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Living Information: Abu Dhabi, Al Ain & Al Gharbia

 Working a teaching job in Abu Dhabi does not mean being confined to one city - the Emirate and the UAE as a whole has many interesting cities and towns to visit and enjoy. Outside Abu Dhabi city are the western region of Al Gharbia and the eastern region of Al Ain. Al Gharbia is a vast desert with many traditional settlements. It's the place to experience traditional bedouin culture, traditional activities like horseback riding and falconry and see oases that have been settled since ancient times. Those looking for authentic culture at a slower pace than the big city will enjoy the region and the many sights, activities and cultural treasures it has to offer visitors. To the east of Abu Dhabi City lies the region of Al Ain and the capital city it's named for.

 The city of Al Ain is a medium sized city of just over half a million people. Due to its size, it has all amenities and facilities you'd expect from a city that size. Knows as the Oasis City it is lush and green and a pleasant break from the harsh desert. The name Al Ain means "the spring" in Arabic and looking at the lush greenery of the city it's not hard to imagine why. Unlike Abu Dhabi City, you won't find any skyscrapers here. The building regulations have strict limits on height so the many trees always remain the dominating feature of the city. While the city has a higher number of Emirati citizens compared to Abu Dhabi City, it's by all means a very cosmopolitan place where it's easy to get around with English. The city is very close to the Omani border making it a great base for weekend trips to Muscat (the capital of Oman) or excursions into the mountains that surround Al Ain.

 Al Gharbia, also known as the Western Region, is a vast land of deserts and sand dunes with the occasional settlement occuring in the oasis that dot the land. It's only sparsely populated and the most traditional part of the Emirate. The government Abu Dhabi Education Coucil is committed to raising the standards of rural eduction to the same levels as in the larger cities. As a foreign teacher, your work is essential in educating the children of this region and helping them become educated citizens who can contribute to the modern economy, while retaining their distinct cultural identity. While the region is vast, the UAE has an excellent road network - at no point are you more than 2 or 3 hours drive from Abu Dhabi City.


 With many thanks to our friends at the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority we are pleased to publish the "ten things to know" list for Abu Dhabi City, Al Gharbia and Al Ain. If you're unfamiliar with Abu Dhabi and the regions that make up the Emirate this is great way to read up on what makes each of these regions so special and well worth a visit, or two. Regardless of where you're placed as a teacher, you're bound to encounter plenty of things to see and do. And while working in your own region, you can enjoy getaways on the weekends and enjoy many activities and outings the Emirate has to offer.


  1. Over the last 50 years, Abu Dhabi has been transformed from little more than empty desert inhabited by nomadic tribes into a thriving 21st century society.
  2. Abu Dhabi is at the heart of one of the world's most advancing regions. Abu Dhabi city is easily accessible from key European, Asian, African, American and Australian business centres.
  3. Abu Dhabi city is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The wider Abu Dhabi emirate occupies over 80% of the country's total land mass.
  4. Unknown to most, Abu Dhabi is archipelagic with 200 nearby islands dotted along its coast - island hopping is a popular pastime.
  5. Abu Dhabi is on its way to becoming a global cultural centre with the creation of the Cultural District on Saadiyat Island. This 27 square kilometre island lying 500 metres offshore teh UAE capital is being transformed into a signature cultural, leisure and residential destination. The island will be home to the largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions including the Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi all designed by award-winnign international architects.
  6. Emirates Palace is one of the world's most majestic and opulent hotels. Often mistaken as the presidential palace, Emirates Palace is decorated with gold-leaf, marble and hung with almost 1,000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Abu Dhabi has an expanding range of other fabulous hotels and iconic buildings including the Yas Hotel, the only one in the world straffling a Formula 1 race track and the Hyatt Capital Gate.
  7. Abu Dhabi offers fantastic leisure activities. Choose from fascinating city tours, desert safaris and tours of our stunning Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 track or try your hand at driving it. Play a round of golf on one of the three championship-ready, all-grass golf courses or visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - the UAE's most imposing religious and national landmark. Opt for a range of watersports in Abu Dhabi's warm, calm waters or take a trip to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world's largest indoor theme park, and board Formula Rossa - the world's fastest roller coaster.
  8. Visitors can experience an authentic taste of Arabian culture and heritage.
  9. Abu Dhabi enjoys a subtropical climate with sunshine almost every day.
  10. Abu Dhabi is home to the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This international headline race joins an impressive line-up of world-class events which have enabled the emirate to emerge as a major global events contender. These include the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Gourmet Abu Dhabi gastronomic festival, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, Abu Dhabi Arts and the Al Ain Aerobatics Show.

 Al Gharbia makes up over two thirds of the UAE and is home to Liwa, an historic oasis town which sits at the entry to the Rub al Khali - the Empty Quarter - the world's largest sand desert.



  1. Al Gharbia's history is encompassed in the myriad of ancient forts which dot the landscape. Together they present a snapshot of this region's fascinating history - and all set against dramatic landscapes.
  2. The picturesque harbour town of Al Mirfa boasts a stunning coastline and a four-star hotel.
  3. Moreeb Hill in the Liwa desert is, at 300 metres, one of the world's tallest sand dunes. With a 50 degree incline to the tip it is the pinnacle for desert driving enthusiasts.
  4. Delma Island was once a prominent pearl fishing community with a strong maritime heritage.
  5. Sir Bani Yas Island, a former Royal nature reserve, hosts the Arabian Wildlife Park with free-roaming animals including a 400-plus strong herd of Arabian Oryx (gazelles) - one of the world's largest.
  6. Sir Bani Yas Island is home to the boutique Desert Islands Resort & Spa which provides guests with a wide range of adventure activities. Choose from kayaking through mangrove forests, snorkeling in immaculately clean waters, mountain biking and hiking over ancient salt domes or 4x4 guided tours of the Arabian Wildlife Park.
  7. The Liwa Date Festival, held every July, explores the intricacies of date production and the varied products now emanating from the valued desert fruit.
  8. Al Dhafrah Camel Festival, held each December in Al Gharbia's capital of Madinat Zayed, celebrates the importance of the cherished "ship of the desert". The festival includes the world's only camel beauty contest.
  9. The Al Gharbia Watersports Festival, held yearly in Al Mirfa, is a wonderworld of watersports. Participate in, or just watch, kiteboards and surf ski kayaks in the waves, relax at chilled-out camps and concerts onshore, this is the UAE's wildest week.

 The name Al Ain means spring, and is very apt as the city is fed by natural springs originating in the rocky heights which surround it. Al Ain was once a vital oasis on the caravan route from the UAE to Oman.



  1. The Al Ain Palace Museum was once the home of the late UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan and was a hub of political life. The palace is now a museum with a large collection of material things about the ruling family.
  2. The towering Jebel Hafeet heights, rising 1,240 metres, affords an impressive view over Al Ain.
  3. The Al Ain Oasis in the heart of the city abounds with palm plantations, and cool, shady walkways. It has eight separate entrances. Many of the oasis farms have working examples of falaj, the traditional irrigation system which has been used for centuries to tap into underground wells.
  4. The Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort is the most progressive facility of its kind in the region, and is home to over 4,000 animals including the indigenous Arabyan oryx and sand gazelle; at least 30% of the 180 species in the park are considered endangered.
  5. At Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club, there's an 18-hole, all-grass golf course under the shadow of Jebel Hafeet. Alternatively opt for the thrill of the kart track at the state-of-the-art Al Ain Raceway.
  6. Al Ain Central Market combines the camel market and livestock souk and is the of its kind in the UAE. You can see camels up close, and see and hear the traders discussing the price and merits of their animals.
  7. The picturesque Al Jahili Fort is one of the UAE's most historic buildings. It has been carefully restored and houses a permanent exhibition of the work of British adventurer Sir Wilfred Thesiger - whom the locals affectionally refer to as Mubarak bin London - and who famously crossed the Rub al Khali - Empty Quarter - in the 1940s.
  8. Al Ain National Museum was built in 1910 and is now a popular attraction for people wanting to know more about Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and the UAE's heritage and culture.
  9. The Al Ain Aerobatic Show is held at Al Ain International Airport every year. It features crack aerobatics teams and performers from around the world and attracts up to 150,000 spectators.


 Footprints has reproduced the above "ten things" information with permission from the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority. The go-to place for travel, tourism and culture related information, their website contains valuable information for anyone going to Abu Dhabi. Below are the contact details of the North American office of Tourism Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority
Visit Abu Dhabi - Official Tourism Website

North American Office
22nd floor, 725 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10022

UK & Ireland Office
No. 1 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LY