After driving through the scenic, steep roads of Salalah in Oman, a couple of months back, I thought it was time to conquer other mountains.
Our correspondent based in Al Ain always waxed eloquent about the beauties of Jebel Hafeet, so I checked around with a couple of my like-minded colleagues who like to explore new places, if they wished to brave the trip up the mountain, and they agreed.
When I told another colleague, originally from Yemen, about our forthcoming trek, he whipped out his iPhone and showed pictures and a video of his friends and family on top of the mountain which was shrouded in dense fog that day. “My children loved it,” he said, but dismissed the majestic Jebel Hafeet as just a hillock, hinting of more exciting and dangerous roads in the mountains of Yemen.
The drive to Jebel Hafeet is nothing to scoff about. According to Edmunds.com, an online source on anything to do with cars, it is the “greatest driving road in the world”.
According to a breathless caption of a video on YouTube, the mountain road wraps around the Jebel Hafeet and offers a beautiful view of the desert below. “Drivers can brave the 60 corners over 7.3 miles of perfectly paved asphalt,” it said.
Jebel Hafeet is said to be the second-highest peak in the UAE, which was disappointing as we wished to conquer the highest mountain that Friday. (Incidentally, the highest point in the UAE is on top of Jebel Yibir — again just at the border with Oman).
A day before the trip, one of our colleagues fell sick with food poisoning, so we hurriedly roped in two complete strangers from Sharjah, who were “friends of friends” and who are new to the UAE and wished to explore the emirates. We were set to go.
“It is the journey, not the arrival that matters,” said T.S. Eliot, or words to that effect about travelling. Another interesting quote about going on a journey is: “No matter where you go, there you are.”
I bring up the quotes because for some reason, I spent the whole of the night before our trip making egg sandwiches. Instead of checking out the route on Google, I spent time learning how to boil eggs (it takes between four to six minutes for a good, medium-boiled egg). However, the sandwiches came in handy as we didn’t stop at petrol stations or any groceries on the way. The ladies from Sharjah had brought with them even more yummy snacks.
On the morning of the journey, our colleague said she was feeling better and would join us, which was a good thing as she had a GPS in her car.
For some reason, the only time I managed to get on to the Dubai-Al Ain Road was when I took a wrong turn opposite the Wafi mall. It is not just me, but a couple of my colleagues who drive down from Abu Dhabi who always find that they are on this road heading off to Al Ain.
Fortunately, everything went off without a hitch and we reached Jebel Hafeet in less than two hours. The only dampener was when we reached the foothill of the mountain and scoured around looking for the hot springs. According to a guide map, there is a well-developed tourist attraction called the Green Mubazarrah at the foothill where hot water springs gush in little streams. It said there are swimming pools and jacuzzis scattered around this area. The drive up the Jebel is breathtaking and there are stops for you to take pictures or just take in the grand view. But forget about the hot springs, as they are a big disappointment and are just tiny rivulets of water coming down the mountain side.