The title of this article should have been “A Ferrari on a Desert Mountain”, it could also have been “A Mercedes on a Desert Mountain”. In the end the title of this article was dictated by the car that was available for my recent trip to Abu Dhabi to watch the F1 season finale and to drive on what turned out to be THE best mountain road I have ever driven on.
The title of this article kept changing because my choice of supercar kept changing due to a combination of the ineptitude of the car rental companies and the fact that some of their customers have far too much money and could afford not to return certain cars on the due date. I first secured a Ferrari 458 Berlinetta for my mountain drive. Why not it’s successor, the 488? Well, I wanted a naturally aspirated car which the 458 was, and not a forced induction car like its replacement, the 488 was. This booking was cancelled by the rental company when the previous client decided to extend his rental period up until the Sunday of the Grand Prix. I then secured a Mercedes AMG GTS from another rental company only for the rental company to cancel the booking (for the same reason I lost the Ferrari) 5 days before I was scheduled to leave for Dubai.
The mountain in question is the Jebel al Jais, Ras Alkhaimah (RAK). It is the highest mountain in the UAE measuring about 6,300 feet and is part of the Hajar Mountains on the border between the UAE and Oman. While this mountain is only the second-highest mountain in this particular mountain range, it is the one I was interested in as it was the highest point within the UAE.
This mountain is 157km away from Dubai and takes just over an hours cruise to get there. I’d been hearing about this road for a long time and my trip to Abu Dhabi to watch the F1 season finale (The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) gave me the perfect excuse to visit this mountain.
You get there from Dubai via the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed motorway (E311) and the Sheikh Muhammad Bin Salem Rd (E11) through Ras Alkhaimah and then you follow the signs (or satnav instructions) to Jas Mountain. The first 100km were uneventful but offered fascinating views of the almost completely flat desert terrain. The constant battle between the motorway and the desert was clearly evident in some places. The closer you got to Jas mountain, the more eerie and other-worldly the terrain looked and the more the sand encroached on the roads in places.
The Jebel Jais Mountain Road has only been recently opened, but it has already become a firm favorite with car enthusiasts, tourists, cyclists and other thrill seekers. I was advised to get there early in order to properly enjoy the road. Many hotels run free bus services to the top of the mountain for their guests as the hotel concierge informed me. He also cheerily informed me that they have special training for the bus drivers running the service as many drivers cannot handle the altitude. Gee, thanks.
I discovered later that I could not get to the top of the 1,934-meter summit as the last few kilometers were not paved. That left ‘only’ 20km from the base to the ‘top’ to enjoy. 20km of smooth, sinuous mountain road with every type of corner imaginable to enjoy. That’s why I wanted the fastest, most powerful super sports car I could lay my hands on for the ascent. (I was later grateful that I did not have a more powerful car than the Porsche 911 Carrera S). There are two lanes going up and one coming down.
You come to a check point as you hit the designated start of the mountain road and I wondered what they were checking as I rolled to a stop and lowered the drivers window. Were they checking tickets or permits? (I was not aware you required any special permits or tickets to drive on this road). Were they going to give me a lecture on safe driving and obeying the speed limits? No. They just wanted to hand me a bag for my rubbish and wish me a safe drive. They were serious about litter on the mountain.