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Wadi Secrets

The cultivated landscape above Wadi Khabb  (running left to right.)If you've ever driven the road from Dibba to Ras Al Khaimah via Wadi Khabb Shamsi and Wadi Bih, you'll know what an interesting journey it is. If you live in the UAE or are just visiting, then this is a trip that you really must do. The drive is exciting, and the scenery spectacular, but to merely drive through, with the occasional stops for photos or picnics, is only scratching the surface of what the area has to offer. Make the effort to leave the car behind and venture away from the road on foot, and you'll soon see what I mean.

Up above, apart from even more breathtaking scenery, there are dozens of farms scattered around, all linked by a network of footpaths. The way these farms are operated, and constructed in such a hostile and barren landscape is truly astonishing. That anyone could survive up here without electricity and running water, is a miracle in itself.

While enormously impressive, the first part of the drive through the deep gorge of Wadi Khabb Shamsi with vertical cliffs either side, can feel a little threatening, so much so that it's with some relief that the road eventually climbs out of the wadi and begins the climb up to the pass. While travelling through the gorge you can only shudder at the thought of the violence that must be unleashed here during a flash flood. You are given the impression that you are in a deep canyon cut straight through a mountain which might tumble down on top of you at any moment.

However, that's a false impression because high above you are the banks of the gorge which are themselves at the base of the surrounding mountains. The banks of the gorge are, surprisingly, low rolling hills which provide many spots suitable for farming, albeit on a small scale. When viewed from the top of the peaks the most striking feature in this area is the agricultural development scattered around, with the mighty wadi gorge a barely discernable groove across the landscape. These are the secrets of this fascinating area, and they remain secret to those that stay in their vehicles.

So how do you get up to experience these hidden valleys? Well, when you travel through the gorge, you've probably noticed large water tanks at various points along the roadside. These are not there for you to top up your radiator, but are provided by the government for the people that inhabit the farms and settlements high above you. This is the clue as to how to escape the depths of the gorge because close to each of these tanks is a track, footpath or staircase leading up the cliffs.

A group of friends, and I recently ventured up one of these staircases. Look out for the story of what we found.

Above Wadi Khabb

© Roy L Richards 2012
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Updated Jan 2010

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