x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A healthy future is on Al Ain’s horizon

Al Ain, one of the historic centres of life in the UAE, is getting a facelift to make it ready for the modern era.

The rapid development of the UAE since its formation in 1971 has manifested itself most dramatically in the metropolitan areas – especially in the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai – which have become magnets for people from around the world. But there have also been quieter and no less significant transformations in the smaller cities and regional areas, with developments that have brought much-needed amenities to local communities.

As The National reported yesterday, Abu Dhabi emirate’s second city of Al Ain is the latest centre to benefit from a significant facelift. Developer Al Qattara Investments has announced that it will build a 500 square metre “sports zone” around the new 25,000-seat Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, which is due to open this month. The development will include what is being billed as the emirate’s largest gymnasium, a swimming pool and hotel, along with 50 restaurants and shops, offices and a 700-unit apartment complex. It will also incorporate walking, jogging and cycling tracks.

Al Ain is one of the oldest settlements in the region and, in many ways, it is the heart of the UAE. The oasis city is where the nation’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed, spent his first five decades, building and nurturing that community with the same passion he would later bring to building and strengthening the union. The city’s attractions – including the National and Palace museums, the zoo, oasis and Hili Archaeological Park – already draw many visitors. However, as much as tourists may enjoy the new facilities announced this week – and the other enhancements being made under Al Ain Municipality’s strategic plan – the emphasis is on serving the needs of the local community.

The stated focus of promoting well-being and healthy lifestyles is commendable. Al Ain residents will be not only be able to gather for social occasions and watch their local football team play in the increased comfort offered by the new stadium, they’ll be able to flex their muscles at the gym, swim a few laps and cycle in safety. If it proceeds as planned, this development could become Al Ain’s answer to Zayed Sports City complex, which has been transformed into the capital’s sporting hub and is used by hundreds of people every day. And, of course, at a time when increasingly sedentary lifestyles pose serious health risks, any initiative that encourages and enables people to exercise is welcome.