Madha is an Omani enclave completely surrounded by the UAE, and so also has no border control either way. It can be easily accessed either via Wadi Shees or from Mirbeh, Fujairah.
As soon as you enter from the Mirbeh side, you can feel you are in Oman. Goats wander the streets, Omani architectural designs can be seen in the mosques and government buildings and the houses all have traditional elements in their design too.
If you come from Mirbeh, pass through the main town and head into the hills through narrow winding streets. Further up, you can take different roads to Sahna Dam and beyond or pass through Nahwa, which is an exclave of Sharjah within the enclave. You can see more on Nahwa here. There are also several parks and picnic areas dotted around in the Omani part, such as Sadah picnic area. Whether there is water at the dams depends on whether there has been rain.
Just after the town of Madha, on the right, is the farming area. Although, you can’t go in the farms themselves, it’s lovely just to walk through them and enjoy the lushness of the area. I f you come across irrigation pools, stop and look out for wildlife. Apart from the tiny fish, there are all sorts of dragonflies around of different colours. Look out for frogs too near the water and beautiful butterflies and birds in the greenery.
The centrepiece though has to be the old Banyan trees.
On the Nahwa route, you pass through a lush green oasis before coming out into a wadi and later a valley. If you follow the sign that says UAE-Oman border, there is a new road which takes you through the valley and stops abruptly, but it takes you to a lovely spot for camping and picnics. There are also several parks and picnic areas dotted around in the Omani part as well as a few farming areas.
Before the end of this main road, there is a left turn that takes you down to a junction where you can turn left to another smaller valley or right through the farms and up to Shees.
At the juction, turn left to Shees or you can take a walk through the rocky path on your right. Going up the steep hill takes you back to Nahwa. You can also access Wadi Shees this way via Nahwa but it’s best to have a 4WD/AWD for this. Here are a couple of photos on the road. One part , near Shees, is quite steep going up and down.
To do this in reverse, take the Khor Fakkan Rd and the turn off to Wadi Shees. In the winter, the road is closed off if the area near Shees Park gets too busy. See more on Wadi Shees here.
As it is Omani territory, the signal will switch to the Omani telecom network but you can turn on roaming if necessary. Otherwise, check your route before you go, or just see where the road takes you. You’ll eventually come back out as long as you don’t go off the main roads.
(I haven’t finished exploring Madha yet so I hope to come back with some more to add later.)
There are many areas to hike from well-laid out and marked trails to very difficult unmarked ones. Popular ones with families are Shawka, Fossil Rock, al Rabi, Seven Summits, Abadila, Tayyibah, Tawyeen and Jebel Jais. You can find information on all these trails and more on Wikiloc.
Please do your research before going and ensure all safety precautions are adhered to as there are rescues from mountains nearly every weekend of inexperienced and/or ill-prepared hikers. There are many groups that offer organised hikes with experienced guides.
Jebel Jais is not only the tallest mountain in the UAE, but home to the longest zipline in the world, Sky Flight, along with the Sky Tour and Sky Maze. It is also a popular hiking spot with trails of varying difficulty as well a popular camping and picnic spot.
On the way up, there are a few rest areas for camping or having a picnic. Most don’t have seating so you need to have your own or a mat if you plan on stopping there. Some have toilets and there are a couple of food trucks along the way.
Not far from the top, there is a viewing deck with a play area on one side and cafe trucks with seating on the other. There’s a small entrance fee of 5 dhs. Children under 5 go free. It is here that the upper trails start, with the simplest being easy-moderate. The same trail continues on to a higher peak. The view is well worth the effort.
Further up still is another area with more food trucks and rest places. One of the trucks sells delicious legemat, Emirati fried doughballs drizzled in date syrup.
If you want to do any of the activities at the Toroverde aerial adventure park, you need to book in advance and show your booking to be allowed to pass to the top. The same applies for the restaurant 1484 by Puro.
The Flight is a single zipline over 3 kms long. You ‘fly’ in a horizontal position at over 120kph. The Sky Tour is a series of 7 ziplines over 5 kms. This is done ‘sitting’ in a harness and reaches up to speeds of around 60kph. It also includes a walk over a bridge with stunning views. Lastly the Sky Maze is an adventure playground for adult and youngsters alike. You can find out more and book on their website.
You don’t need to go to the top for something to do. There are several lower hiking trails as well as adventure companies based near the foot of the mountain such as Challenging Adventure, Adventurati and Bear Grylls. And then there’s the Via Ferrata too. If you want to hike to the peak of Jebel Jais, you can do that from Wadi Ghalila further north, but it is a difficult hike and should only be undertaken by experienced hikers and/or with a guide.
You pass through Wadi Shaha and Wadi Beeh first and pass a dam with a lake and some old ruins on the way The road up to the top is long and winding, but it is wide and well-paved. Just make sure you remember to fill up your tank before turning off the highway, then sit back and enjoy the view.
Tayyibbah Heritage Museum has to have one of the best locations of museums here, set at the edge of a village in the Hajar mountains overlooking farms and itself in lush green grounds. Walking through the grounds, up and down winding paths, passing traditional houses and climbing narrow steps, you may feel like you’re not in the UAE at all.
Amongst the artefacts, you can find traditional items from Bedu and mountain lifestyles like water carriers, shields and weapons along with later additions such as old TVs and gramophones. There are even rocks with petroglyphs.
What’s even better is that you can stay there! The ‘resort’ area has two bedrooms, kitchen, pool and a majlis (seating area) with a stunning view of the mountains with the greenery in the foreground. I could quite easily just sit there gazing over the mountains all day long.
Other accommodation just down the road is Al Qalaa Lodge. Click here to see more.
Combine your trip to the museum with a walk on the nearby gentle hiking trail (around an hour) or a visit further down the road to the fort and Governor’s Palace in Masafi. It’s also a good stop off point on the scenic route to/from Dibba.
Wadi al Hilo is one of Sharjah’s several enclaves. Just off the old Kalba Road, the valley lies on the old caravan trade route and has applied to be listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site as part of the Gateway to the Trucial States.
Helo, as you may know, means sweet, so it is called The Sweet Valley. This is mainly attributed to the sweet water in the area which has made the land very fertile and particularly good for growing fruit. Farms can still be seen in the area growing different fruits and dates as well as fodder for animals such as goats.
It is also one of the many protected areas in the Emirate of Sharjah due to its biodiversity. It is home to many species of birds, rodents and reptiles as well as fish.
But Wadi al Helo is most famous for its rich history. It has ruins, graves and other archaeological sites from several periods and evidence from digs points to it having been more or less continuously inhabited for at least 10,000 years.
Sites and relics have been carbon-dated as far back as the Neolithic Period with dates given as at least 8000 BC. Later sites indicate settled life in the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pre-Islamic and Islamic Ages.
A copper mining workshop dating back to 3000 BC was discovered during one of several archaeological digs. The larger area was one of the important copper mining centres and it was exported to Mesopotamia. Some relics can be seen in Al Hisn Museum, Khor Fakkan. And if you look closely at the surrounding mountains, you may still see copper veins running through them.
Rock art of people, animals, symbols and inscriptions was also discovered in the area dating back to different periods.
The mosque, which has been restored, and the village nearby are around 120 years old. The main house had a courtyard and a staircase and was surrounded by about twenty other houses as well as stores, fields, tobacco drying rooms, cemeteries, wells and the nearby watchtower. This indicates that they were fairly well off.
On one side, on top of the hill, you can see three watchtowers in a row which safeguarded the area. If you’re fit it’s a fairly easy climb up from the road in good weather and you can enjoy the view over the valley. There are also hiking groups which run organised trips.
Park near the fort and explore the ruins from different ages nearby and then as you drive further up, you will pass many other structures on your way. It just goes on and on! The road itself is not paved, but it is a firm surface with grit and small stones. It is also one-way so you may find yourself backing up if you meet someone en route. Watch out for goats suddenly appearing on the road. As always, make sure you’re prepared for going off the beaten track.
Lying on plains between the mountains, Masfoot has beautiful views and lots of fresh, clean air!
Head towards Masfoot Fort and most of the places mentioned here are on that side of town. (That’s the Hatta side so it’s an easy stopover if you’re going to or from there). The fort itself stands atop a hill and although it’s not currently open to go inside, it’s worth going for the great view over the valley. On the hill opposite is a watchtower.
The town is an enclave of Ajman and a farming area. There are plans to turn it into a tourist resort but for now, it’s lovely and quiet. During the winter, visit the lake at Masfoot Dam.
Masfoot Walk is a paved walkway from the dam through the lower part of the town and ends near the fort. A waterway has been created which is partly lake and partly stream. There are lots of benches along the walkway to enjoy the view. One area is sheltered. The upper part of the Walk is lit with street lamps whilst the lower half is lit with lamp garlands.
Halfway down the Walk (and road to the Fort), you’ll see a watchtower on a mound and a cafe called Prestige. Its a great place to sit and relax, take in the view, listen to the sounds of the birds and enjoy a fresh juice. They also have lots of desserts and fresh drinks and some savoury options too like ‘Salt Crepe” which is very tasty and burgers. They are also very reasonably priced.
Much harder to find is the Bin Sultan Mosque, built in 1815. It is in the farming area at the foot of the mountains on the opposite side of the fort. It was built using gypsum, clay and palm fronds as so many buildings were. It has been restored and is still in use today.
Both Al Warqa Park (Monday and Wednesday for ladies only) and Al Muzeera Ladies Park are well kept and have play areas and facilities.
If you have a interest in rock formations like me, you can see many interesting ones. Drive along the main road in the direction of the Oman border and Madam for some limestone formations which are completely different to the main Hajar mountains behind. The last photo shows the contrast between the two. Other rocks like the ones in the middle below are dotted around. The first one is at the entrance to Masfoot from the main road from Hatta side.
If you want to sit somewhere remote for a picnic, there are wide open plains at the foot of the mountains near the Oman border (not the border crossing, further south.)
To get to Masfoot, GCC nationals can take the road from Al Madam to Masfoot, but other passport holders need to take the Maleha/Kalba Rd. It is signposted from there.
If you’re looking for a place that offers tranquility rather than organised activities, this is the place for you.
If you haven’t been already, take a trip up to Jazeera Al Hamra to see the RAK Fine Arts Festival in the fort and old village. What a great setting for an art exhibition! Enjoy seeing the restored fort and adjacent buildings as well as the unrestored houses at the same time.
The exhibition is open from 8-6 weekdays and to 10pm weekends when artwork is projected on to the fort also. On Fridays there are art productions and on Friday 13th there will be a StarWars themed event.
Other activities as part of the festival include film screenings, art workshops and tours.
The number of places to walk and exercise outdoors is increasing all the time. There are many with great views too. This is not a complete list but there’s plenty choice to get you started. Other places and photos will most likely be added at later points.
Wasit Wetlands – Round the lake with hides along the way. Requires signing of a disclaimer in the visitor centre and a visit first thing. (No guarantees, depends on weather conditions and how busy it is.) 6-7km Surface – firm sand, view – trees, bushes, lake, birds, gazelles. (Update – Outdoors currently closed)
Wasit – jogging track along the side of Wasit Wetlands – 1600m with public gym (outdoor exercise equipment) halfway. Surface – rubber with narrow parallel paved track, view trees, residential area.
Al Majaz Waterfront jogging track 400m, surface rubber with parallel paved track, view – park
Hamriyah Beach, long, beach sand or firm sand higher up. Barbecues, a few shades, no other facilities. View – beach/sea
Al Qarayen Walking/cycling tracks, rubberised walking track and paved cycling track, four public gym areas, behind Sharjah National Park, 2.2km, view – lanscaped verges, residential area.
Sharjah National Park, paved walkways, view – landscaped gardens, entrance 2dhs, facilities – toilets, mosques, shades, play area, kiosks. No cycling allowed on paths.
Heart of Sharjah – a gentle stroll through the old buildings of Sharjah which house museums and souqs, through quiet gardens and through to the Arts Area. Paved. On Sharjah Corniche.
Sharjah Corniche – paved walkway, view of the port, dhows and traditional buildings.
Buhairah Corniche – paved surface, goes right round the lake starting from near Crystal Plaza. Walk along the paved walkway or on the grass through palm groves to Noor Mosque, continue round through Majaz Waterfront along the waterside or through the gardens, continue further to the walkway left under the bridge to Al Qasba or continue straight around the lake to Al Khan Government Building Area or turn off before to Flag Island. If you take the Qasba, you can also continue on under the bridge turning left towards Mamzar or right towards Al Khan and up to Sharjah Aquarium. For walking probably want to choose a stretch but you could cycle the longer route. View – Buhairah Lagoon, palm gardens, landscaped gardens, Noor Island, Arabic architecture, beach, Flag Island.
Al Khan Beach
University City – walk on the paved sidewalks or cycle on the road through University City. View – Arabic architecture, landscaped gardens.
Noor Island for a gentle stroll through different habitats. Entrance Adults 35 , children 20, under 2 free. View – Foliage, design elements, Buhairah Lagoon,
Green Belt Ladies Park, paved walkway, entrance with membership card which can be obtained with EID. View – landscaped gardens. Facilities – toilets, play areas.
Various neighbourhood parks around Sharjah
Al Qurm Walk, jogging track 4.5km, surface: rubber, two narrow parallel paved tracks, firm sand either side and beach part of the way. Solar lighting currently being installed. View – creek, mangroves, variety of birds. See Al Zorah
Al Safiya Walk, Safiya Park – rubber jogging track with parallel paved cycling track, circles park, 1600m, small public gym at far end. View – creek, park. Connects to Qurm Walk above. Cycles available for rent and play area in park for small children. (See photos above.)
Al Zorah, paved walkway starting at Al Zorah Marina and continuing until around 100m before the roundabout on Ittihad rd (ca 6km?) View – mangroves, creek, birds, golf course, landscaped gardens.
Ajman Sports Park, rubber jogging track and parallel cycling track (bushes between) , 400m, large public gym, open 24hrs. Facilities – toilets, mosque, children’s play areas, five aside football, basketball and badminton grounds, cafes. View – park, landscaped gardens
Ajman Corniche paved, beach, cafes. View – sea.
Zorah Beach, Ajman – short walk, can walk round creek side also, beach sand and firm sand, fishing permitted with licence, no facilities. View – sea, creek. Bicycles can be hired at Quest for Adventure.
Al Tallah Camel Race Track – paved road circling the race track with a detour round the pavilion and sandy plain along the side. You can walk on the sandy part. There is also a paved road on the inside of the track. Obviously you can’t use the camel track itself as this is also used for daily training, but the options are outside road with occasional cars, inside road with cars during races only, sandy area on the other side of the road, or inside green, sandy area. If you zoom in, you can see all these. Avoid Thursday mornings as camel races are held every other Thursday (not sure about weekend mornings). View – camel race track, camels, sandy plains, residential area on one side.
Masfoot – jogging and cycling track from dam to near fort. View – mountains, forts, gardens, stream in latter winter. Walk around lake near the dam.
Umm al Quwain
Khor al Baida – Mangrove Forest – firm sand suitable for waking, running or cycling, probably not for scooters. No facilities. View – mangrove forests, salt flats, birds, sea, small beach, mangrove islands, (creek, port at southern end) The full length is around 6km so you could do up to 12 km end to end. (Update – this area has recently turned into a paid camping area near the beaches)
UAQ Beach – long stretch of beach and corniche (could possibly walk all the way to Sharjah Waterfront, Hamriyah on the beach but I’ve not tested that) View – sea. Public gym on Kite Beach. There is a cafe at Kite Beach Centre if you’re peckish after your walk and they have a variety of water sports.
UAQ Coast – between the mangrove forest and Ras al Khaimah, there are lots of areas to walk between the roads and the sea which are pretty green at the moment (March 2020). Looks like a great place if you have a dog. Some parts have low grassy sand dunes.
Wadi Shees – climb up I’m guessing around 100 steps but you can also start at the other end with fewer steps then a gentle incline) to and walk through Old Residential Village. View – trees, farms, mountains, old houses
Al Rabi Tower Hike, Khor Fakkan, hike from the tower to the highest mountain in the town of Khor Fakkan. Requires sensible shoes, water, etc.
Al Rufaisah– The Walk, a relatively gentle incline down to Wadi Shie. You can continue into Wadi Shie and Al Miqsar Village. View – mountains, foliage, old village and fort.
Dibba al Hisn, round the long Corniche of Hisn Island. View – sea, mountains, Dibba (Oman) bay.
Dibba al Hisn Canal – jogging track and parallel paved way along the canal, small public gym at either end of the Corniche. (Can continue along to Dibba al Hisn beach.) View – sea, mountains, canal, gardens.
Kalba Corniche Walk, along Kalba Lake, paved. View – lake, mangroves, mountains, gardens. (This is further south than Kalba beach)
Jebel Buhais, near Madam, is an archaeological site with findings several ages back to the Stone Age. Climb the hill and also visit the tombs, etc nearby. If you prefer, you can book a guided tour with Discover Mleiha.
Rams lies to the north of the city of Ras al Khaimah and relied on fishing and pearling in the past. You can still see many fishing boats going out today and Al Suwaidi Pearl Farm is flourishing.
Head over to the newly developed corniche for views of the harbour, drive around the town and look out for old buildings and watchtowers, visit the Museum of Beautiful Time and take a walk along the mangroves and look out for the myriad species of birds around, especially during the migratory season.