The large number of date palm trees here give you rare glimpses of the sunlight. Dating back to the prehistoric era and irrigated by underground water, the 'Al Ain Oasis' is the main agricultural area from which the oasis city of the Gulf, Al Ain, drives its name.

By Sadiq A. Salam

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Published: Wed 7 Jan 2004, 2:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:39 AM

"It is located in the south of the business centre and constitutes - together with the other six oasis, Al Hili, Al Qattara, Al Jimi, Mreijib, Mutaredh and Muwaiji - Al Ain of today", Rashid Salih Ahmed Al Kuwaiti, Director of Al Ain Oasis told City Times.

"We use an indigenous gravity controlled irrigation system - aflaj - which was adopted by people a long time ago," he added. "The two aflajes, Al Dawodi and Al Aini, which are the only remaining working Aflajes in Al Ain area, take 20 days to supply the entire area with water through channels," he elaborated.

To cater to the needs of the plantations, we have dug 14 more wells in the last few years.

The aflaj irrigation system dates back to the beginning of the first Millennium B.C. or the Iron Age and was famous in the UAE, Sultanate of Oman, Iran, Iraq and other parts of the world. Archaeologists have discovered recently many new evidences that prove that the system originated in this part of the world.

"People in the past used to dig wells around 150 or 300 feet in depth but now we have to go up to 900 feet at least, which is an indication of the rapidly depleting underground water," Rashid added. "This area didn't receive enough rain in the last ten years and the great rise in the number of population has also accelerated the consumption of the remaining underground water," he explained.

The main owners of the plantations here are the President His Highness Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Shaikh Khalifah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, and some other Shaikhs and dignitaries.

"Each type of date that we produce here is given a name like Anfal, Al Shahamah, Al Misalli, Ain Bagar, Al Iksab, Al Khinaizi, Al Jiri, Al Hilali, Al Maktoumi, Abu Zabed, Abu Sowaih, Gesh Al Ward and the best one is Al Iklas followed by Abu Maan and Al Fared," Rashid added. "Unlike the past, we are no longer producing lemon, mango, orange and fodder because of some plant diseases that have occurred recently. The use of chemical fertilizers is prohibited here and we use only biological fertilizers like animal remains.

"People in the past used to make torturous trips to reach their agricultural products to the market. It could take anything up to seven days over the sand dunes to the coast," he added. "Today we just deliver our production to the Emirates Date Factory for Dh14 per kilogram, thanks to the efforts of the President," Rashid said.

"In addition to the date palm plantations, we have here about six old mosques Al Ribainah, Al Hinna, Ali bin Hamed, Obaid bin Ali Al Nasiri and Juma bin Tanaf Mosque," he said.

"The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) had ordered a man called Kaab to go to a place called Towmah, the name given to Al Ain during the pre-Islamic era, whose tomb is still here and is visited by some believers," he said.

To keep these mosques as landmarks in the history of the area, continuous maintenance and refurbishment is carried out and each one is supplied with electricity and water for the comfort of worshippers.

"As per the directions of Shaikh Zayed, cement wall fences along with teakwood doors were made for every plantation and proper streets were made for the convenience of visitors eight years ago," he added.

"The area also includes Byait Al Nakheel and Al Ain Oasis Restaurants which were built from local materials like palm branches and mud blocks to give the tourists a feel of the place along with the taste of local and foreign menus served here," he said.

"The main gates of the oasis remain closed from 6 pm to 6 am everyday for security reasons with the exception of two or three doors to give visitors access to the restaurants that stay open until 10 pm," Rashid added.

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