Road Trip: Dubai to Jebel Jais

Jebel Jais happens to be the highest mountain peak within the United Arab Emirates, and is situated in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, and is part of the Hajar Mountains. It is located at a height of approximately 1900 mts (approximately 5800 feet) above sea level and is about 30 kms from the Ras Al Khaimah city area. The distance from Dubai to Jebel Jais is about 180 km, and from Abu Dhabi it is about 260 km.

Passing the Lantern roundabout near the RAK Hospital, you should keep driving towards the mountains, where a small board points you in the direction of Jebel Jais. Mountains appear on your left, until you reach the smooth, flat asphalt that leads you to the top. From here it is about 25 kilometers to the top. Google Maps does a decent job of getting you there.

We were some families, really wanting to go out for a day trip within the United Arab Emirates. We wanted to make this a family vacation. We had children and elderly people in our team and therefore we needed to find a place that was welcoming and fun. Jebel Jais appeared as a new track and we expanded it as our next location. One weekend in March, when the temperature was still good for a sunny day, we packed up our full rations of food, water, snacks, and necessary supplies. Our intention was also to have a great barbecue there at Jebel Jais..

The trip from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah was easy and we took Mohammad Bin Jayed Road E 311 (Old Emirates Road). Once we reach Ras Al Khaimah, we take the signs in the direction of Jebel Jais. Parts of this 10-kilometre stretch are on unmarked, dusty and slightly rocky stretches of broken roads. Mind you, signs are very limited) and from then on it’s a wonderful ride, mostly on smooth tarmac.

Ras Al Khaimah tourism is now actively investing to promote Jebel Jais as a weekend getaway destination in the United Arab Emirates. The Emirate has started to build a modernist hotel and a paragliding slope on this site.

We were grouped into three cars, including a Toyota Corolla, a Nissan Altima, and a Mitsubishi Pajero. Although you may read that it is not, it is quite possible to use a sedan car to get to Jebel Jais. But don’t wander off the roads, stay on the beaten path if you’re driving a vehicle that isn’t an SUV.

The view on this 25 kilometer stretch to the top (or almost to the top) is simply stunning. Craggy peaks tower on three sides of you as you drive into the lap of mountains, sweeping views of rocky valleys stretch out on one side, gorges can be seen in different directions, and we tackle around eight hairpin turns. until we reach the top. It takes about 45 minutes from the RAK city area to get here. We have driven to most places in the UAE and this forty odd minute scenic drive beats the others hands down. It is fantastically stimulating.

As you reach the top you will find that the last 5 km or so have been blocked off (as of March 2015) as the paved roads were still being built. It was mostly stretches of rocks and debris, from the last checkpoint on the route up. Along the highest sections of the route, in different turns, parking lots and toilets have been set up for those most in need. Once again, the state of these toilets was not a cause for joy, but it is still an option. Parking spaces have been built at vantage points along the route, where it feels great to park for a while and absorb the beauty and serenity of the mountains around you.

The temperature drops continuously as you climb to the top, and the drop is almost 10 degrees Celsius when compared to the city below, and that was a very welcome change. It has been reported that the summit of Jebel Jais received quite a few inches of snow in 2004 and then again in 2009. This is surely the coldest spot in the United Arab Emirates.

Once we got to the end of the Armac black road where the last checkpoint prevents you from venturing any further, we turned around and drove around a couple of switchbacks until we saw this hilly side road. The hilly road took us to a ridge in the side of the mountains which gave us a great vantage point along with a bit of privacy. Over the ridge we could see the sea near the “ghailah” area of ​​the United Arab Emirates at the end of the horizon down over the mountains on the other side.

We park our cars and unpack our supplies and get ready for our big barbecue. Mind you, there are no shops or cafes on this route (as of March 2015). Every drop of water and every morsel of food that is needed has to be brought here. We quickly spread our supplies out on the mat and got ready to fire up the charcoal grill. There were also some garbage collection pits around here. Mats were placed on the floor and the women on our team helped us prepare the ingredients for the grill. In about 20 minutes we had a beautiful barbecue fire ready for the grill. The sun warmed our backs amidst the small bite in the air.

The food was great, the charcoal grill always has that special aroma and brings that exquisite softness to the chicken or lamb that you grill. We had also brought ample supplies of water and soft drinks to quench everyone’s thirst, and we also had snacks to munch on until the grilled food was ready. We then all sat down and ate this hearty meal along with some hummus and garlic paste for the Lebanese wheat rolls we brought. The atmosphere was one of joy, people laughing, jokes and meaningless fun all the time. We enjoyed the great views all around us, the calm and serene rocky mountains, a rocky valley and gorge in front of us, and great views of the blue ocean below. The weather was fantastic and it was a time to relax and unwind from our stressful city life.

As evening approached, we boiled a pot of hot water for instant coffee. The adults shrugged it off too and had their few moments of extreme fun, tackling extreme rocks and boulders for a better bird’s eye view. and the cold increased with the setting of the sun.

As darkness approached, we could slowly see the lights of the cities below us come to life. Major highways seemed like bright ribbons on the evening horizon, while little trinkets of lights lit up residential and commercial districts. When night fell, we packed our things in the car. Note that the street lights are very few and the parking lots have the lights on until it was around seven, after which they were turned off.

Navigating back up the steep paths and hairpin turns towards civilizations was guided by the moon. All in all, Jebel Jais is probably the best mountain and driving spot in the UAE. It needs more infrastructure right now, but it has already become a magnetic attraction for travel lovers in Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. Both visitors and residents, if you have a car, do not forget to visit this destination. You would love it!!!

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