20 February 2006

The long and winding road..

…that leads from Dibba to Ras Al Kaimah.

Update:  I notice that a lot of people come to this post after googling to find out if there is a passport control between Dibba and Ras Al Kaimah.  At the time of writing in 2006, there was a control at the RAK end, but since then I have heard reports that this route has been closed to through traffic, and only UAE (maybe GCC) nationals are allowed to use it.  

I'm not sure how you would check that information, but entering it from the Dibba end and expecting to turn back would be the best bet, if you did want to go ahead and try it.  At least you'd get to see the most stunning bits through the wadi and on the high mountain route - and carry your passports just in case they let you back in through RAK!

Don't attempt driving through Wadi Bih if it's been raining or looks as if it's going to rain.  Flash floods rip through the wadi, taking everything away.

Also read:  
Rocky Hajjar Picture Show
Through Wadi Bih

  
Click on the images to enlarge

A couple of weekends ago, we again spent the weekend in Khasab showing J's parents the beauty of the place - including the dhow trip and the Hajjar mountains as on the previous trip posted here.

It reminded me that I still hadn't written about doing the journey from Dibba to Ras Al Kai
mah as I promised a few weeks ago, when we went diving in the Musandam - so here goes.We decided to travel back the long way – going from Dibba into Oman, travelling over the Hajjar Mountains and onto Ras Al Kaimah.

Although the road officially goes into Oman, no visas are required. However, you do need to show your passports at the RAK end of the road, so we were really pleased that we had thought to pack them!

We had previously travelled on some of this road on an earlier trip into Northern Oman and Khasab, and it had been spectacular. On that journey, we were turned back at the small Omani border post at the intersection of the 3 roads – 1 from Khasab, 1 from Dibba, and the other from RAK – because there is no passport control at this outpost. So we had been determined to do the road on the other side of the border post – and that’s what this story is all about.


At the round-a-bout where the right-turn is for Dibba port, the left turn leads to Khasab. Shortly after the round-a-bout is another left turn that is signposted for Khasab. The road quickly turns from tarseal to gravel, but in dry conditions it's perfectly navigable in a car.

We drove along flat open ground for a while, before the gap between the mountains started to narrow. It quickly became evident that the road was to follow a wadi path through the mountains that in wet
conditions would probably be a raging torrent – we were happy that it was still dry!

We were astounded by what we encountered – at times it seemed as if the road had disappeared into a sheer cliff face, only to find that a tiny gap opened up between the mountains to allow the narrow road to continue up the wadi. We were smiling with happiness – the beauty of the surrounding nature was at times overwhelming – and there were no words, just feelings.
  
We stopped many times to take photos and to absorb the scenery – it was so quiet. After about an hour, the gap between the mountains started to widen, and we were soon climbing up the steepest part of the road. The strata in the rocks and hills around us were incredible – there must have been some massive earth movements to have created these layers. It was like looking at waves or water currents, but in solid rock.
  
Before descending to the check point, the road travelled along the top of a ridgeline that dropped off a few thousand feet on one side. We got that “Grand Canyon” feeling all over again.At the check point, there is a barrier across the road. J got out and spoke to the guard, who was rather shy because he didn’t speak much English, and was very apologetic about it. However, a smile from J and the magic words: “Ras Al Kaimah” did the trick, and the barrier lifted so that we could turn left onto the road to RAK.

This part of the road was
flat and in the middle of a wide valley. We sped along here before reaching another checkpoint, where we lined up behind 3 other cars. On the other side of the barrier were 6 vehicles coming into where we had just been. The border guard was being extremely diplomatic – he would deal with one vehicle from one side, and then the next vehicle he would service would be from the other side!

It was a bit of a laborious task: the guard collected passports from a vehicle; walked back to his booth; wrote the passport numbers in his book; walked back out to the car to give back the passports; walked to the barrier, opened the barrier to let the vehicle through; closed the barrier; then walked to the next vehicle to repeat the performance!

Luckily we were in no hurry – and M was entertained by a phone call from her photographer friend V in Australia for a few minutes. It was one of those surreal moments – sitting in a vehicle at a checkpoint in the UAE and a long way from Australia; having a conversation with a friend who was driving home in the dark in NSW after shooting an all-day wedding!

We got through the checkpoint where the road was sealed once more and drove through the back suburbs of RAK to the main road. After turning onto the Emirates Road, it was an easy drive ba
ck to Dubai, and another want-to-do journey crossed off our list!
  
This is an easy all day trip if you were to start early in Dubai, cross over to Dibba and then travel the road over the Hajjars to RAK. Better still would be to leave the night before and spend it in a hotel in Fujairah Emirate, before doing the drive over the mountains - as we did.

It’s well worth the effort, and I know that we’ll also be going back there with the various overseas visitors, so that we can show off a beautiful and natural part of this country to them.

9 comments:

Keefieboy said...

Beautiful photos!

nzm said...

Thank you!

I've been re-reading your Jordan posts for tips and inspiration because we're going there this weekend for 5 days.

Unfortunately, we only have 2 days for R&R (and 3 for work - hmmm....wrong balance somehow!) and to look around, so will most likely do Petra and either Wadi Rum or the Dead Sea.

moryarti said...

We once took the off road route to Hatta.. It felt as if we were exploring the moon.. dry and rocky :)

nzm said...

I'll have to talk to you about that one - haven't done it yet!

sky said...

Lovely photos!
Especially like the one of the goat.

Sounds like you had a great time!

nzm said...

Goats are EVERYWHERE in Oman - up in the Hajjars, they follow their owners around like dogs do! It's really cute.

We had coffee with some Omani families in a tiny settlement high up on Jabal Shams - and they laid down a carpet on the ground for us to sit on. Before we had a chance to sit down, one of the goats decided that he should stand on it! Too funny.

We have some awesome memories of what we've already done here, and we look forward to collecting more memories with everything that we do.

BuJ said...

again.. lovely pics!!!

i noticed you neatly edited the numberplate on the car.. instead of making it white why not delete all the other digits and keep 1 digit.. it will sure as hell make some people green with jealousy :)

mind u, this is me making assumptions that your number plate has more than 1 digit.. tut tut tut buj..

nzm said...

haha!

You can bet that someone would get upset if I did that and would say that I was showing disrespect!

Shannon said...

Stunning photos! The UAE is on my list. Thanks for stopping.