Classic Hiking routes in the UAE & Oman

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With the development of the motor car and a thirst for oil, cities have sprung up from the sand. Living ancestors of the desert nomads and mountain tribes have seen development beyond their wildest dreams, and in some cases created those wild dreams. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s the new buzz word wasn’t I-pad or Facebook but “Landcruiser.”

The Landcruiser changed the way of travel through the Emirates & Oman forever, with many old trails being forgotten.  However with a little research and exploration, tell tale signs of such trails can be found. In recent years publication of the Explorer off-road books has  documented a number of excellent routes, however most exploration has been the domain of serious off road enthusiast’s or hardcore hikers and climbers.

For those with the relevant skills, fitness and willingness to endure the relentless heat the wadis and mountains offer endless adventures. Travel a little further into the wilderness especially in Northern Ras Al Khaimah and Oman and you can find tribes living today as they did a hundred years ago, moving between villages on ancient trails.  But you don’t need to get too far off the beaten track or paved road to find exciting hiking routes for all abilities.


Wadi Tayyibah

Wadi Tayyibah runs from the village of Al Hala (25° 28.618’N, 56° 10.985’E) to Tayyibah (25° 24.674’N, 56° 10.206’E). The wadi used to form the main route between Dibba and Masafi, known as the East Coast Road. New roads have replaced the old route although the wadi is still used regularly by local farmers and villages attending to the small date plantations along its route. Signs of the old tarmac are still present but the road is mostly washed away and quite rough.

The hiking route can start anywhere in the village of Al Hala. There are numerous places to park but please take care not to block residential access and don’t park in the main low lying wadi bed as it is liable to flood in heavy rains. Follow the wadi bed and keep an eye out for the remains of old red tarmac. The wadi runs for about 8.5km, for those with a keen eye look out for the remains of the old Falaj irrigation systems. At about the halfway point a small wadi leads off right. Explore this side wadi for a few hundred meters to find small natural pools and further remains of the Falaj. Towards the end of the walk you will see signs advertising Tayyibah Museum; a great place to explore and get a little insight into the old way of life in the wadi.

•    Leave a car at Tayyibah as the route is a one way hike.     
•    This wadi is suitable for most people, an ideal introduction to UAE hiking.
•    Visit Masafi Friday Market on the way home.

RAK Desert Hike

There are many options for hiking in the desert just a short drive from the urban areas of the UAE. To go off the beaten track you need to be an experienced hiker and competent navigator. The suggested route ventures only a short distance from the tarmac road and remains on good gravel roads or well used and compacted sand tracks.  The route will give you a sample of desert life and agriculture in the UAE. For a more challenging hike taking in the sand dunes and more remote farms it is advisable to join a guided party or go with people who are extremely competent.

The start point (25° 37.010’N, 55° 50.915’E) is just off the truck road close to J119 on Emirates road. Follow the hard packed dust road into the farming community; the track can be followed pretty much in a straight line for nearly 3km to 25° 35.517’N, 55° 50.338’E. There are many turn off’s but most end after a short distance or disappear into the dunes. The only worthwhile diversion is a loop passing through the points, 25° 36.600’N, 55° 50.748’E; 25° 36.497’N, 55° 50.816’E; 25° 36.298’N, 55° 50.583’E.

•    The route remains on good tracks close to the fields.
•    The route is a fairly straight line don’t deviate from it.
•    If you take the extended loop stay close to the fields, don’t stray into the dunes.
•    The hike is suitable for all abilities and is a good introduction to UAE hiking.

Mountain summits

A question often asked is which is the highest mountain in the UAE or Oman and can they be climbed? The answer for Oman is easy, for the UAE the answer it is a little more complex.

Jebel Shams at an impressive height of 2997m is the tallest peak in Oman. Jebel Hafeet at 1249m is often thought to be the tallest in the UAE, yet the lesser known Jebel Yibir stands at 1527m. These peaks are named and considered as separate mountains, i.e. they are not connected to an adjacent high point.

The actual highest point in the UAE at about 1910m is an unnamed peak or knoll located in close proximity and connected to Jebel Bil Ays whose summit at 1934m lies in the Musandam region of Oman. There are several named and unnamed summits on the Musandam Peninsula; none are regularly climbed with the exception of Jebel Qihwi (1792m).

Some of the peaks are easier to climb than others. Jebel Yibir is rarely climbed. The rock is loose and there is no defined route to the summit. Jebel Bil Ays and the unnamed knoll are normally only climbed as a side excursion to Stairway to Heaven. Jebel Shams, Jebel Hafeet & Jebel Qihwi all make excellent mountain days of varying difficulty.

Jebel Shams

Jebel Shams (23° 14.217’N, 57° 15.833’E) is the highest peak in the Jebel Al Akdhar mountain range, rising from the spectacular “grand canyon” of wadi Ghul. Detailed route maps to the summit can be found in the Oman Trekking Guide. Access to the starting points has improved in recent years due to surfacing many of the old gravel roads. A number of campsites have also sprung up in the area making for a more comfortable night before or after a long trek.

The hike up and down will take about 8 hours. A good level of fitness and stamina are required.

•    The routes described in the guide are not always clearly marked on the ground, be sure you are a competent navigator.
•    Stay away from the radar station and military road near the summit.
•    Take a camera, the view over the canyon is spectacular. (Don’t photograph the military road or radar station).
•    Visit the ancient town of Nizwa or the caves at Al Hoota on your way back.

Jebel Qihwi

Jebel Qihwi (25° 44.618’N, 56° 12.589’E) is fast becoming one of the most popular mountain routes in the region. It is not ideal for novices or the less fit, however, if you are a competent hiker and wish to move onto mountain routes, Jebel Qihwi is an excellent choice. The drive to the start passes through Wadi Khab Al Shamis, the high sided canyon is dramatic and currently the in-spot favoured by pioneering rock climbers.

The route up and down takes about six hours, the route starts on reasonable paths, however, there are a number of wadi’s or gullies to cross before the ascent steepens to gain the summit ridge. Once on the ridge expect to use your hands for balance when scrambling up the rocks. The final twenty meters to the summit is a squeeze up a narrow chimney where a rope may be used to give a few extra hand holds.

•    Check what documents you need to pass through the police check point at Dibba.
•    Camp the night before to allow an early start.
•    Go with someone who knows the route.
•    Start point  25° 46.861’N, 56° 12.754’E

Jebel Hafeet

A true mountain scramble. To complete this spectacular route you need to be an experienced hiker with basic rock climbing skills and a head for heights. It would be unwise to attempt this route without a guide and having done several build up hikes. However when you are ready it will be one of the most spectacular mountain routes you could possibly do in the UAE.

•    Build up to the route on easier hikes then go with a guide.
•    Leave a car at the summit car park. Drive down and around the mountain in a second car, complete the climb to the true summit, sign the summiteers book and then traverse back to the first car.

All of above routes are offered by Arabia Outdoors. Please see our website or contact Simon Cahill Tel +971 (0)55 9556209, email for further details


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