This deceptively simple route to Farfar takes you to the east coast’s hidden-away forts before a cross-country drive through some of the interior’s mountainous areas, which have been inaccessible for so long.
Author and expert off-roader Dariush Zandi leads the way.
How it’s done
Head out on the Dhaid Road, and follow the signposts to Masafi. At Masafi there is a prominent roundabout, with a left turn heading towards Dibba and a right towards Fujairah. This is Masafi Roundabout; take a right here onto E84 and drive 4.1km before making a U-turn at the communications tower and set of shops. You’ll see three generations of Daftah village on this route – the ancient, the near modern and the
The first right turn will take you to the new village of Daftah, go through this village, which will come to a sharp end before a left turn. You will approach a right turn, but continue straight and after 700m you’ll see a graveyard on the left with an oasis. This is the ancient village of Daftah on the left, and the newer village built in the ’50s is nearby. Take a walk down into the wadi here – an easy stroll of no more than 45 minutes should take you to a cave with an oasis and a deep pool.
Return to Masafi-Fujairah Road (E84) back through new Daftah, and make a left turn onto that main road. Heading south, you will reach a left turn after 10.1km where you will see a signpost to Bithnah. Make the turn off and just before reaching the mosque in the village, turn to the left of the mosque and work through Wadi Ham to get up to the fort. The wadi itself is drivable gravel plains so head through it and you will see the fort after about 900m. Turn up to the fort, and make a short ascent into the wadi. Up here, it’s a good spot for taking photographs of the Bithnah Fort.
Return to the Masafi- Fujairah highway and continue south in the direction of Fujairah. Take the next right after the petrol station signposted to Hayl, take a right and go straight through the next two roundabouts. Pass through the village of Hayl, and follow this winding trail into the beautiful wadi from where you can see Hayl Fort. Drive up to the fort, and get out of the car. Aside from some good oases around here, there are interesting (and ancient) rock paintings to be found if you take the time to explore the rocks surrounding the fort (see box). Return to the Masafi- Fujairah highway. Turn left, heading in the direction of Masafi. After 5.3km, you’ll see the sign to Farfar, make a U-turn and turn right following that Farfar sign and pass through the town called Gissemari. Once an isolated, inaccessible part of the country until very recently, there’s still something rather wild about this area.
The Tarmac road will come to an end, but continue for 1.9km through Gissemari until you reach a fork, with the beautiful Wadi Saham to the left. But to carry on through Wadi Farfar, take the right-hand turn through the wadi bed or go over the top via the left-hand route. Take either of these tracks until you reach a junction with a radio mast in the distance. Continue on either of the two tracks through Wadi Mamduh, ending up at Mamduh. Rejoin a Tarmac road; continue 4.1km until you hit the Siji–Dhaid road, then take a right turn back to Dhaid.
Glyphs of the past
Scrabble around Hayl Fort and you could spot a few of the petroglyphs (rock paintings) that are hidden away among the surrounding rocks. These areas were thoroughfares for travellers to the East Coast and the markings, often depictions of animals, are ubiquitous in these parts.
Planning your trip:
This is a pretty straightforward route, and you’re never going to be that far from civilization should things go wrong. Still, it’s worth preparing well. Travel in a convoy and stick to the clear routes. The route can conceivably be done in one day, and any of the forts off the Masafi-Fujairah road can be missed out if you’re strapped for time. Bringing along a GPS is advised, but not essential.
Thanks to Dariush Zandi, who assisted us with the off-road routes.