Al Ain was home to the former ruler of Abu Dhabi, the late Sheikh Zayed. Its geography is very different from the Abu Dhabi town. Al Ain is a lot greener. Our subject matter for this blog, Jebel Hafeet, lies on the outskirts of Al ain district. The southeastern side of it, to be exact.
The meaning of the word Jebel Hafeet is just as it looks — ‘the barren mountain’. This mountain is among the places protected under the environmental protection acts introduced in 2018.
Jebel Hafeet mountain
Jebel Hafeet is the third highest peak in Abu Dhabi and the third highest in the UAE. It is also home to some of the most beautiful roads in the country. The summit of this mountain is 1200 meters (4000 feet) above the sea level.
The Jebel Hafeet forms a part of the Hajar mountains. The major portion of the Hajar mountain region lies in Oman. The presence of this mountain range is the reason for the vastly different climate in Oman from that of the UAE.
The Jebel Hafeet region is cut in half between Oman and UAE. But the highest portion of the mountain is in Abu Dhabi.
From the top of the mountain, you will get the entire view of the al ain city sprawling beneath it. The winding road in Jebel Hafeet has been romanticized by tourists and motorheads for many decades. Before the building of this two-lane highway on the mountain, there existed nothing more than just a mountain trail.
On top of the mountain, there is a viewpoint with a vast parking lot. When you are in Al ain, you can see the outline of the mighty mountain on the horizon from anywhere.
Since 2018, barbecuing in the area surrounding the mountain was made illegal due to the risk of littering. Sad news for campers, but there are special spots for barbecuing in the Jebel Hafeet Park.
Jebel Hafeet tombs
On the eastern side of the mountain exists the oldest archeological site in Abu Dhabi. There are several ancient burial sites of the people who are believed to have been inhabited the oasis. These tombs were built 5000 years ago at the beginning of the bronze age. The artifacts dug out from here prove the trade links they had with Mesopotamia and India.
The unique hexagonal shape of the tombs has given them the name ‘beehive tombs’. The copper and ceramic vessels found in the site helped determine the age of their settlement. After this archeological site, the bronze age of the UAE is also called the ‘Hafeet age’.
These tombs were first discovered by a team of danish archeologists. After the initial discovery, many more experts came to study the site from different parts of the world. Today, Jebel Hafeet tombs are one of the most visited tourist places in Al Ain.
Jebel Hafeet mountain roads
The mountain road in jebel hafeet is 11.2 kilometers long. The road climbs the mountain with several turns and twists. A total of 60 of them. Driving on this road itself is fun. It is also one of the most challenging roads in the world because of its steep gradient and hairpin turns.
There are some viewpoints along the way. You can take breaks and have some snacks from the cafes in those areas. This road is a favorite destination for cyclists. When its winter, you will see a lot of cyclists peddling their way up the mountain.
If you are in the UAE, then a drive along the mountain road is worth experiencing. Apart from the fun of driving, the view of al ain is also spectacular.
Jebel Hafeet location
It is nearly two hours away from Dubai by road. And a similar distance away from Abu Dhabi city as well.
Weather in Jebel Hafeet
The weather here is a lot cooler than the rest of the country at all times. Even during the summer, when parts of Dubai will be sweltering above forty degrees, the temperature in Jebel Hafeet will be less than forty. That’s not comfy temp, but a lot less than other parts of the UAE.
Winters are the best time to enjoy the beauty of Jebel Jafeet. During the winter, the temperature gets really low. And the weather can be a bit hazy at times.
Attraction near Jebel Hafeet
The greenest place in the UAE is located right next to Jebel Ali. Al Ain oasis is home to a spectacular geographic feature. You can see lush green vegetation and farmlands surrounded by tall, arid, craggy mountains.
The whole area has a rustic appeal to it. There is a large Green Mubazzarah park (also called Jebel Hafeet Par) in the area perfect for picnicking after a drive through the mountain. Even though barbecuing is not allowed on the mountain itself, you can do that from the park.
The hot spring that gushes forth from the Jebel Hafeet channels through Green Mubazzarah. This spring is responsible for the vegetation of the region to a large extent. Unlike the usual streams that come from mountains, the water in a hot spring will be hot. In some places, you can see the water steaming.
Al Ain zoo
It is ten kilometers north of Green Mubazzarah. Al ain zoo is quite old. In fact, older than the UAE itself. It was founded by the then ruler — Sheikh Zayed, who undertook numerous wildlife protection projects in the region — of the Abu Dhabi in 1968.
The zoo is large. It covers an area of 400 hectares and houses over 4000 animals from 200 species. Different types of habitat have been recreated for the comfort and heald of animals that are not native to the desert climate. These artificial habitats are:
- Big Cat Oasis
- Hippo and Crocodile Exhibit
- African Habitat
- Bird House
- Asian Habitat
- Sahara Habitat; and
- Arabian Habitat
Al Ain zoo is a must-visit if you are here with children.
Al Ain Oasis
It is the first UNESCO heritage site in the UAE. The thing that keeps this apart from other heritage sites in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is that, unlike them, the Al Ain oasis is not a modern construction that simply emulates the heritage style.
This part of al ain did not undergo modernization. Therefore, much of it was preserved into the modern era. Al ain oasis is a date palm plantation fenced using baked clay walls. You can see the traditional irrigation system Falaj still being used here. Falaj system has been used in this land for over 3000 years.
Al ain oasis is a whole different world replete with numerous water sources burbling through the Falaj ducts. This 12000-hectare oasis has hundreds of thousands of date palms growing in well-manicured gardens. There is also an eco-center curating the history of the oasis to the visitors.
Al Ain Museum
If you have wondered where are all the artifacts excavated near the beehive tombs kept, here is the answer for you. Al ain museum curates the history of al ain from bronze age to the 20th century. That’s an incredible 7500 long history.
This one also was founded by Sheikh Zayed in 1969. Before shifting to the purpose-built facility in 1971, the museum operated inside the Eastern fort.
Mercure Jebel Hafeet Hotel
This luxury resort hotel is perched on top of Jabel Hafeet. Not at the very top, but at a little above 900 meters. This one is very special because it is the only hotel on top of Jebel Hafeet. All the others you will find are in the valley of it.
This hotel lets you enjoy the view of the valley from the comfort of the hotel. There are three rooftop swimming pools with a great view. If you are considering a hotel stay near Jebel Hafeet, this should be your primary choice.