Al Ain: Jebel Hafeet
United Arab Emirates
April 17, 2016
The automobile models available for rental in Abu Dhabi are all equipped with automatic transmission. Shift to D and drive for hours on straight modern roads across the flat desert.
But today, a vehicle with manual transmission would have helped!
The ride out of town is flat enough. I share the highway with speedy buses, intimidating and lengthy dump trucks and colorful cement mixers as I pass a series of quarries and concrete batching plants.
Then, I turn off to the road to my destination for the day: Jebel Hafeet (Empty Mountain).
“Empty” seems an appropriate name. There’s nothing here on this jagged limestone outcrop except a couple of large homes and a hotel which take advantage of the views below. And what views they are!
(Actually, “empty” is inappropriate. Fossils of ancient marine life abound on the mountain and there’s an extensive cave system and hot springs in the area that support all manner of insects, birds and mammals.)
The 12 kilometer (7.5 miles) steep asphalt road climbs like a corkscrew to the summit of the mountain at 1249 meters (4098 ft). There are several pull-outs to take photographs and admire the plains and the oasis city of Al Ain below.
Maybe this “mile-high” mountain is just the one survivor of an entire undersea mountain range? Maybe all the other hills and mountains have eroded and the very sand in the desert is all that remains? How else to account for this massive aberrant structure in the middle of the desert?
Finally, at the top, there’s ample parking and a snack bar and a group of Nepalese men who gladly chat and pose for photos.
The air is breezy but the sun is strong.
So who needs manual transmission? All I need is my camera.
And a hat and a scarf and a bottle of water! It’s a desert up here, son!
And don’t forget your GPS gadget. Just like the treacherous desert that stretches out in every direction, the impatient local drivers are also unforgiving.