It is still dark when I leave Dubai, and I see an enormous orange ball appear between heavy clouds on the way north. I assumed to find a blue sky today, but I now start to wonder how the mountains I am heading to will be. The drive is easy, the traffic very thin, and when I take the turn for Jebel Jais it is still early morning. I follow directions of my phone, but it leads me straight to a military base instead of the mountain, and I am sent back by a puzzled soldier. After driving through dry, stony landscapes with a tres here and there, the mountains close in on the road, and the landscape becomes more spectacular. I cannot resist following a sign to a Via Ferrata, but it leads to a dry riverbed, where I walk until I see signs that this is a military area and that I should keep out, It turns out that the only way to get back to the road is drive up the steep ramp, against traffic direction, and I am relieved that I can quickly steer the car sharply to the right when I reach the main road.
From here, the road follows the dry river bed a little more, and then the switchbacks start. They take me up the mountain fast, and I am tempted to stop after every turn, for the views get more commanding the higher I get. Not only do I now get a great view of the dry wadis below, the terraces with agriculture, the square stone houses on the mountain slopes, but I also get a view of the mountains higher up including, I suppose, Jebel Jais itself, my destination of the day. The landscape becomes spectacular when I am above 1000 metres: the barren, rocky slopes of the mountains, the deep valleys below, the switchbacks lying on the landscape like a thick, dark grey snake. It is now possible to see how the road continues higher up, but I am still not sure of I can really make it to the top. The actual summit of Jebel Jais lies in Oman, but a secondary summit can be found on the UAE side of the border at 1892m. When I get higher up, and pass more parking lots, I eventually end up at a security gate, where it turns out that continuing up the mountain is not possible.
A few hundred metres back, I park, and walk up to the wooden platform viewpoint, which has the best views of the mountain: I now look directly into the deep valleys below, and see clouds creeping up the steep mountain slopes. The adjacent mountain is closed, so I cannot climb up for even better views. I find a signboard on which I see several hiking trails: the longest eventually arrives at the top of the mountain, only a few kilometres away. After preparing myself and tightening the straps of my backpack, I set off, to be shouted at my a guard after less than a minute. He is on the road below, and I realize after a while that I need to take him serious. It turns out that the trails are closed. I will have to reach the summit of Jebel Jais somewhere in the future. Later, I would learn that just a few months before, a helicopter crashed into the longest zip-line of the world, killing four, closing the zipline, and probably also causing the hiking trails to be closed. It is time to drive all those hairpins of Jebel Jais, and head back to Dubai.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Jebel Jais (United Arab Emirates). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Jebel Jais. Read more about this site.