OK, so…. this is the part I’m excited about, and you’ll read about in a bit…..
Al Ain is another town about two hours’ drive from Dubai, it’s a much smaller town, and from everyone’s description of it, I imagined it to be a sort of Podunk kind of place small, not much to it, you know? Boy, was I wrong AGAIN.
It sits on the border of Oman, and is built around seven oasis areas. It’s referred to as the Garden City or Oasis of the Emirates and is a very fertile area, we saw tons of small family gardens all along the way.
The drive there was as uneventful as any drive in the UAE is – you just learn to roll with the lunacy and keep your insurance paid. I did get to see the difference in the sand in the various desert areas, though. Here around Dubai it seems mostly white-ish sands, and khaki colors. But further into the desert, it turns red because of the iron oxide content – kind of like Alabama red clay. Interesting.
Filled with incredibly ornate villas/mansions, the drive to the zoo had my head swiveling around like an owl’s. I looked ahead through the haze and said to TBG “So, honey, does Al Ain have mountains, or are those clouds ahead or what?” He hesitated a second, looked at me funny and said “Mountains.” And after a bit of googling, they’re the Al Hijr al Gharbi mountains to be exact. But the one we were seeing is called Jebel Hafeet and it is the tallest mountain in the UAE at 1340 meters high. It straddles the Al Ain city and Oman borders. Here’s photos taken on our drive in through a desert area I’d not seen yet as well as some of the homes, and scenery.
I had asked some of my “imaginary friends” on a local website about any tips they may have for me during my first trip to this zoo…. They all said “go early, wear comfy shoes, sunscreen and take a picnic lunch”. They were exactly right, except for one tiny detail….. a big sun hat! TBG reminded me just as we were walking out the door, and I’m grateful he reminded me of that – it was a lifesaver!
This is the entrance sign, and area right inside the “gate”…. You go to a window on either side, pay for your tickets, and go to the turnstiles. Of course, you can’t possibly scan your *own* ticket, so there’s a guy there to scan it for you and then hand it back. ?? Anyway, it’s only about AED15 each to get in, a big bargain, for sure.
And then? The animals begin….. enjoy! (I think the meerkats are one of my favorites – they posed for me.)
But, by far, my favorite part of this excursion was definitely getting to feed the giraffes! There’s a fairly mundane-looking sign that says “giraffe feeding station” and I made a beeline for it…. Walked up the ramp to the GIRAFFES! Well, after I stopped at the lady’s kiosk and paid my AED30 for a cup of carrots to feed them… and washed my hands….
Listen, till you’ve seen one of these suckers heads coming towards you quickly because they know you have their favorite snack, you don’t really understand how BIG they are! I had no clue that their heads were almost half the size of my whole body. Huge. Really big. With horns, and eyelashes, and a muzzle that feels like a horse’s – all furry and with long prickly whiskers on it. And apparently ticklish, because they would always jerk their heads away when I tried to pet their noses.
But they have personality, too…. One was bold, knew exactly how far to lean towards you for photos and carrots. Another was timid, wanted to get his mouth close, but on *his* side of the fence, and just stick his giraffe-lips and tongue through the fence to get the goodies he smelled….. funny.
Speaking of giraffe tongues, did y’all know how incredibly flexible they are? I mean, here comes this big long slimy snail-looking thing out of his mouth, but it’s pointed, and searching gingerly for the carrot he smells…. When the tip of his tongue touches it, he coils his tongue around the carrot in a spiral, like a snake or something…. I never imagined that! Then, he’ll gently take it from your hand and back away to munch it. Funny as heck. I got to scratch one’s neck and jaw for a minute, y’all, it was so cool!
They have fur that’s almost exactly like a horse’s, or a cow’s….. straight, stiff and soft feeling if you pet it in the direction of growth. If not, it’s bristly. Pretty cool. Oh, and the giraffe toes are just like the camel’s…. only two, poor things.
Yes there were other animals there, a reptile house…..
There was an area with the big cats too – white tigers were totally amazing. I watched them for a long time.
And a pretty cool aviary. That’s the bird house, right? 😉 There were parakeets, parrots, and tons of tiny little finch-like birds…. too cute. The parrots were paired up, and we’ve seen a number of them flying around in our neighborhood here. The other day, two of them about maybe…. 16 – 18″ long landed on the upstairs balcony handrail and sat there and screeched and scrawked for a bit, not minding at all that I was there watching them and talking to them!
There was also a penguin exhibit…
This place is really popular with families… you can see people sprawled out all over the grassy lawn areas in the shade…. most brought picnics….
I’m so glad we went there – it was a really good day.