Wadi Al Helo

Wadi Al Helo Archaeological Site UNESCO nominated

Wadi Al Helo is one of Sharjah’s several enclaves and is full of surprises. Just off the old Kalba Road, the valley lies on the old caravan trade route and is on the tentative list of UNESCO Heritage Sites as part of the Gateway to the Trucial States. To learn more, visit the UNESCO listing here.

wadi al helo from above

Helo, as you may know, means sweet, and 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.

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Wadi Al Helo – Sweet Valley

Wadi Al Helo is also one of the many protected areas in the Emirate of Sharjah due to its biodiversity and is home to many species of birds, rodents and reptiles as well as fish. To learn more about protected areas in Sharjah, visit the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA Sharjah).

Wadi Al Helo archaeological site

Wadi al Helo is known mostly for its rich history. Within the valley are ruins, graves and other archaeological sites from several periods. Evidence from digs points to it having been more or less continuously inhabited for at least 10,000 years. Digs are generally conducted by multinational teams together with Sharjah Archaeology Authority.

watchtower at wadi al helo

Sites and relics found at Wadi Helo 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.

The photo below shows a copper ingot found at Wadi Al Helo archaeological site and displayed at Al Hisn Museum in Khor Fakkan. You can see other archaeological finds at the museum and read up on the history of the area and other parts of Sharjah Eastern Region. Rock art of people, animals, symbols and inscriptions has also been discovered in the area dating back to different periods.

piece of copper found at wadi al helo, in khor fakkan al hisn museum

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 the inhabitants were fairly well off.

wadi al helo old village ruins

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exploring sharjah book cover and sample

Wadi Al Helo watchtowers

Up on the hill behind the village are three watchtowers. You can take the winding path up but it’s quite damaged. Make sure you have shoes with a decent grip as there is rock. It’s worth going up for the view across the valley and the other side of the hall. There is another watchtower on the hill opposite near the entrance to the valley.

wadi helo sharjah hike watchtower view

Wadi Al Helo hiking

You can hike further alongside the valley from the watchtowers or walk through the wadi itself. You can just set off along the road or follow one of the many trails on Wikiloc. If you’re going with young children, the walk through the valley starting at the fort is ideal.

There are also areas for nice walks on the south side of Wadi Al Helo, on the other side of the highway. Here is my wikiloc of a short walk we took there.

Wadi Al Helo off-road drive

Park near Wadi Al Helo 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 path.

Take me to the map

You can spend a pleasant couple of hours here looking around the old buildings and walking up the hill or down the valley. Take time to look out for small flowers, birds, lizards and other wildlife. Ideally, you should combine Wadi Al Helo with another location for a day out (see suggestions in the list below). The closest place of interest is Awhala Fort and you can find nice picnic areas in the low hills nearby too.

Tips for Visiting Wadi Al Helo

  • Never go in wadis during heavy rain or if bad weather is forecast. Flash floods can sweep you away.
  • Take plenty of water with you as there are no shops or cafes here.
  • There are public toilets next to the mosque.
  • Camping is not allowed.
  • If you’re going to hike, tell someone where you’re going.
  • Dress modestly to respect local culture.
  • Don’t go inside people’s private farms uninvited.

What could I combine with Wadi Al Helo Sharjah for a day trip?

If you liked this post, you might also like my post on Masfoot or Al Hayl Fort and Square (hiking nearby too).

This post was first published on May 15 2020 and last updated on 28 September 2023.