Most of my visits to the UAE had been spent in and around Abu Dhabi, and I had got into the way of thinking that the country consisted mostly of desert and a few bustling high-rise cities. Not that the desert landscape was entirely featureless, but it was a welcome change to see a more varied part of the UAE countryside when driving from Dubai towards Fujairah. A completely different side to the country!

Friday Market, UAE

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. Then there was Masafi, where we had a typically Arabic lunch in a roadside café, joining the locals in sitting cross-legged on the floor to eat.

Friday Market, UAE
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.

Rugged UAE countryside at Wadi Tayyibah
Rugged countryside at Wadi Tayyibah

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.    

Wildlife of the UAE

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 encountered elsewhere in the country, including a mountain gazelle, black kite and an Indian roller.  

Indian roller
Indian roller
Mountain gazelle in the UAE countryside
Mountain gazelle

Read more about the natural environment of the United Arab Emirates:

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