Al Ain was once an essential pit-stop on the caravan route between Oman and the Gulf and fed by natural springs and set amid date-palm plantations. However, this is the birthplace of the United Arab Emirates' founding father, Sheikh Zayed. A sprawling modern city, radiating outwards from the green heart of its central oasis, with a distinctly laid-back experience
What it lacks in modern skyscrapers, this city makes up for in the preserved fort and a smattering of Unesco World Heritage sites, while the zoo and Wadi Adventure water park are a popular family destination on the weekends. Loomed over by the craggy contours of Jebel Hafeet just south of town, you can drive up the snaking mountain road to the summit for sweeping views of the Empty Quarter along the way.