We stepped out of the bus in the scorching heat. The contrast with the air conditioning was cruel, the blazing sun was blinding. We were already disoriented, having landed in totally unrecognizable territory. A few men were sitting in the shade in their long, white dishdashas and their beads entwirled around their fingers. They saw us looking around and came to us, asking where we were going.
-To the oasis
-This is Al Ain?
-We’ve come to see the oasis.
We proceeded to move away from the group of men, hoping to find that elusive oasis.
After our walk inside the oasis, which lasted for the whole afternoon, we emerged with our heads full of images and a sense of having traveled in time.
The men were still gathered at the bus stop.
-Beautiful oasis, I said.
-Yes, they replied.
Al Ain is located in the Abu Dhabi Emirate, directly at the border with the Sultanate of Oman, near the Omani town of Buraimi. It is easily reachable by bus from Dubai (120 km) or Abu Dhabi (160 km). Apart from the oasis, there are forts and an archeological park that you can visit (the area has been inhabited for +/- 4000 years), as well as a National Museum and mineral springs.
The oasis is free to navigate and offers a wonderful respite from the city heat, with large date palms (roughly 145 000 of them) covering almost 3000 acres. We were there for a whole afternoon, totally alone except for an occasional employee riding his old bicycle in the alleys. It was almost total silence, spare for the birds and the wind in the leaves. Oh, and the occasional munching of dates that we couldn’t help but to pick from the trees.