UAE’s Hatta offers nature, heritage and adventure
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.