Thursday 17 May 2018, 14:58

Al Ain

Situated 160km east of the capital Abu Dhabi in the lee of the Omani mountains, the city of Al Ain (which means ‘Oasis’ in Arabic) takes its name from the profusion of watering holes and springs surrounding it. These reserves of underground water create and maintain the fertile soil for which the city is famous and stretch for over 100 square kilometres, making Al Ain one of the most verdant spots in the United Arab Emirates.

The oases, gardens and tree-lined streets have earned Al Ain the nickname of ‘the Garden City of the Gulf’. With over 71 parks scattered throughout its neighbourhoods, as well as the arable land and palm plantations beyond, the city relies on its famous underground irrigation system of interconnected wells to keep it looking green.

This regional capital provides vital services to a vast area of the country, extending right to the Oman border. In recent years, local industries have come on leaps and bounds, while the presence of the University of the United Arab Emirates, the country’s leading university, make Al Ain an important centre of culture and learning.

Boasting many areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as the 1,240m-high Mount Hafeet and its many natural springs, Al Ain’s tourist industry continues to thrive. The peaceful streets and tranquil surroundings provide a haven for visitors looking to escape the pressures of their day-to-day lives.

Football But Al Ain is more than just a pretty place. This calm oasis has lent its name to one of the UAE’s most important football clubs. In 2003, Al Ain became the first Emirati side to win the AFC Champions League, reaching the final of the same competition two years later in 2005. Their domestic record is no less impressive, with a national record 13 league titles, the last of them coming in the 2017/18 season.

Despite its relatively small size, this passionate city boasts three football arenas: Tahnoun Bin Mohamed Stadium; Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, one of the venues for the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 and Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, the city’s largest stadium, which hosted the FIFA Club World Cup in 2017. The stunning exterior design of the latter stadium, which will be one of the two host venues for the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, was inspired by the trunk of the palm tree, an important symbol of the UAE’s heritage and culture.