Book Oasis: secondhand bookshop in Al Ain

There is now a secondhand bookshop in Al Ain called Book Oasis. The owners believe it is the very first such shop in Al Ain, and, in fact, may be the only secondhand bookshop in the whole of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi!

Inside, the shop looks like this…

Book Oasis bookshop Al Ain

Most of the books are in English, but Book Oasis also stocks assorted German, French, Swedish and Afrikaans titles too.

Book Oasis has a Facebook page here…

And a website at…

Their book purchase policy is as follows…

They only accept fiction and non-fiction books in good condition. Technical books, comics and textbooks are not accepted. They refund 50% on all returned books with the Book Oasis stamp!

Here’s a map showing you how to get there…

Book Oasis bookshop map

It’s located near the Greenland Compund and Christmas Tree roundabout in the west of Al Ain. In other words, it’s not far from Tawam Hospital, the Palm Rugby Club, and Abela supermarket.

Opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 10am to 1pm, 4pm to 8pm
Saturday: 1pm to 6pm
Closed all day Friday.

Phone the shop at 050 5338743, or email mail [at]

Do go along and check this store out! 

And if you do pop by, or phone/email, please would you say that you heard about Book Oasis from the Al Ain Enthusiast site? Thanks! :)

Sophie Studio for printing photos in Al Ain

Perhaps the most popular place for ex-pats in Al Ain to get their photos printed is Sophie Studio, next to the entrance to the Hiltonia Club, which is to the right and behind the Hilton Hotel. This is what it looks like…


This is what it’s like inside…


The room to the right is a studio with lights for taking portrait photos, with various optional backgrounds.

Prices are fair: 1 dirham (18p/US$0.29) for a 6×4 inch print, 2 dirhams (36p/US$0.58) for a 5×7 inch print.

Affixed to the wall in the photo above you’ll see 8 versions of the same girl, printed at different sizes: all are mounted on foam, and can be fixed to a wall with double-sided tape as they are so light. The smallest block on the left, 5×7 inches, costs 22 dirhams (£3.90/US$6), and the largest on the right costs 235 dirhams (£40/US$65). (If you supply a digital file you’ll get the finished results a week later (as the work is done in Dubai).

You can’t email photos to the shop for printing: you have to take them in. However if you drop off a file by closing time at 10pm, you’ll get the prints back the next day.

Opening times…


Sunday to Thursday: 9am to 1pm then 4pm to 10pm .

Friday: 4pm to 10pm.

You can ring the studio on 03 768 8866.

The owner of Sophie Studios is Georges Robehmed, who is well known in the town as Georges Marbles as he used to sell marble.

Georges is also a weddings and events organiser, as well as organising outdoor video and photography for all occasions.

Buying spectacles in Al Ain: Al Hakeem Opticians

Yesterday my 8-year-old son, Felix, sat on my reading glasses and broke them. This was just a few days after my wife suggested I get a new pair as my current set were looking a little tired. So Felix did me a favour. I might have put off getting a new pair for several more weeks or months if he hadn’t accelerated my decision-making process.

So I sent an email to the alainexpats yahoo group and asked everyone where I could find the best opticians in town.

Within an hour I received an email from Geraldine Kershaw who helps run the Al Ain Choral Society and has lived in Al Ain for many years: she said the place to go was Al Hakeem Optical, opposite the Jashanmal store on Khalifa Street in the centre of Al Ain.

An hour later I drove into town, had my eyes tested, and my new specs will be ready within 24 hours! Yippee!

Here’s the outside of the store I went in…


Here’s the second store which is 4 stores to the left of the one above: this one has a workshop in the back where the glasses are made to ensure the 24-hour turnaround…


There are also branches in the Al Jimi Mall and in the Al Ain Mall too.

This is the team which served me in the first store. From left to right are Yasmin, Yovi and Venus…


Venus carried out the eye test. Thankfully my new prescription will be almost identical to the measurements I had done 3 years ago, so my eyes aren’t getting worse…


This is the set I’ve chosen from their vast selection…


My wife objected: quite rightly. Venus suggested I get glasses with a frame as they’re less delicate, especially with young boys that like to wrestle. I agreed. These are made from titanium, and are nice and flexible…


The price? 100aed for the spectacle frames, reduced from the ticket price of 150aed. Plus 80aed for the lenses with anti-glare and anti-reflection. (I passed on the anti-freeze option: rarely needed in the heat of the desert.) Total: 180aed (£30, US$45).

Venus said that, if the workshop didn’t have my lenses in stock, my spectacles would take another day: a total of 48 hours. That’s service.

Telephone this branch of Al Hakeem Optical on 03 766 2051.

If you pop in, do tell them you found out about them on this site. Thanks!

(And if you know of any other great opticians in Al Ain, do let me know in the Comments box below.)

Refilling ink cartridges in Al Ain

I saw a question about this on the alainexpats yahoo list. (See my Links page for more info about this.)

Here’s how I replied…

There are lots of places that do this.

We live behind the Hilton, so there are several places there.

If you were to come out of the Hilton, and turn right at the roundabout, going across the bridge with the 3 Sheiks pictured, go across the lights, and take the turning on the right which enables you to park in front of Lulu Kuwaitat. Looking north at Lulu walk 10 metres east onto the north/south road. Turn right.

On your right-hand side you’ll find a typing shop.

They will fill cartridges while you wait.

If you walk 20 metres further south you’ll see steps down into an underground shopping area with a couple of computer shops and other workshops. One of those fill cartridges there and then.

I think I paid about 5 aed to fill a black HP cartridge and maybe 10 to fill a colour one.


Boys and men’s haircuts in Al Ain

Men and children can get their hairs cut for as little as 10 Dirhams on the local streets – less than £2. And sometimes our boys get a free can of Coca Cola each from the hairdresser.

There are men’s hairdressers all over town, and you’ll often see men getting a shave with a cut throat razor if you’re walking past in the mornings.

The hairdressers always wear a disposable mask for some reason. As a bonus they stick their scissors up my nose to trim my nose hairs: they don’t do that at Toni and Guy in the UK!

You can see both my sons having their hairs cut through the window of this salon…

hairdressing saloon

Felix, aged 7, isn’t smiling, is he?…


The hairdressers finish off with a horizontal cut to the hair covering the forehead which can look a bit harsh. Despite me telling them to do a few vertical snips with the scissors to soften the line, they’re very reluctant to do this, so I now take my boys to the Paris Salon at the Hilton (see separate post) who knows how to do the forehead cuts to our liking!

Getting help with household jobs

You may wish to employ a cleaner. Employing a cleaner costs in the region of 50 dirhams for two hours, which works out at less than five pounds an hour.

(I’m not aware of the specifics, but I hear that if you employ anyone who doesn’t have a work permit then you could be liable to a hefty fine if you are found out.)

You may also wish to have your clothes ironed which will generally cost 1 dirham per item (less than 20p vs about 75p in the UK at a cleaner local to us), or about 30 dirhams (£6) a week to iron the main items for a 4-person family. 

The picture below is of Suresh Kumar from India who does our ironing for us. He recently came back from a 3-month trip home to see his wife and children. He will visit again next year.

Suresh ironing

Here’s the outside of the shop where he works…

Al Ain Al Sahira Laundry

Comparing shopping prices with the UK

I think you’ll find that your shopping bill is about the same or as much as 25% less than it was back home. Our supermarket bill comes to about 700 dirhams a week which is about £125 for a family of 4. This is based on us cooking most meals from raw ingredients (e.g. uncooked meats etc) and eating 90-100% of all meals at home.

We do all our weekly shopping at the Lulu Hypermarket in Kuwaitat as it’s the biggest supermarket in Al Ain.

Price comparisions

Sainsbury’s July 2010 –> Lulu/Carrefour, Al Ain

Aubergines £3.28 per kilo –> 1.95 dirhams (35p) per kilo [nearly one tenth of the price]

Tomatoes £1.86 per kilo –> 3.20 dirhams (56p) per kilo [a third of the price]

Broccoli £1.80 per kilo –> 14.95 dirhams (£2.62) per kilo [more expensive]

Hardy’s Merlot red wine £6.49 –> £6.14 at the Liquor Store next to the Hilton

can of Coca Cola 49p –> 1 dirham (18p)

I’m not up on meats, but we buy Brazilian tenderloin beef steaks at Lulu for 60 dirhams (£10.52) a kilo. Fillet steak (similar??) at Sainbury is £25.90 per kilo.

Batteries seem cheaper here.

The price of other shopping items seems similar to those in the UK.

I’ll add more price comparisons over time.

Shopping at service stations in the UK vs service stations between Al Ain and Dubai / Abu Dhabi

UK –> Al Ain

2 x 500ml bottles of Coke for £2.40 –> 2 dirhams (36p)

2 x 750ml bottles of Buxton still water for £2.60 –> about 4 dirhams (72p)

(In other words, service stations between Al Ain and Dubai / Abu Dhabi are run by ADNOC which charges no more than supermarket prices, compared to the high premium you’ll pay in motorway services stations in the UK.)


Very briefly: my wife feels that clothes prices in Marks And Spencer in the Bawadi Mall are similar to the prices she’d expect to pay in the UK.

There seems to be a sale on at one or more of the clothes shops in the Bawadi Mall whenever we shop, so bargains can be had for named brands.

T-shirts in Carrefour start around 10 dirhams (£1.75) each.


This costs about 30p a litre for Special. If this is the equivalent of Super in the UK, then this costs £1.35 to £1.40 a litre there now. (You’ll likely be driving a 4×4 here so petrol consumption is greater in this type of car, of course.)

Why the difference in price between the UK and Al Ain?

The core price of petrol in the UK is 40p a litre. Duty is 57p. Value Added Tax (VAT) is 18p and the retailer makes 5p a litre. Total: £1.20 a litre.

Can you add to the above? I’d love to hear from you!

Accessing the internet in Al Ain

Accessing the Internet here in Al Ain is more expensive than in the UK or US. We are paying in the region of £25 a month for a one meg line. We managed quite fine with a 512k line for a few months, but accessing YouTube was a little too frustrating at times at this speed so we upgraded. One of the Abu Dhabi guidebooks says that you can only get an Internet connection if you also pay for a landline. This may have been the case a year or 2 ago, but it is no longer true now.

One downside of living in Al Ain is that you can only have an Internet connection once you get your residence visa, so until then you will need to access the Internet in an office, at an Internet cafe, or at a local coffee shop where you will get free Internet access when you buy a drink or snack.

The first thing that we did when we got our residence visas was to sign up for an Internet account at the impressive Etisalat building in Sanaiya, a district in the south part of Al Ain.

Here is a shot of the building taken from the west…

Etisalat building

Notice the canopy for the Al Ain Club’s football stadium to the right of it.

Here’s the building from the north…

Etisalat building 2

Notice the cranes towering over the new mall called The Mall! This will open in the summer of 2012 and will house a Carrefour supermarket. Next door (south of it) is a Lulu hypermarket which has been there for a few years.

As the building we live in has no name or number, and the road we live on has no name, I was fascinated to see how the staff at Etisalat would find out where we lived. We were asked to describe where we lived and from a brief description we were shown a computer monitor screen with an overhead map of the town and then we drilled down to identify our building which had its own unique number. The very next day the engineers from Etisalat came round and within 30 minutes we were online – which was a tremendous relief.

Mobile phones

When we arrived in Al Ain we decided to buy two mobile phones for my wife and I from a local Carrefour supermarket. This was only slightly dearer than buying two Sim cards there and inserting them in our British phones. We spent about £10 a month in total on our combined phone bills. (We’re not big gassers on the phone!)

If you choose to ring the UK using your mobile phone you can expect to pay about 50 pence per minute. There are two networks in Al Ain: Etisalat and Du. The first is the most popular and has the strongest signal, but Du is cheaper and I hear that coverage can be a bit spotty at times. But this may have changed significantly in the last year since we decided to go with Etisalat.

In October 2010 I bought an iPhone 4 on the Etisalat network, paying about £20 a month for 120 minutes of calls, 120 text messages and 1gig of data. If you can stretch to an iPhone (or at least an Android phone), go for it.


  • built-in camera so you always have one at hand to take photos of signs you don’t understand (to get them translated later by an Arabic speaking friend) – or photograph a building you’re next to if you’re lost which you can send via a text message to help someone guide you home or wherever
  • select the Maps application to see where you are, and get it to give you directions to where you want to go
  • can’t make yourself understood? Type your question/statement in English and see it translated into Arabic as text
  • click on an English phrase from a categorised list of hundreds of phrases – and have the iPhone speak that phrase in Arabic
  • access the Al Ain Enthusiast ebook wherever you are (sign up opposite to get this)
  • use the FourSquare or Gowalla apps – both free – if you’re looking for, say, a local restaurant, to see comments of others who have been there
  • use the Compass app so you know if you’re heading in the right direction

…and much more.

Fill ‘er up

It costs just 60 dirhams, a little over £10, to fill the tank of a small size car at a local Adnoc petrol station. The one pictured below is a few hundred yards west of the landmark Etisalat building in the Sanaiya district…

Adnoc petrol station

It costs about 100 dirhams to fill a 4×4. That’s less than £20 for a tank of petrol. As a free bonus, petrol is put in your car by an attendant…

Adnoc attendant

…who will then wash your front and back windscreens…

windscreen washing

…so you can stay cool in your car, until it’s time to wind your window down again to pay by cash or credit/debit card.