I am not alone in thinking Al Ain is a very special place – in June 2011 UNESCO added some sites in the city to their World Heritage List, the first in the UAE to achieve such status. As part of my Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Tour Guide training I have to learn about all these sites and many more, so today’s blog is “killing two birds with one stone” – a chance to share some more information on this amazing place with my readers, and I’m simultaneously doing some of my course homework!
The highest point in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Jebel (means mountain in arabic) Hafeet towers over the garden city of Al Ain. At over 1200 metres above sea level, it’s a great place to visit in the summer, where temperatures can be as much as 8C lower than the city below and where often a light breeze will cool you down further. The same light breeze in the winter can make the evening temperatures of 5-10C feel almost sub-zero!
The 12km road up to the top is 3-lane and rises through 60 turns, some hairpin, with plenty of viewpoints on the way up to stop and look at the wonderful vista below. The road can be driven by 2WD cars and is very popular with cyclists and also supercar owners. At the top you will find a car parking area with a local restaurant, play areas for kids and benches to sit and relax as you watch the sunset; slightly further down the hill you will find the Mercure Hotel which is a great place to spend a day during the summer.
Marine fossils found on Jebel Hafeet date back 70 million years; there are caves inside the mountain which currently are not accessible to the public.
At the foot of the mountain, on the Eastern (Bawadi Mall) side, there are a series of beehive tombs, dating back some 5000 years. If you have a 4×4 you can visit these easily – but always during the day, never at night as the area is patrolled by the army/border guards due to its close proximity to the border fence and they will move you on if they encounter you. The Mezyad graves, as they are known, date from 3200 to 2700 BC and have given their name to the “Hafeet Period” or “Hafeet Cultural Horizon”. Extensively excavated, bronze and soapstone objects were found and some of these can be seen in the Al Ain National Museum in the town centre.