When you think of the United Arab Emirates, it’s usually about sand dunes, towering skyscrapers, or the sparkling Arabian Sea. In the mountains of Ras al Khaimah, however, travelers can venture up the rugged slopes of rocky Jebal al Jais, which at 6,207 feet is the UAE’s tallest peak. Leave the rush of the city behind as you snake your way up the mountain, where the surrounding cliffs and rock-strewn plains make it seem like the surface of the moon. The view of the city from the top is spectacular—particularly at sunrise and sunset—and sleeping beneath the desert stars is a popular visitor activity. So, too, is renting a sports car and hugging the mountainous curves, or booking an afternoon picnic lunch enjoyed right on the mountainous slopes. The last section of the road to the summit has lately been closed for construction, but plans are to not just improve the road, but also create the world’s longest zipline that runs for 1.4 miles. There has also been talk of putting a resort and golf course up on the mountain, but for the time being it’s a desert escape that’s peaceful and undeveloped.
The summit of Jebal al Jais is about 19 miles and one hour of driving from central Ras Al Khaimah. Be sure to bring jackets because the weather is often much cooler than back in town, and can even approach freezing if you choose to camp or spend the night in winter. There are minimal facilities once you leave town, and nowhere to buy food or drinks, so be sure to load up on everything you’ll need before you leave Ras Al Khaimah.
Did You Know? In 2009 there was measurable snow that fell on Jebel al Jais.