UAE’s Hatta offers nature, heritage and adventure

September 17, 2017
The historic Hatta Fort. (Dubai Municipality)

Dubai - About 100 kilometres east of Dubai is the en­chanting centuries-old village of Hatta. The en­clave, nestled in the Ha­jar Mountains, is separated from the main part of the emirate by Sharjah and Oman and is home to about 12,000 residents.
A drive to Hatta used to be a fa­vourite outing for Dubai residents hoping to explore date palm farms watered by ancient falaj ducts (fresh water canal), the natural wadis (dry mountain valleys) and the Hatta Dam and Hatta Pools.
The earliest buildings — the mosque, the fort and its two mili­tary towers and the village — date to the late 1700s. Restoration work by the Dubai Municipality in Hat­ta village started in 1997. It was opened to the public in 2001.
Today’s Hatta is well on its way to becoming a year-round destina­tion. It has a restored Heritage Vil­lage, picnic and recreation areas, cycling tracks, hiking trails, as well as kayaking and pedal boating.
The village attracts tourists from the region and beyond, giving them an opportunity to under­stand traditional life in the emir­ate. Being serviced by public trans­port, it is a cheap and easy place to access for budget travellers. If one wants to explore the natural wadis that abound there and enjoy any kind of off-road adventures, popu­larly called “wadi-bashing,” how­ever, a four-wheel drive vehicle is necessary.
British expat and media pro­fessional Peter Harrison, a Dubai resident, commented: “I have al­ways used Hatta as my go-to place when I want to escape Dubai for a few hours. It’s calm, beautiful and close enough for it to be an easy day out from the city.”
Harrison, a keen traveller, added: “I have never been hiking in Hatta nor have I been to Hatta Pools but I have heard it’s great for both. For me it’s just a peaceful place to go and unwind. I have many fond memories of taking friends and family there and none of them were disappointed.”
For tourists, one-day Hatta sa­fari package tours starting at about $85 (Dh310) per person are avail­able. The package includes a drive through canyons and wadis with short stops at Hatta’s many attrac­tions. In the winter, visitors can enjoy an outdoor picnic lunch.
The Hatta Heritage Village, lo­cated in the heart of the mountain­ous area, showcases the UAE’s tra­ditional culture and architecture. The restored mosque and fort are main attractions for their simple and early style of architecture, with the latter housing a small mu­seum-like display.
A string of neighbouring date farms with a fresh water canal run­ning through are also worth ex­ploring, giving visitors insight into the Emirati lifestyle before the oil economy.
Hatta Hill Park offers nice views and is a perfect place for picnics and barbecues. The children’s play area, jogging track, exercise ma­chines and football grounds pro­vide activities for the whole family and fun for all age groups. Pano­ramic views of all of Hatta can be seen from the watch tower in the park.
The Hatta Dam is de rigueur and the sight of the turquoise waters against the dark mountainous set­ting is an unforgettable experience. New activities centred around the water reservoir that have become popular include kayaking and ped­al boating.
While Hatta has always been a favourite haunt of city dwellers and tourists in search of the rugged outdoors and scenic locations with a heritage ambience, the Dubai government has plans to attract even more visitors. In November last year, they launched a plan to turn the place into a top class envi­ronmental tourist destination.
The first phase of the $350 mil­lion (Dh 1.3 billion) comprehensive development plan for Hatta aims to develop the heritage area and build public rest houses to serve as areas for those wishing to camp or barbecue. It also envisions the construction of a 2km pedestrian pathway linking farms across Hat­ta so that visitors can move around easily and enjoy the area’s pristine nature.
The lanes are also one of the routes of the Hatta hiking project, the first phase of which was com­pleted in April. The hiking trail has been designed in an eco-friendly way to blend in with the unique natural environment of the area.
Hikers and mountain bikers can now use two new trails of a total length of 12 kilometres. The first 9km route, named “City Hiking,” runs through Hatta and links a number of monuments and key tourist attractions, while the rest of the route runs around the rocky mountains near the dam.
The hiking project is designed to attract more visitors to Hatta and “support the development of the area and highlight its historical and natural attractions to tourists,” according to a statement by the Dubai Municipality.