Most of my visits to the UAE have been spent in and around Abu Dhabi, and I had got into the way of thinking that the country consisted mostly of flat, featureless desert with a few bustling high-rise cities. So it was a welcome change to see some very different countryside when driving from Dubai towards Fujairah.
We passed through a number of increasingly small towns, including Friday Market (which lived up to its name with colourful market stalls lining both sides of the street) and Masafi, where we had a typically Arabic lunch sitting on the floor of a roadside café.
Friday Market, a small town in the UAE countryside
The motorway gave way to narrow roads, then the tarmac gave way to rocky paths, and we bumped along slowly until we reached the date palms of Wadi Tayyibah. We scrambled a little way up the hill in search of the pools that feed the palms but, this being the dry season, there was no water to be seen. On (or off) the road again, we drove through dramatic scenery of the Hajar Mountains, tall hostile peaks with the occasional remote farm or, on one occasion, a lonely plateau where, somewhat incongruously, a small group of locals had stopped to set up a barbeque.
Rugged countryside at Wadi Tayyibah
Eventually the deep ruts in the steep rock proved impossible for even the most determined 4×4 driver and we reluctantly turned back. But we had been rewarded by the sight of animals and birds that we had not seen elsewhere in the country, including a mountain gazelle, black kite and an Indian roller.