Neither a shopping nor driving experience for the faint hearted, it is full of great emporiums – if you know where to look. Here’s my highlights.
The Sculpture – N24 11.253, E55 45.324
originally this sat atop a roundabout; it’s been replaced by traffic lights but the “industrial globe” still sits there for all to see
The Furniture Streets – N24 11.979, E55 45.559
Plenty of home furnishing shops here. You may know of bespoke tailors, but in the UAE we have bespoke sofa makers! (And they are not too expensive either). The arabic taste can be rather ornamental to western eyes, but if you look carefully you will find some lovely cheap furniture that has international appeal.
I always go to Hussains (N24 11.966, E55 45.636) first, they know me and I get a discount. I buy a lot of sewing/upholstery stuff here, though they are always puzzled why I would want to sew myself when I could get the work done very cheaply there or at a tailors!
Zarawani – N24 11.760, E55 45.589
They have three branches, but this one is my favourite. Think the “Fork Handles” sketch by the two Ronnies, except you will be served by a smiling and most helpful man from the Indian sub-continent.
They have got everything you need for DIY and garden, but do let the staff help you or you will be there all day!
Al Ain Gift Market – N24 11.750, E55 45.728
There are a huge number of gift markets here – this is one of the biggest and best, they sell food, clothes, homewares etc. This shop is at one of the main traffic lights in the area, so very easy to find – and it’s just up the road from Zarawani.
Mehran’s Garage – N24 11.837, E55 45.841
Probably one of the best 4×4 garages in Al Ain – always my first stop for repairs and mods.
Car Cleaning Area – N24 11.707, E55 45.055
There are lots of car washes dotted around Al Ain, but the biggest concentration of them is here – you can get your car washed and dried for as little as 25aed, many also do polishing.
Notice anything odd about the car above ? It’s possible for the cleaners to take out all the seats, scrub the inside, let the seats dry in the sun, then re-assemble. I’m sure the idea would never work in rainy Aberdeen.
I wonder if they ever put the wrong seats back!
Tyre Shop – N24 11.890, E055 45.430
Plenty of tyre and wheel shops around here, I use this one as the young manager speaks good english and I always get a good deal.
Cars for sale – everywhere
Hundreds and hundreds of 4x4s are parked up in rows around Sanaiya, waiting to be bought. If anyone has a spare 250,000aed and wants to buy me an early birthday present, I’d like the brand new Nissan Patrol 5th from the left please.
Some of the shop name translations aren’t quite right – but give you a laugh anyway!
Remember to barter – you will normally get a discount at everywhere except the gift markets. Not all establishments charge you extra if you are an expat although some do – remember the Arabs have a fantastic ability to negotiate discounts, so when in Rome….
Practise your “appalled, shocked” expressions before you get there and try that as a starting point for getting a great deal when they tell you the price. Then you ask for their best price, and once you get that you ask for a further discount. My husband is embarassed to accompany me when I am in good bartering form!
a) These photos were taken between 9am and 11am on a Friday, when most of the shops are shut. This is Sanayia at its quietest!
b) Ladies – I feel perfectly safe walking around here, many of the workers stare (in their cultures staring at someone is not considered bad manners) but you will get used to it. Wear full length trousers or skirt and keep your shoulders and the tops of your arms covered.
b) Ramadan starts around 9th-10th July 2013, opening hours for most establishments in Sanayyia are 9-1, morning and evening.
Finally, here’s a link to a great Gulf News article on Sanaiya from last year – Gulf News Article
Some more blogs I have compiled on “life in Al Ain”
Bonus – Further Resouces