An easy day-trip from Dubai is to the village of HATTA, a small enclave of Dubai territory around 115km from the city centre and close to the east coast. Built in the shadow of the magnificently craggy Hajar mountains, the village was founded in the sixteenth century and once served as an important staging post on the overland route from Oman to Dubai, as the watchtowers which dot the surrounding hillsides testify. Many people come to visit the Hatta Heritage Village, one of the UAE’s most appealing museums of traditional life, while the town and surrounding countryside is a popular weekend getaway from Dubai, partly on account of its fractionally cooler temperatures and lower humidity, although things are pretty somnolent during the week.

Note that until recently it was possible to drive directly to Hatta from Dubai along the E44, passing freely and without border formalities through a small slice of Omani territory en route. In early 2016 this formerly open border was sealed to all but Emirati citizens, meaning that to reach Hatta you now have to detour up and around Oman through UAE territory, adding around thirty minutes to the journey.

Big Red

Driving from Dubai to Hatta (just before you reach the Oman border), you’ll notice a huge sand dune off on your left. Known as Big Red, this is one of the most popular off-road destinations in the UAE and often crawling with 4WDs and quad-bikers attempting to make their way to the top; many Dubai tour operators use the stretch of less elevated dunes on the other side of the road for dune-bashing excursions during their afternoon desert safaris. You can rent your own quad bike from the outlet next to the main road if you fancy a crack at the sands, or just a spin around the flat quad-bike course next to the highway.

Hatta Rock Pools

One of Hatta's major tourist attractions was until very recently the Hatta Rock Pools, around 20km from town over the border in Oman. A trip to the scenic pools, complete with a dip in the water, was for many years a popular excursion from Dubai. Sadly, the tightening of border security now means that visitors (except Emirati nationals) now need an Omani visa to access the pools – something which most visitors consider far too much hassle and expense to justify the relatively modest reward.

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Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 26.04.2021

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