Adventures in “Plain Al Ain”

Al Ain is an area in the emirate of Abu Dhabi that’s a 90-minute drive from the actual city of Abu Dhabi. My friend Ashley was placed there to work at a middle school near the Oman border. I met her on our first night here; we were both assigned to the 10th floor of the Hotel Intercontinental and spent at least part of every day together until I was given the keys to my apartment. Several weeks later, after settling into our respective new homes, we agreed that a reunion was in order. I decided to go to Al Ain since Ashley had already seen the city and I wanted to get a feel for her new living situation.
Before either of us knew anything about her new home (other than its name) we were talking about our blogs and how she should rename hers to tie in with her current adventure. A few days prior, we had been told that people from Dubai like to call Abu Dhabi “Abu Shabi” because the two cities are always arguing about which one is better and the residents like to get a jab in whenever they can. We finally settled on “Plain Al Ain” because, frankly, it was the best nickname I came up with and it has a nice ring to it. If you can do better, by all means let me know.

Thank God for iTunes

Thank God for iTunes

After my extremely plain drive through the desert to Al Ain- the bonus factor being that it’s just under an hour away from my school- we went shopping to buy her some home furnishings. The following day we flirted with heat stroke at the Al Ain Zoo and laughed about the fact that we didn’t die (we were so hot we barely conversed the whole time). In general, she lives in a pretty regular town. It’s what people here think of as “suburban,” but it’s not like Chicago suburbs at all. It’s very spread out with sand hills all around; shopping is easier than it is in the city but it’s not as bustling by any means. Gas stations are also much more plentiful though, so it does have its good points.
At any rate, Al Ain is the proud home of a mountain called Jebel Hafeet. It’s over 1200m (4000 ft) high, which I didn’t realize until it was too late. Anyone who knows me knows that I have motion sickness issues; I’m usually able to work around them if I’m aware in advance that I’ll be on a boat, or circling endlessly on never-ending winding roads, or riding three roller coasters within an hour, or jumping out of a plane. However, we hadn’t discussed this field trip ahead of time so when I saw the mountain and the ominous road swirling to the top, I was reminded of the out-of-body experience I had while driving to Muir Woods in California and was like “Nooooo, I’m not sure I can handle this.” I’m so jaded that I actually keep Dramamine in my purse, but knew we’d reach our destination before the little miracle pill even kicked in. Since we were in Ashley’s rental car, I opted to let her to continue to drive just to absolve myself of any responsibility should we careen off the road; I begged her to drive slowly and to stop at the photo opp areas so I could physically and mentally re-group. I’m sure she thought I was nuts, as anyone who hasn’t experienced my motion-sickness-in-action would, but we eventually made it to the summit without incident.

Once there, I was glad I’d held it together. At the top of the mountain sits Mercure, a beautiful oasis resort.
We walked through the hotel to an outdoor restaurant called Eden Rock, which overlooks the pool on one side and the mountainside on the other. The waiter told us they only offered a prix fixe lunch menu so, having no choice, we went with that. Later, we noticed other diners eating hamburgers and club sandwiches, but we were in it for the experience so we didn’t complain, at least not until we asked to take our leftovers home and the waiter said “we don’t have containers for takeaway.” Of course you don’t; this is the UAE, where nothing makes sense and things are… just the way they are. Unfortunately, the food was so good we would’ve wrapped it in a napkin (aka a tissue here.. really- right out of the cardboard box) or carried it in our bare hands if that was feasible. Instead, we left a feast for the flies that swarmed our table.

And these were just the apps!

And these were just the apps!

Since it was almost 5pm by the time we finished lunch, we made only one quick stop at the less-than-stellar gift shop before returning to the car. As soon as we began driving I realized that though there are two lanes on the way up the mountain, there’s only one on the way down. I forced Ashley to drive so slowly on the descent that she had to pull over to allow several aggravated drivers to pass us. My extreme concern for our health and safety didn’t stop her from carrying on a non-bluetooth cell phone conversation as we wound down the mountain. But because of her gabbing she completely missed out on seeing an extremely large, oddly-shaped mountain/sand formation that I cannot describe on my G-rated blog so that was her loss. Ashley says I should have interrupted her but I didn’t think she needed any more distractions. In reality, I thought we’d wind past it several times but our path didn’t take us around in a circle the way I’d anticipated. We eventually made it back to her apartment and had some laughs about the takeaway fail and how we didn’t melt into a puddle at the zoo. All in all, a good day and a fun weekend. As usual, we had a great time, made some new friends, and mixed in a little culture with our antics. Although we’ll probably use the nickname the entire time we’re here, Al Ain will never be plain as long as she’s living there.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deb Mech
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 02:05:21

    I definitely feel your pain with the motion sickness! I would have insisted on driving myself, as it is the only way to keep me from extreme nausea! This was yet another great piece of writing about an adventure that if described by me, would have been much less entertaining! Your writing rocks, Sue! Miss you!




  2. Barb
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 11:24:25

    I agree Deb! Love Sue’s writing!! Glad you and Ashley have each other to laugh with!



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