Last weekend (with Christine’s prodding), I decided it was time to see the other side of Al-Ain – the historical and cultural side. Kassandra and I joined the Al-Ain Weekenders for a three hour tour of an oasis and a souq. This group does a variety of activities every weekend around the UAE.
The first stop was the Al Jimi Oasis. The area is owned by the Al-Dhahiri family and was once where this family lived. It is still being used to produce dates from the palm trees. We were shown a “house” in which the family used to live. From my understanding, the last people to live in the house was in the 1960s. The house is made up of some stone walls. There is also a watch tower which they used for storing supplies and protection from invading tribes. We got to climb up one of the forts and look down at the whole area. It was a beautiful view.
It is amazing when you think about the fact that people were still living like this just 50 years ago.
The oasis area has a water irrigation system, which from my inexperienced eye seems fairly simplistic, but it works well enough to get water to the various areas of palm trees. The palm tree is highly valued for its many uses, and therefore, is well taken care of.
As we were leaving the oasis, we came upon a group of about 10 women with their children (and maids) having a picnic. Turns out that they were part of the Al-Dhahiri family and were there checking on the plantation and relaxing. The eldest woman in the group had lived there at some point and was married in the area they were sitting. The family was quite hospitable and offered to share their coffee and dates (which had just been produced).
After the Oasis, we went to the Qattara Souk. A souk is a market that sells locally made things (think a small version of Saturday market). Apparently this old souk had been closed for some time and just reopened during National Day weekend. We couldn’t decide if it was now a “fake” souk like the one we saw in Abu-Dhabi that is geared for tourists, or a real souk. We didn’t buy anything, but we got a chance to look around.
And that pretty much sums up our historical-cultural experience so far in Al-Ain. It motivated me to attend more of these weekend events to learn more about this country. This weekend they are going to a camel farm, but I will have to go next time because this weekend, I am going home. 🙂