Al Ain is a desert oasis in the state of Abu Dhabi, with a lot of charm and a likeable, laid-back atmosphere. Home to the last camel market in the UAE, numerous date farms, historic forts, an excellent museum and stunning scenery from Jebel Hafeet Mountain. The garden city, as it is known, was once a bolthole of Lawrence of Arabia and was at the crossroads of the great trading caravans. It sits at the edge of the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter), where some of the world’s highest sand dunes can be explored by jeep and where the great explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger made history as the first European to cross it. The Mercure Grand Hotel (www.mercure.com) has wraparound views and is worth visiting for lunch or tea. The Hili archaeological site has artefacts from 2500 BC and is a fascinating place to explore.