Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Dubai, 16 August 2010: It was Saturday afternoon, and my host Elias along with Ronald Saby had planned a long distance drive to Al Ain city and thereafter to the Jebel Hafeet Mountain, both located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The long two hour drive covering a distance of 130 kilometre transported us to an altogether new experience of passing through Al Ain, one of the most beautiful cities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ascending Jebel Hafeet, the most picturesque mountain in the whole region.
We started our journey at around 3pm with Ronald Saby driving his vehicle. With his hilarious talk and witty anecdotes Saby entertained us throughout the journey. Once again, what impressed me most throughout the journey was the wide and straight roads meticulously built keeping the future needs of the transportation in mind. Though initially we could see the vast expanse of the desert land with shrubs and intermittent settlements, as we advanced further more of the vegetation and date palm orchards began to appear.
As we entered the city of Al Ain we were quite pleased to see the beautiful buildings, residential bungalows and commercial establishments lined by the side of broad roads and well laid grass lawns and flower beds. Al Ain literally means ‘the Spring’ and the city has been known as the ‘Garden City of the Gulf’ due to the many oases, parks, tree-lined avenues and decorative roundabouts within the city. Strict height controls on new buildings, to no more than seven floors, emphasise the greenery of the city. It is the second largest city in Abu Dhabi and the fourth in the UAE.
Al Ain is located inland on the border with the Sultanate of Oman. The freeways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the centre of the country. The three cities-Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are roughly 130 kilometres from the other two. The topography of Al Ain is unique and varies as one travels to the east. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain lying just to the southeast with a height of 1,300 metres is considered one of the monuments of Al Ain. Sand dunes of varying texture that are tinged red with iron oxide lie to the north and east of Al Ain.
Al Ain is often called the ’Garden City of The Gulf’ given the many oases, parks, tree-lined avenues and decorative roundabouts with the figures of goats, jars and large glass bulbs, etc. within the city. We could also notice a well maintained fort in the centre of the city. Strict height controls on new buildings, to no more than seven floors, emphasise the greenery of the city.
Cutting across the beautiful city of Al Ain we headed towards the Jebel Hafeet Mountain to view the sun set. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain has been a well-known landmark throughout the area’s history and is a contemporary tourist attraction. An extensive natural cave system winds through Jebel Hafeet.
The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road built by Strabag International Cologne,Germany stretches around 11 kilometres upwards from the base of the mountain. With 21 corners and three lanes-two climbing and one descending, the ultra-modern road has been called the greatest driving road in the world. In between the climb there is provision for parking the vehicles for a brief rest from where one can view the valley and a bawl like park below surrounded by hills which are partly covered with greenery. The road winds up the mountain and ends at a huge parking lot with a cafeteria. On the western side of the road there are a hotel and a palace belonging to the country’s rulers.
After refreshing ourselves at the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Cafeteria we had popcorn and tea. Like us a number of tourists were present at the vast parking lot clicking pictures and enjoying the view down below as well as the peak of the mountain. Some even went up through a rough path and stood on the horizontal stretch below the peak to have a better view of the sun set and the vast landscape below.
Unfortunately the atmosphere was cloudy and the sun in its last leg of its journey played hide and seek behind the clouds appearing briefly for the harried tourists to click the pictures. Meanwhile, as the sun disappeared behind the thick clouds, the moon that was seen as a faded disc behind the Jebel Hafeet Mountain began to brighten up giving an opportunity for the tourists to have its pictures with the magnificent peak of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain in its foreground.
As it got dark and lights lit, we descended the mountain and reached its base. At the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet mountain lies the Green Mubazarrah which is a well developed tourist attraction. At the Green Mubazarrah, hot-water springs gush forth in little streams and form a lake. Swimming pools and Jacuzzis are scattered all over the Green Mubazarrah.
After going around the Green Mubazarrah we took the return route by the same road. The line of lights running along the centre divider of the road looked like a string of pearls stretching towards the horizon. The return journey was quite pleasant as we could experience the joy of driving through the city during night with lights all around.
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