Jebel Jais is the highest mountain peak in the United Arab Emirates, it is located in the Ras Al Khaimah emirate and is part of the Hajar Mountains. It is located at an elevation of approximately 1900 meters (approximately 5800 feet) above sea level and is about 30 km from the Ras Al Khaimah city area. The distance from Dubai to Jebel Jais is approximately 180 kms, and from Abu Dhabi is approximately.
As you pass the Lantern roundabout near the RAK Hospital, you need to keep driving into the mountains, where a small plaque points you in the direction of Jebel Jais. The mountains appear to your left, until you reach the smooth, flat asphalt that takes you to the top. From here it is about 25 kilometers to the top. Google Maps does a decent job of getting you to the place.
We were a few families, really looking forward to a day trip within the United Arab Emirates. We wanted to make this a family vacation. We had children and seniors on our team and therefore we needed to find a place that was welcoming and fun. Jebel Jais arrived as a new potential customer and we targeted it as our next location. One weekend in March, when the temperature is still good for a sunrise, we pack our full rations of food, water, snacks, and the necessary supplies. Our intention was also to have a great barbecue there at Jebel Jais.
The drive from Dubai to Ras Al Khaimah was easy and we took Mohammad Bin Jayed Road E 311 (Old Emirates Road). Once we reached Ras Al Khaimah, we picked up the signs in the direction of Jebel Jais. Parts of this roughly 10-kilometer stretch are on unmarked, broken, dusty, and slightly rocky stretches of road. Of course, the signs are very limited) and from then on it is a wonderful trip mainly on a smooth asphalt surface.
Ras Al Khaimah tourism is now actively investing to promote Jebel Jais as a weekend getaway destination in the UAE. The Emirate has started to build a modernist hotel and a paragliding field at this location.
We were grouped into three cars, including a Toyota Corolla, a Nissan Altima, and a Mitsubishi Pajero. Although you might read otherwise, it is quite possible to use a sedan car to get to Jebel Jais. But don’t stray off the beaten track, stay on the beaten track if you are driving a vehicle other than an SUV.
The view on this 25 kilometer stretch to the top (or almost to the top) is simply breathtaking. The steep hills rise on three sides of you the further you drive into the lap of the mountains, the panoramic views of the rocky valleys stretch out on one side, the gorges can be seen in different directions and we tackled around eight hairpin bends up to get to the top. It takes about 45 minutes from the RAK city area to get here. We’ve driven to most places in the UAE and this forty-odd minute scenic drive outperforms the others hands down. It is fantastically exhilarating.
When you reach the top, you will find that the last 5 kms or so have been blocked (as of March 2015), as the paved roads were still being built. They were mostly stretches of rocks and debris, from the last checkpoint on the route upwards. Along the highest sections of the route, in different curves, there are parking lots and toilets for those most in need. Again, the condition of these toilets wasn’t much to be happy about, but it is still an option. Parking spots have been built at vantage points along the route, where it feels great to park for a while and absorb the beauty and serenity of the surrounding mountains.
The temperature drops continuously as you drive to the top, and the drop is almost 10 degrees Celsius compared to the city below, and that was a very welcome change. It is reported that the Jebel Jais summit received quite a few inches of snow in 2004 and then in 2009. This is undoubtedly the coldest point in the UAE.
Once we got to the end of the black armac road where the last checkpoint prevents you from venturing further, we turned and drove down for a couple of curves until we saw this hilly side road. The hilly path took us to a ridge on the mountainside which gave us a great lookout along with a bit of privacy. On the ridge we could see the sea near the “ghailah” area of the United Arab Emirates at the end of the horizon down over the mountains on the other side.
We park our cars and unpack our supplies and get ready for our big barbecue. Of course, there are no shops or cafes on this route (as of March 2015). You have to bring every drop of water and every mouthful of food you need. The kids loved the little walks on the rocks and embankments around this rocky spot that we chose. We quickly arranged our supplies on the carpet and arranged them to light the charcoal grill. There were also some garbage pits around here. Mats were laid out on the floor and the women on our team helped us prepare the ingredients for the grill. In about 20 minutes we had a beautiful barbecue fire ready for the grill. The sun warmed our backs amid the little bite in the air.
The food tasted incredible, charcoal grilling always has this special aroma and brings that exquisite softness to the chicken or lamb that you roast. We had also brought abundant supplies of water and sodas to quench everyone’s thirst, and we also had nibbles to bite into until the grilled food was ready. Then we all sat down and ate this hearty meal along with some hummus and garlic pasta for the Lebanese wheat muffins that we brought out. The atmosphere was one of merriment, people laughing, joking and mindless fun all the time. We enjoyed the great views all around us, calm and serene Rocky Mountains, a rocky valley and gorge in front of us, and great views of the blue ocean below. The weather was fantastic and it was a time to relax and unwind from our stressful life in the city.
As night approached, we boiled a pot of hot water to make ourselves some instant coffee. The adults also shrugged and had their few moments of extreme fun, tackling extreme rocks and boulders for a better panoramic view. and the cold increased with the sunset.
With the approach of darkness, we could slowly see the lights in the villages below us come to life. Major highways looked like glowing ribbons on the evening horizon, while little trinkets of lights lit up marking residential and business districts. When night fell, we packed our things in the car. Note that the street lights are very few and the parking areas have their lights on until it was around seven, after which they were turned off.
The moon guided navigation back up steep roads and hairpin bends toward civilizations. All in all, Jebel Jais is probably the best place for driving and mountain riding in the UAE. It needs more infrastructure at the moment, but it has already become a magnetic attraction for travel lovers in Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. Visitors or residents alike, if you have a car, don’t miss this destination. You would love it !!!