Al Ain, UAE: the Garden City in a Desert

Al Ain, UAE: the Garden City in a Desert

Al Ain is a city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Some call it the Garden City as it has seven flourishing oases surrounded by desert. Residents of Al Ain feel safe here, as do foreigners who respect and follow local traditions. Read on to learn about life in Al Ain, its special features, culture and prices.

Transportation and Location 

Al Ain is located in the eastern part of the UAE. As of 2022, it is the fourth most populous city in the country, with almost 850,000 inhabitants. However, it should be pointed out that most of them are emigrants from nearby countries. 

The public transport system of the city is based on buses. As they are always overcrowded and it is so hot, locals tend not to use them, travelling in their own cars or taking taxis.

The climate here is extremely hot. Temperatures can reach up to 48-50°C. However, you can always avoid the heat in public places which have elaborate air conditioning systems.

The highway connecting Al Ain with Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a 130 km road with a smooth surface. If you want to save on renting a property, Al Ain is a good choice as it is close to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So you can live in Al Ain and commute to work in big cities.

Dubai - Al Ain road. Photo: Mahmoud Farrag

Cost of Living 

Naturally, prices are lower in Al Ain than in the biggest cities in the UAE. Dinner for two in a middle-class restaurant will cost AED 100. The growing number of emigrants is stimulating the proactive development of the restaurant industry here. Today Al Ain offers various dining options with a large price range. Here you can try Indian, Persian, Filipino and Lebanese cuisine.

A private kindergarten in Al Ain costs about AED 2,400 a month. Fees at an international primary school cost AED 26,000 a year. You can get a gym membership for AED 320 and rent a tennis court for AED 80 per hour.

Real Estate

Unlike Abu Dhabi or Dubai, buildings in Al Ain cannot be taller than seven floors. The city centre consists of blocks of flats, while family houses can be found in the suburbs.

It costs on average AED 32,000 per square metre if you buy a flat. Houses and villas are a bit cheaper, at approximately AED 27,000 per square metre. You can buy a 150 square metre house from AED 4,000,000. It costs about AED 4,500 to rent a 30 square metre one bedroom flat.


Al Ain is home to the United Arab Emirates University. Founded in 1976 by former President of the UAE Sheikh Zayed, the university is a federal education facility. You will also find men-only and women-only colleges in Al Ain.

Many schools are located in the Al Manaseer district, such as Emirates Private School, Liwa International School and Al Sanawbar School. By the way, most of the teachers are foreigners. 

The healthcare system consists of two hospitals:

  • Tawam Hospital is the largest clinic in the UAE with its own oncology centre,
  • Al-Jimi is the main healthcare facility in Al Ain, providing health services to all patients regardless of their nationality and citizenship.

You can go shopping to one of the shopping centres and spend your free time walking in a park or playing on a tennis court. Al Ain also boasts a unique oasis with 150,000 date palms. Children can enjoy visiting Al Ain Zoo or Hili Fun City amusement park.

Al Ain Zoo. Photo: Al Ain zoo, UAE


Alcohol consumption is prohibited in Al Ain, as well as in other cities in the UAE. You will need an alcohol licence to buy alcohol here. However, if you drink or get drunk in a public place, you may face serious consequences, up to and including detention in custody. Even though it is close to westernised Dubai, Al Ain remains a conservative city.

Key sights in Al Ain are:

  • Tombs in Hili Archaeological Park,
  • Al Ain National Museum,
  • Al Jahili Fort,
  • Jebel Hafeet mountain,
  • Mubazzarah hot springs,
  • Al Ain Camel Market,
  • Al Ain Zoo.

Did you know? The First President of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was born in Al Ain. In 2021 a new mosque opened in Al Ain, named after the Second President of the UAE Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Green Mubazzarah. Photo: Peter Dowley

Al-Jahili Fort. Photo: Michael Wong (Flickr)

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In a Nutshell

Moving to Al Ain will save you money on accommodation. It is much cheaper to rent or buy an apartment here than in Dubai. Moreover, Al Ain has everything you need to live comfortably even if you have children. The city’s disadvantages include the extremely hot climate and ineffective public transport. However, if you respect Muslim culture, Al Ain is the perfect place to live.

Cover photo: Amila Pradeep (Flickr)

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