head



The yellow Lipton signs are synonymous with ethnic cafes


Car part stores are to be found everywhere here



And car repairers of course.  Car denting anyone?



and of course my favourite garage/hangout in Sanaiya…


Here’s a picture of a block with half the signs changed – I know which look I prefer


I urge anyone who’s brave enough to go down and have a wander about before it’s too late; I felt completely safe, except when wandering down the streets that didn’t have street lighting.  Clad only in black (t-shirt and jeans) I was keenly aware that cars couldn’t see me too well!

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Iftar In Al Ain

We are now in the Holy Month of Ramadan, where Muslims have to fast during the hours of daylight.  At sundown the fast is broken with an Iftar meal and families often gather together to observe this.  Mosques erect large tents in their grounds and provide Iftar meals for the less well off where the food is donated by the local congregations.

Most non-muslim expats take the chance at least once to take Iftar, frequently at hotels, sometimes as the guest of a muslim friend’s family and occasionally at a local restaurant – and this is the option I took with some friends last night.


We dined at the Heritage Village restaurant in Al Qattara (N24 15.787 E55 44.939), and enjoyed a lovely spread of arabic foods for the princely sum of 75aed.   No need to book as the restaurant is huge and they can cope with large numbers.  It’s just been renovated and has lost some of its rustic charm; though the good news is it now has a/c throughout so it will be a lot more pleasant during the day in the summer.  Outwith Ramadan it is open 24 hours a day and their number is 03 763 0155.  Once the Iftar meal is over you can order from their a la carte menu and there is a good choice of arabic cuisine as well as the western staples of steak and burgers.


The food is of hotel quality and every night there is a roast – last night it was goat!







Wishing my Muslim friends Ramadan Kareem (Blessings), may this  Holy month be joyous and blessed for them and their families.

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Life in Al Ain: Further resources

Updated 18th June 2014
If you are one of the many people who have signed a contract for a job here and are just waiting for the air tickets, try to do some research before you get here – it’s time well spent and will help you settle in quicker.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, it’s never been easier to gather information on a remote location; here are some sites I recommend.
british expats

British Expats Middle East Forum
You dont have to be British to be a member; great site to search and ask questions, and there’s a huge thread on Al Ain with invaluable information


Expat Forum – UAE

Expat Forum – Dubai

two forums are worth reading here, the first covers the UAE and has some Al Ain threads. Also worth a look a the Dubai page which is more active although not all advice there is for the rest of the UAE, for example they have DEWA and RERA which we don’t have in AD emirate.

Capital Relocations

A new company in Al Ain run by Western staff, the first time you come across them it may be while you are looking for property to rent.  However they also offer a wide range of services to make the move for you as smooth as possible so it’s well worth a visit even if you aren’t moving for a few months.

Niala News 

Niala News website – free to join – lots of information about what’s happening within the community.

alainexpats Yahoo Group

Another internet group – join all that you can as you can never have too much information!

Facebook pages:

Al Ain Swap and Shop – great place to buy and sell furniture and household goods
UAE Swap and Shop FB – as above but can be located anywhere in the UAE
Animal Welfare Al Ain FB – look here if you would like to adopt a cat or dog, or need animal advice


Abela Noticeboard – good place for picking up second hand goods (see my Life in Al Ain Part 1: shopping for co-ordinates for Abela)
Rugby Club – part of the AAESG complex, pop in on a Wednesday night to take part in the quiz and have a look for used furniture and cars at the same time

Coffee Mornings

Don’t be scared to go to coffees and social occasions as most of the western expats you encounter will have arrived in the last two years and will remember how it is to be new!
Coffee mornings happen on a Tuesday at 10am-11.30am in Shakespeare’s Coffee Shop, Al Ain Mall.  All ladies are welcome; the majority who come along have teenage or grown up children, and we think you will find us a friendly bunch.  We aren’t interested in who has got the biggest villa or the best car, we sit and swap stories about life, our experiences here and where we have been on holiday!  We’ve got a facebook page too – Tuesday Coffee Morning FB.
There are also a few Mother and Toddler groups – one of the best known formerly Al Ain Mums and Tots can be found here – Al Expats Parents Group.

Groups running activities

Al Ain Weekends organise some amazing trips; they visit local must see places such as the souq and some oasis, and they also organise trips in the mountains and wadis of Oman.  Hook up with them on their facebook page - Al Ain Weekends
If you hanker after some desert camping or driving then it’s worth researching the vehicle you will need (before you buy the wrong one!) and what to expect  then it’s worth joining an offroad club.  A great place to meet other people, expats from all over the globe as well as locals, the groups are either free or request a nominal donation. You don’t have to have a 4×4 to join – here’s a link to my club Oasis Offroad.
To meet new people and learn more about the history and nature of the area why not go along to an Emirates Natural History Group meeting – read more about them here.
I hope this blog has given you useful info, there are lots of other groups out there and places to network, the ones listed here are those I have found particularly helpful!
Here’s links to the other blogs in the series  -
Part 1 – shopping
Part 2 – Hotels
Part 3a – Leisure and Recreation
Part 4 – Officialdom 
Part 5a – A Different World Part A
Part 5b – Local Weddings
Bonus – Further Resouces
And for information on the Industrial Area – Sanaiya
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Life In Al Ain: 5b A Different World – Weddings

I’ve been lucky enough to attend four local weddings here, all very different from our ones back home.  I’ve sat in a marquee pitched along a street, a wedding hall, a hotel and also the AD National Exhibition Centre.
The biggest difference is segregation; the men and women celebrate separately, sometimes in different rooms/tents at the same venue, but often a few kms apart.
A traditional wedding – photo from

I can’t speak for a mens’ party but a ladies’ party has to be one of the most exciting cultural occasions you can be invited to.  Customs vary from place to place, for instance, at the first wedding I went to in AD, nearly all ladies took off their abayas to reveal beautiful dresses, whereas the first Al Ain wedding I attended only the young girls were going around abaya-less.  My advice to any expat would be to dress up as you would to an evening wedding reception back “home”, don’t overdo it though, and don’t wear mini skirts or trousers.

The official start time for the event is 8pm, but everyone seems to start arriving about 9pm, and all guests are greeted at the door by the bride’s family (ladies only, obviously).  A typical party will see 330-550 guests – and that’s just the ladies!
Once you are sat down then servers start coming around with the first of many plates of food, and also lots of interesting drinks (all non-alchoholic, of course).  They offer fruit juices, coffees, teas with exotic flavourings and there’s always water on the table.
Machboos, a popular arabic dish – photo courtesty of Wikipedia

What do you get to eat?  I’ve been told that the most affluent families will serve baby camel, but lamb, goat and chicken seem to be the post popular offerings. All beautifully cooked, in the most massive quantities.  Dishes usually appear throughout the evening; at the first wedding I attended, I was relieved to see desert being served about 10pm, after eating far too many savoury dishes.  BUT, half an hour later, huge plates of lamb biryani appeared at the table.  Oh my waistline!

The first part of the evening is dedicated to music, either a band or a disco.  If it’s a female singer she will be out on the “catwalk” giving it laldy (Scot’s word – translation: to do something with great vigour or enthusiasm)  and the males in the band will be screened from view  by a curtain.
All the young girls dance and having spent years in the textile industry, I love to see the elaborate dresses, on display in every local dress shop, coming to life when worn by beautiful young women.

Dramatic make-up – picture linked from

And these girls are beautiful, with their gorgeous dark brown eyes, flowing hair (up-dos are less popular now) and their lovely smiles.  The make up may be a bit theatrical for western tastes but a context such as a wedding, I think it looks lovely. One or two of the girls may even be hoping to catch the eye of a future mother in law who might just be on the lookout for a suitable wife for one of their sons!

Once everyone has been fed and the youngsters have been given time to strut their stuff, everyone sits down and the bride walks down the centre of the tent, on her own.  Like our brides walking down the aisle, they turn their gaze from right to left, smiling at all their guests.  Traditonally Emirati wedding dresses were very modest and often green in colour, however, western influence has seeped in and all the brides I have seen have worn ivory, with lots of sparkling adornment!

At the top of the catwalk there is a dais with a fancy sofa where the bride sits and waits for her husband. You know when this is going to happen as there will be an announcement made and there’s a flurry of black as all the local ladies don their abayas again and cover their hair.  Remember, local custom is that a woman should not be seen uncovered by a man who could marry her.

The groom will follow her path down the centre of the room accompanied by her father, his father and most likely, some of his brothers.  Female professional photographers/video makers will record the event –  only to be seen by the bride’s most immediate family.  The groom’s father and brothers then leave the proceedings and it’s customary for paper money to be thrown into the crowd which the kids and maids dash to catch.
Generally gifts are only given by those closest to the couple and at some weddings you as a guest will get a small gift of perfume or some other keepsake.  The wedding guests go up and offer their congratulations to the bride and groom;  once this is finished and more photos are taken, the couple leave the hall.  It’s customary to spend their first night together in the bride’s family home.
Ready to attend my first local wedding!
I never need an excuse for Henna!
And a great time to bring out the high heels!
If you are lucky enough to get an invitation to a local wedding, don’t worry, many of the ladies and most of the young girls speak perfect english and will guide you through the do’s and don’ts of the evening.  It’s not just eating and dancing, you will be offered a variety of perfumes and may even get the chance to have your long dress perfumed from the hem up!
Most marriages are arranged and once agreed the families meet at the Municipality Offices to sign the marriage contract.  This will be the first time the groom has seen the bride with her hair uncovered.  Once this is signed the wedding normally takes place within a few weeks, although it is sometimes longer.  However, since the contract is signed then the couple are married in the “eyes of the law”; sometimes their families will allow them to go out together before their official celebration to shop for furnishings for their new home.Although uncommon, It is possible for a local man to have four wives and I only know one man who has two, but he has to treat them each equally. There’s an interesting article on Wikipedia here.

Less well off Emirati men can apply to the country’s wedding fund which was put in place to encourage them to marry Emirati girls.  Read more here.Gulf news also has occasional articles on wedding and customs, here’s one to get you started.

One of our neighbours had a wedding last month

You know there’s a wedding in the offing because the week before, the brides house is festooned with lights. 

You might have noticed that there aren’t many photos in this blog.  The reason, the local ladies do not like their photos to be taken, so it is forbidden to take your camera or take shots with your mobile phone at weddings!

There are some subjects in this blog that may appear controversial to my western readers such as arranged marriages and polygamy;  I haven’t expressed my own opinions about these aspects, I’m only telling how it is here – a different world indeed!

Part 1 – shopping
Part 2 – Hotels
Part 3a – Leisure and Recreation
Part 4 – Officialdom 
Part 5a – A Different World Part A
Part 5b – Local Weddings

Bonus –  Further Resouces

And for information on the Industrial Area – Sanaiya

 ·  If you enjoy this blog please “like” my facebook page .  As well as blog updates, additional content and photographs will be uploaded regularly.
·  If you would to talk about the places I have visited please contact me on fullemptyquarter at gmail dot com or send me a message via my facebook page.
·  Follow me on twitter #FullEmptyQuartr
·  And lastly, if you would like to drive out on the sand with me, please join Oasis Offroad – who have their own facebook page!


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Life In Al Ain: Part 5a a different world

If you are coming here from a country with a high minimum wage, you will be amazed how many people are employed here to do seemingly menial tasks.  Many of these service workers earn 1000aed per month or less – most of which they send back to their families in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh to name a few places – so tipping well makes a huge difference to their lives.
Car Washing – from 20AED (£3.50)


I used to love cleaning our cars when I was younger but now I would never dream of washing my own car, even though we took a power washer out here with us!  It’s illegal to have a dirty car in the UAE and offroading makes them filthy quickly so we are never far away from our local carwash.
Ironing – from 1.5aed (26p) per item


I like to wash our own clothes (in my auto washer of course), but ironing is a job best left to the experts!  You tend to wash more out here as clothes get sweaty, dusty and dirty so much quicker than home.  The guys don’t even let me lug the basket out of the car!
Filling up with Petrol (always give them a tip!)


All the gas stations out here have attendants to fill your car – and don’t dare try to wash your own windscreen with the squeegee – they don’t want you to lift a finger!
Home Deliveries (tip)


After a short while it becomes normal to send out not only for pizza and curries, but also for small grocery items from your local shop – likely to be only a couple of hundred metres away! Read more about the home delivery culture in this Gulf News article.Supermarket Bag Packing (tip)

One of the things I miss most when I am “home” in the UK is the bag packing service – the best ones in Al Ain are at Lulu, where not only will they pack your bags for you, they load the conveyor belt out of your trolley too!  Needless to say they take your groceries out to your car and load them too!

So have we turned lazy?  Maybe, but it could be called “embracing local culture”.  Whatever you call it we are making the lives of these helpers and their families just a little easier by giving them tips!

Part 1 – shopping
Part 2 – Hotels
Part 3a – Leisure and Recreation
Part 4 – Officialdom 
Part 5a – A Different World Part A
Part 5b – Local Weddings

Bonus –  Further Resouces

And for information on the Industrial Area – Sanaiya

And for information on the Industrial Area – Sanaiya
 ·  If you enjoy this blog please “like” my facebook page .  As well as blog updates, additional content and photographs will be uploaded regularly.
·  If you would to talk about the places I have visited please contact me on fullemptyquarter at gmail dot com or send me a message via my facebook page.
·  Follow me on twitter #FullEmptyQuartr
·  And lastly, if you would like to drive out on the sand with me, please join Oasis Offroad – who have their own facebook page!



Categories: Al Ain Blog | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Life in Al Ain: Part 4 Officialdom

It’s a good idea to be prepared before you visit any official/government department here in the UAE.  Rules change frequently, and just because your colleague needed only the original of a particular document last week, doesn’t mean that you won’t need a photocopies as well as the original today!  There are photocopying machines in most centres, but they can have a queue so it’s quicker to make your own beforehand.It’s worth taking original documents plus two copies of each of these

a) For almost anything:
Original passport, copies should be of the main page, and if you have your residence visa, that one too. (Ladies- if you are here on your husband’s sponsorship it’s an idea to have a copy of your his passport and residency too if you are going to a department on your own).
Your UAE ID card if you have one (you should always carry it in any case)
6 passport sized photographs

b) Residency and residence
If you haven’t got your residence visa, then your offer letter/contract of employment
Attested marriage certificate and kids’ birth certificates for anything to do with visas
Your residential rental contract, which should now be attested by the Municipality.

c) Vehicles
If your visit is about vehicles, your home country driving licence, unless you have your UAE one in which case just use it

d) Anywhere official
A huge reserve of patience!


GPS – N24 12.377, E55 45.678
This is where you arrange for your mobile phone sim card, house phone/tv/internet. There are Etisalat kiosks in most of the malls, but generally these are for straightforward transactions, so we always go to their main office to arrange or change services.  Du also offer telecoms services but they are less popular than Etisalat.

SEHA – Health Exam

GPS – N24 13.979, E55 43.900
A basic health check is required for processing of your visa, a blood test which checks for AIDS, Hepatitis etc, and an X-ray for TB.  Pay for a fast track service – costs you 100aed extra but saves you waiting for hours in line.

EIDA – ID card

GPS – N24 14.179, E55 44.007
At the time of writing, the first step in the process of acquiring your ID card is to visit a typing office – these are listed on the EIDA website.  Once you have done this and got your receipt in hand, you must then make your way to the EIDA office, where they will stamp your receipt – this serves as a temporary ID card until your one arrives.

Department of Residence and Foreigners Affairs


GPS N24 14.440, E55 43.876
Your employer will take care of your visa, however you may have to do the legwork for your spouse/children. If they offer to take care of your family’s residency formalities too – then let them!Al Ain Distribution Company 


GPS – N24 14.434, E55 44.013
To arrange your electricity and water supply you have to visit one of their offices – the co-ordinates are for the one in the Municipality block.  Details of others in their downloadable customer guide.
To get your account set up, you may need to have your rental contract attested and if so, you need to go to theMain Municipality Building

GPS – N24 14.327, E55 44.267
There’s a typing centre inside this building as well as a bank and all the usual departments.

Emirates Post

GPS –  N24 13.193, E55 45.506
The main post office, nightmare to park near here, unless it’s a Friday morning (when it and all other businesses are closed!)

GPS- N24 14.131, E55 43.905
This is a very quiet office, with easy parking.

Once your residency visa has been processed, you can now buy a car, and as part of this process you will need to visit the Al Ain Traffic Complex – GPS N24 11.708, E55 43.726.  Abu Dhabi Police website here


Driving License building  N24 11.588, E55 43.359
Separate section for ladies – much quicker and quieter.
Car Test and License area N24 11.407, E55 43.265
A bit like the British MOT but somewhat faster and slimmed down.  It’s also possible to get your car tested at some smaller, outlying test stations.  Once you get your car’s pass certificate, and your driving license, ID card you can register a car in your name.Hope this info will help some of the Al Ain newcomers get through the tricky admin during the early days of their Arabian adventure!

Please note that all my photos were taken on a Friday morning, when the various departments were shut.  The images you see on google earth have also been shot on Fridays!

Part 1 – shopping
Part 2 – Hotels
Part 3a – Leisure and Recreation
Part 4 – Officialdom 
Part 5a – A Different World Part A
Part 5b – Local Weddings

Bonus –  Further Resouces

And for information on the Industrial Area – Sanaiya

 ·  If you enjoy this blog please “like” my facebook page .  As well as blog updates, additional content and photographs will be uploaded regularly.
·  If you would to talk about the places I have visited please contact me on fullemptyquarter at gmail dot com or send me a message via my facebook page.
·  Follow me on twitter #FullEmptyQuartr
·  And lastly, if you would like to drive out on the sand with me, please join Oasis Offroad – who have their own facebook page!


Categories: Al Ain Blog | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Life in Al Ain: Part 3a- Leisure and Recreation

It’s very easy to clock up 500kms+ per week if you do a school run, combined with shopping, leisure etc, so it makes sense to live near your work, the schools, or the place you will spend most of your time off, be it a mall, a hotel, a park or in my case, the desert.
Here’s some places you may like to visit when you come here.
Jebel HafeetGPS – N24 03.509, E55 46.640

Jebel means mountain, and this is the most imposing landmark in the area.  It rises from the local land level of 250m above sea level to a height of over 1000m, and is a popular place to have a drive up and view Al Ain and Buraimi below.

There’s a three lane carriageway (2 lanes up, 1 down) complete with crash barriers, with lots of car parks to stop and take photos as the road winds its way up the mountain. If you stop at the carparks on the left hand side as you travel upwards, you may be rewarded with the sight of some Egyptian vultures soaring on the thermals.

At the top of the mountain there are two cafes, a recently constructed picnic area and children’s play area.  It’s a great place to go all year round, and is up to 8 degrees cooler than All Ain city.

The Grand Mercure Jebel Hafeet Hotel is near the top, you can read a little about it here; and at the foot of the mountain, you will find

Green Mubuzzarah Park

GPS -N24 06.435, E55 44.852
A popular spot with locals at weekends, this amazing spash of green is a great place to relax.  It has indoor swimming pools which are fed from hot mineral springs, and in accordance with local custom, are in different buildings for men and ladies (and as a bonus, no kids allowed in the ladies’ pool!) . Entry to the pools is 5aed.  There are picnic areas, kiddies playgrounds, a boating lake with a huge fountain, and at the weekends in the cool season there are camel rides and pony trap rides.  The park has a cafe and restaurants too.  Beware though – the stream you see in the picture is fed from a hot spring and the water is incredibly hot!

Jebel Hafeet Tombs

GPS – entry point – N24 02.681, E55 50.498
GPS – tombs -N24 02.696, E55 47.992
On the other side of the mountain there are some ancient tombs, some dating back 5000 years, which have now been restored by ADACH.  These should by rights be in a future blog which will concentrate on historical sites, however we are so close let’s explore.  There is an easy way in, which you could do with a “softroader”, or there’s a rough path in which you definitely need a full 4×4 for.  The entry co-ordinates I have given are for the easy way in, and you should be able to carefully pick your way through established tracks to the tombs.
Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort

GPS – N24 10.754, E55 44.260
is a huge zoo and park, established over 40 years ago in the shadow of Jebel Hafeet.  A great cheap day out for the family – adults 15aed, kids 5aed – it has a massive selection of animals; you would have to spend all day here to see and read about them all.

Everyone’s got their own favourites, mine are the giraffes, and you can see them at the mixed african exhibit, as well as the feeding area (25aed including a cupful of carrots).

Another very popular attraction is the bird house which has shows featuring birds of prey, as well as a penguinarium.  (I thought I’d made up this word,but it turns out there are lots of penguinariums in the world, though I am sure this is the only one in the desert)!

The Al Ain Zoo website is here.  Operating hours vary throughout the year so it’s important to check their opening times before promising your kids a visit!

Wadi Adventure

GPS –  N24 05.682, E55 44.358
Opened earlier this year, Al Ain can now boast a waterpark where you can kayak, raft, surf or just swim.  Good attraction, quite expensive but great for a treat – here’s their website.

and here’s my friend Mike Bryan with his kids Matt and Olivia, indulging in some whitewater rafting in the desert!


Now for more mainstream activities – I haven’t provided the co-ords for these as you will have them already from my shopping and hotel blogs.Tenpin Bowling
Al Ain Mall, Bawadi Mall

Grand Al Ain Cineplex, Al Ain Mall
Grand Bawadi, Bawadi Mall
Grand Rotana, Rotana Hotel
Find listings for all the cinemas  here
Kids’ amusement/fun centres
Al Ain Mall
Al Jimi Mall (downstairs at Spash end of the mall)
Bawadi Mall
Al Foah MallLove to hear from people who have used my co-ordinates to get a better feel of the area – are they helpful and what else would you like me to add?

Part 1 – shopping
Part 2 – Hotels
Part 3a – Leisure and Recreation
Part 4 – Officialdom 
Part 5a – A Different World Part A
Part 5b – Local Weddings

Bonus –  Further Resouces

 ·  If you enjoy this blog please “like” my facebook page .  As well as blog updates, additional content and photographs will be uploaded regularly.
·  If you would to talk about the places I have visited please contact me on fullemptyquarter at gmail dot com or send me a message via my facebook page.
·  Follow me on twitter #FullEmptyQuartr
·  And lastly, if you would like to drive out on the sand with me, please join Oasis Offroad – who have their own facebook page!



Categories: Al Ain Blog | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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