Having got up early to visit the Hili Archaelogical park before the day heated up, we were turned back by a guard at the gate who told us politely that it was open at 4.30pm.
I hate wasting days – so, what to do? The sun was shining, it wasn’t hot and we were just round the corner from the Hili Fort (closed) and the Hili Oasis; early morning is a great time to explore an oasis!
We walked for less than an hour but managed to stumble upon a very old building which is currently undergoing restoration. Mud bricks were baking in the sunshine, an Indian roller bird watched us from atop a scaffolding pole and we took advantage of myriad photo opportunities.
One of the principal reasons for Al Ain’s Oases inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List is due to the very early falaj (plural aflaj) systems which channeled water throughout the oasis. So efficient are these systems that they are still in use today but the old mud channels with “gates” made of rags have now been replaced somewhat more durable concrete with plastic gates.
Even at the height of summer you will find temperatures bearable – inside the oasis it can be up to 8C cooler than the surrounding area – and you are never sure what you will come across once you are away from the highway.
In the garden city we have five oases recognised by UNESCO – gps co-ordinates after each one are suggested places to park.
Al Ain (24 13.032n 55 46.446e – AA National Museum)
Hili (24 16.919n 55 45.992e – Hili Fort)
Al Qattara/Al Jimi (24 15.622n 55.44.898e – Al Qattara souq)
Mutaredh (24 13.084n 55 44.723e – shops)
Muwaiji – is the smallest and less accessible than the others – no parking suggestions.
You can walk through most of them but don’t stray into the individual plantations unless you are invited.
Dates are harvested between July and October, dependent on variety
You can very easily become lost in an oasis – there are very few landmarks (apart from palm trees and walls) and it is easy to become disorientated among the maze of plantations. My tip is to park your car near a landmark and take a gps or a smartphone with you – you can always revert to google earth to help you find your way back!
Remember to take drinking water with you – there are no shops inside and it may be challegning to find the drinking water dispensers. If you visit during Ramadan remember to conceal your bottle and only drink where you can be sure no-one can see you.
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