Hiking in Liwa. Just beyond Dibba, but a world away.
Nothing cures air-con cabin fever better than scrambling up a rock face, sweating like a mountain goat. It reminds you what it is to feel the warmth of stretching muscles and the gasp for fresh air.
Just over the border from Dibba, there’s a charming little guesthouse that gives the opportunity to do just that. It was bought ten years ago by a tour firm called Absolute Adventure, and the resulting renovation would get Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in a jazzhanded tizz.
From outside, the one storey bungalow is a miniature castle, with stone masonry and a jagged ‘crown’ roof. Inside, a cushion- scattered majlis room leads into a main dormitory, filled with 14 bunk beds (and facilities for more), instantly flinging your mind back to the plimsoll and cagoule-filled wonder days of school trips. Next door is a snug double room with ensuite bathroom, while a couple of basic showers outside offer the only ablutions.
It is ‘basic’ in the best sense of the word. There’s a fresh water pool outside, a waterfall, swaying hammocks, lemon, almond and fig trees, a covered majlis and a towering, seafacing barasti hut, tailor made for sundowners.
The Queen of Sheba’s ancient fort is a bike ride away, and motorised hang gliders can be taken for a 20-minute flight across the local scenery.
But, this is also the base for the Aqaba hike, a popular wintertime scramble along Musandam mountain tracks. Aqaba itself is best reached across the water, and a motor boat runs eager hikers from the centre, past Musandam’s caves, coves and cliffs to Aqaba, a tiny fishing port 40 minutes away. With a nimble-footed local guide leading the way, hikers soon find themselves clinging onto a rock face metres from the sea. But this early stretch is the hike’s trickiest part, and after a couple of slurps on a hydration pack, you snake up the mountain, merrily snapping the stunning scenery.
You soon come into Aqaba itself, a deserted village that is almost camouflaged into the mountain face. Wandering around the tiny stone huts and sliding into the underground prison cell, it’s easy to imagine the antiquated day-to-day lives of the people who lived there more than a century ago.
A short walk down a boulder strewn wadi bed later – this part is actually harder than the ascent – and you reach Liwa’s lush date plantation. This is also a chance to dangle your throbbing legs into a pumpgenerated Jacuzzi, and tuck into lunch before the hungry goats get nasty.
And then you’re done, left to jet back to Dibba, dangling your legs once more, this time over the side of a speed boat, like a giddy extra in a Wham! video. Rather bizarrely, you might find that scaling an 1,800ft mountain leaves you relaxed, revitalized and ready to face your air-conditioned city life once again.
A night at the center during high seasons costs Dhs1,950 (for up to 14 people, Dhs150 per extra quest). Dinner is Dhs50 and the aqaba Lima Trek is priced at Dhs495. For more information, go to www.adventure.ae or call 04 345 9900.