Dubai's much-loved mountain town of Hatta is to be given a Dhs1.3 billion cash injection to help turn it into a world-class tourist destination.
During a visit to the area which is directly between the east and west coast of the Arabian Peninsula (around 1hr 30mins from Dubai), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, looked over a number of the plans already whirring into action.
Among the things expected to elevate the area are a number of green spaces for winter sports and a mountain track circuit, as well as a cultural festival. Homes for Emiratis and scholarships for young people will also be created.
At the heart of HH Sheikh Mohammed's message, though, was the encouragement and positive use of natural resources in the development plan. This includes the creation of the GCC's first hydroelectric power station, and a collection of solar-powered water turbines.
Also at the heart of the plan is the restoration of the town's heritage. Officals will work alongside leading archaeologists to help inject some life back into Hatta's ruins and other historical sites, which date back thousands of years.
SO WHAT IS THERE TO DO IN HATTA ALREADY?
It is a dramatic destination with military and cultural significance. More importantly, it is a hub for hikers, mountain bikers and outdoorsy folk wanting an escape the big city life. Walk the mountains or find a rugged off-road cycle route to see a different side to the landscape. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road will be familiar to day-trippers but this time, turn off and join the Sharjah-Kalba Road when you have gone beyond Sharjah’s industrial outskirts and follow the mountain road up to Hatta.
Put it in your GPS: 24.819743, 56.133853
Stay overnight: There is something of an après-ski lodge and resort feel to the mountain-side JA Hatta Fort Hotel. It has massive rooms with mountain views and facilities such as a lagoon-style swimming pool, archery and mini-golf. Best of all, we think, are the 80 acres of manicured gardens and nearby rocky hikes.
JA Hatta Fort Hotel, Hatta, www.jaresorthotels.com (04 809 9333).
Eat here: The restaurant options are limited in Hatta so stay in your hotel and try all-day dining venue Café Gazebo. The outdoor terraces are in the shadows of the imposing mountains and if you’re very lucky you will be joined by a biker gang. Yes, you read that right. But don’t worry, they’re very well behaved. Groups such as the Harley Owners Group’s Dubai chapter use it as a regular pit stop.
Café Gazebo, JA Hatta Fort Hotel, Hatta, www.jaresorthotels.com (04 809 9333).
Pull over here: Hatta Heritage Village is a replica of an authentic Bedouin settlement with 30 or so buildings to explore. It is an interesting insight into a traditional way of life, not to mention an ideal base for mountain walks.
Hatta Heritage Village, Hatta, www.dubaiculture.gov.ae (04 852 1374).