Al-Ain – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

An Oasis with One Foot in Abu Dhabi, one in Oman

Al-Ain/Buraimi straddles the border of the United Arab Emirates and the sultanate of Oman, and the halves of the oasis reflect the overnight wealth of the former and the more reticent conservatism of the latter.

The place is a favorite weekend escape for local emiratis and expats of Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as visiting businessmen curious to see life beyond the oil-rich capitals, where nothing seems more than thirty years old. A peek into oasis life – where black-masked and -veiled women trailed by barefoot children slip through the cool, winding, unnamed dirt roads of the palm-shaded town – could be a vignette from 400 years ago.

A camel racetrack, daily camel market, and livestock souk add character and draw a colorful following of Bedouins and people from faraway towns. The souk is a good spot for buying Omani goods and handmade silver crafts from Muscat – or maybe you’re in the market for a goat.

Like a 21st-century mirage in the midst of the desert, the Al-Ain Hilton offers modern-day amenities plus a lux­urious pool and sports facilities that are appreciated after a morning visit to the dusty, boisterous marketplace. An in-house agency organizes safaris to archaeological sites acces­sible only by camel, and overnight trips that let you sleep under the stars or in Bedouin tents.

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