Start your engines: The best driving roads in the UAE
Grab your keys and head for one of these tarmac snakes on the UAE’s mountains.Neil Churchill February 16, 2015
The UAE is certainly not lacking for high-performance cars. Take a drive down Sheikh Zayed Road or Abu Dhabi’s corniche and it would be highly unusual not to see at least one Ferrari, Rolls-Royce or McLaren.
But that’s the problem. All these beautiful, powerful cars are too often stuck in traffic on the daily commute, or showboated at crawling speeds in built-up residential areas on a Friday evening. However, the number of Porsches and Bentleys patrolling JBR Walk is not due to a lack of decent driving roads in the UAE.
On the contrary, if you head out of the cities and towards the nearest mountain range, you’ll soon stumble across some fantastic, twisting roads of hard, smooth tarmac that would envy any petrol head from Modena to Munich.
Here is our pick of the best driving roads in the UAE:
Jebel al Jais
Where better to find a great driving road than on the tallest mountain in the country. Measuring 1,900 metres high – 6,230 feet – Jebel al Jais is around one and a half miles inside the Oman border with Ras al Khaimah. Reaching the summit of Jebel al Jais – or as far as the tarmac road will take you – can take up to an hour, which is as awesome as it sounds.
The road cuts through mountainous terrain, snaking back and forth up the gradient with the rock face in some areas creeping up to the roadside. When the road eventually runs out you’d be better off parking the car and proceeding on foot, unless you’re in a 4x4. There’s talk that a hotel will soon fill this spot, and with the incredible views it’s not hard to see the commercial appeal. Before then however, get up there before the road becomes a tourist trap. Just watch out for the goats.
Jebel Hafeet While Jebel al Jais might be the UAE’s tallest mountain, Jebel Hafeet is its most famous. Lying on the outskirts of Al Ain, it is arguably the country’s most popular - and therefore busiest - place for altitude driving, but don’t let that put you off.
Constructed in 1986, the snaking road curls up the mountain to reach the summit at 1,250 metres, making the drive a majestic journey up the rocky pass. With three lanes – two for climbing – and 60 turns it’s not a surprise the road has previously been named one of the best in the world. Just be wary of cyclists on a weekend morning; it’s popular for two-wheeled adrenaline seekers.
Behind Hatta Fort Hotel Hatta is a popular day visit for UAE residents, being just an hour away and encompassing a rustic hotel and a heavy dose of local culture. But go past the Hatta Fort Hotel roundabout and take the next left, and in front of you lies a rather short but exciting driving road.
With several blind crests, steep gradients and straights turning into long sweeping bends, this would better suit an all-wheel drive European road hugger with the suspension set to soft, as this isn’t the cleanest of tarmacs. Ease off the gas when you come to the small community of Huwaylat, and take a right when you reach Munay to pick up the Sharjah-Kalba road below.
Sharjah to Kalba How the Sharjah-Kalba road starts couldn’t be more different from how it finishes. A straight, plain motorway takes you out of the emirate’s industrial area with nothing to write home about until some 50km later, when mountains loom ahead and the road starts to meander.
The road from Hatta merges just before you hit Fayyad, bringing along its character. Several S-bends add colour to the mountainous backdrop, although the real enjoyment comes from the 1.27-km long tunnel. You end up in Fujairah with just a scenic, smooth coastal journey ahead between you and a collection of comfortable hotels in Khor Fakkan.