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Al-Rabi Hiking Trail Guide - Day Trip to Khor Fakkan from Abu Dhabi / Dubai

Tucked away in the rugged terrain of Khor Fakkan is a hidden gem for hiking enthusiasts in the United Arab Emirates. The Al-Rabi Trail is a beginner-level trek that offers an enjoyable hiking experience, promising both challenges and rewarding panoramic views of the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf of Oman.

I had the opportunity to hike this trail when I visited some friends who lived in Abu Dhabi. We rented a car and made the three hours’ journey to Khor Fakkan early in the morning in late November.

View from Al-Rabi — one of the most scenic hiking trails in the UAE.

The Al-Rabi Trail is one of the few hiking trails in the city of Khor Fakkan, located close to Fujairah.

Hikers can expect to encounter rocky paths, mountainous slopes, and depending on the season, lush greenery and wildflowers. If fortunate, you might even meet the friendly local goats! Scenic overlooks dotted along the trail provide ample opportunities to pause, soak in the mesmerizing vistas, and capture breathtaking moments amidst the picturesque landscapes.

It is roughly an hour and a half drive from Dubai and three hours’ drive from Abu Dhabi. This accessibility makes it a favored choice among locals seeking a convenient and popular weekend retreat.

Best Time to Hike the Al-Rabi Trail

I hiked in November and started early in the morning.

The Khorfakkan Al Rabi trail is pleasant to hike at any time of the day between November and March.

During the transitional periods of April to May and September to November, it is recommended to start the hike during the early hours, preferably just before sunrise, or late in the afternoon before sunset. Avoid the summer months.

If you prefer less crowd, weekdays offer a more tranquil experience. While this UAE hiking trail might be lesser-known among tourists, it is very popular among the locals. As a result, Friday evenings witness the biggest crowds – it’s almost as if the entire town decides to converge towards the mountain for a sunset view.

We arrived just as the sun started to rise on a November morning, and only came across a few other hikers. The weather was also quite pleasant, but I wish I had worn a short-sleeved top, because it got quite warm as we were beginning to descend.

How to Get to Al-Rabi Trail

To reach the Al Rabi Trail, begin by making your way to Khor Fakkan. If arriving from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, it’s a scenic drive of approximately two to three hours via the new Sharjah – Khor Fakkan highway. Just type in “Al-Rabi Hiking Trail” or “Al-Rabi Tower” on Google Maps and it will show you the way.

Travelers can also opt for public transportation, with bus services available from major cities to Khor Fakkan. Upon arriving in Khor Fakkan, the trailhead is about 11 minutes’ drive away, or an hour and 40 minutes on foot. Local guides or hiking enthusiasts often provide valuable insights and directions to the trail’s starting point.

If you arrive early, you can park at the trailhead, which is right in front of Al-Rabi Tower. However, this can fill up quickly on busy days, in which case you will need to park at the bottom of the hill and climb up to the starting point.

Hiking the Al-Rabi Trail

With the ancient watch tower in the background.

The Khor Fakkan Al-Rabi trail starts at the Al-Rabi Tower, a historic watchtower that was built in 1915 AD as a part of the city’s defense network. It looks out to the sea where a German submarine sank in World War II and remained undiscovered until 2009.

Although only about 10 meters in height, this tower was regarded as a great architectural feat during its time. Today, it is a historical monument and a tourist attraction.

Near the tower, there are benches and viewing areas from where you can see the Khor Fakkan town and port along the coast. It’s quite a magical view early in the morning, as the city slowly begins to come to life.

The Khor Fakkan Port in the distance.

This is also your last chance to use the bathroom, as there will be no more toilet facilities on the trail. (Note: The trail is very open with practically no trees or hidden spots where you might be able to answer nature’s call in private).

After leaving the tower, you will walk a short distance on a tarmac road to the actual starting point. The trail from this point on is mostly sandy and rocky, but its well-marked paths and occasional signs make navigation relatively straightforward. You can easily do this hike without a guide.

Halfway into the trail, you will find a covered rest area with more seats for you to catch a breath, take shelter from the heat, or grab a quick bite before continuing with the hike. From here, you can already see some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, so if you decide to only hike up to this point, it’s already rewarding enough.

The covered rest point halfway through the trail.

If you do decide to continue, your next goal would be to reach the UAE flag, which marks the highest point of this route. You can see the flag from a distance, so let it be your beacon and source of motivation. In our case, it became a source of annoyance after a while because it always looked so tauntingly close and yet we never seemed to get any closer.

The terrain was pretty much the same throughout the hike, but once the sun went up, even in late November, it quickly drained our energy, especially since our clothes were too warm for the weather, we didn’t get enough sleep the night before, and also went without breakfast. Fortunately, we had brought some snacks (madeleines!) and plenty of water.

At last, we managed to make our final push to the summit and rewarded ourselves with countless photos with the flag. This summit stands at 395 meters above sea level — not an impressive height but still a gratifying experience to those who conquer it.

As the heat begins to subside in the afternoon, you will see locals from nearby towns starting to make their way up the mountain to enjoy the sunset with friends and families.

Apart from hiking, people also have picnics on the trail when the weather is pleasant. There is no designated area for that, but you can sit or lay out your picnic mat on any empty spot you can find, as long as you don’t leave any trace behind.

Apparently, there’s also a camping ground on the trail, although I didn’t see it on my hike.

How Difficult is the Al-Rabi Trail

The Al-Rabi trail spans approximately 5 kilometers (round trip) and typically takes between 2 to 3 hours to complete, although the pace may vary depending on individual preferences and fitness levels, and how many stops you make to enjoy the panorama along the trail.

You can even turn it into a full-day activity if you wish to take it slow and have a relaxing picnic in nature, away from civilization (but mobile network is still good for those who need to stay connected).

The rocky Al-Rabi trail is suitable for beginners.

The Al-Rabi trail is rated as beginner-friendly, suitable for all age groups and fitness levels. In fact, on weekends or in the evening, you will often see families with young children. Although the terrain is rocky, you won’t actually be clambering over all those rocks, as the path you’ll be walking on has been cleared of all obstacles. There are only a few slightly steep parts that you will need to tackle.

Nonetheless, with an elevation gain of around 300 meters, the trail still demands a certain level of effort. Those with mobility issues may find it challenging.

That being said, you can enjoy magnificent views throughout the hike, without having to wait till you reach the peak. Therefore, it’s entirely up to you how far to go — you can stop and turn back any time you like.

Things to Bring to Al-Rabi Trail

The Al-Rabi trail is hot and arid for the most part of the year. Stay hydrated!
  • Durable hiking shoes with good grip, considering the rugged and rocky terrains. If you can, opt for mid-ankle height that provides a secure grip, reducing the risk of slipping or twisting your ankles.
  • Enough drinking water, at least 1-2 liters per person, and more during hotter periods. On top of that, you can also consider bringing electrolyte drink to replenish your energy.
  • Sunscreen. No matter which month of the year you go, sunscreen with a good SPF is a must when you hike in the UAE. Sunglasses and a cap would help too, as there is not much shade on this trail.
  • Light and energizing snacks such as dates, bananas, trail mix, and protein bars. My personal favorite is anything chocolatey.
  • Comfortable outfit. Go for lightweight sweat-wicking clothes. When hiking during the winter months, bring a light jacket as it can be chilly in the morning and evening. It’s better to wear layers rather than one thick sweatshirt, so that you can easily remove a layer or two when it gets too warm.
  • If you tend to sweat a lot, bring a small towel or a spare top to change into.
  • daypack that can fit in your water bottles, snacks, and other essentials.
  • Hiking sticks are not really necessary for this hike, but they can make it easier.
  • torchlight if you plan to hike before sunrise or after sunset.
  • A basic first-aid kit is a must on any hike, no matter how easy it is.

As with any other hike, if you’re going solo, be sure to let someone trusted know where you’re going, when you’re starting the hike, and when you’re expected to return.

Other Things to Do in Khor Fakkan

If you have extra time to spare, here are some other things you can do in Khor Fakkan:

  • Explore Khor Fakkan Town
Khor Fakkan. Credit: Bjoertvedt / Wikimedia Commons

Khor Fakkan, the second-largest town on the UAE’s East Coast, is notably situated within the Sharjah Emirate, despite being geographically surrounded by the Emirate of Fujairah. The town, meaning “Creek of Two Jaws,” is positioned on a bay, backed by rugged Hajar mountains resembling the texture of halwa, an Arabic sweet.

Playing a significant role in the UAE’s economy, Khor Fakkan hosts a bustling industrial seaport and stands as one of the prominent container terminal ports in the Emirates. In addition to its industrial significance, the town boasts a few historical landmarks, including Al Adwani Tower, and the oldest shrine in the UAE, the Al Bidhiyah Mosque

  • Swim in the azure waters at Khorfakkan Beach

Spend the rest of your day soaking up the sun or indulging in water activities like swimming and snorkeling at the pristine Khor Fakkan Beach, which is situated to the north of the town. The calm waters make it perfect for families and beach enthusiasts.

  • Hike to Al Wurrayah Waterfall

Embark on a short drive to Wadi Wurrayah National Park, a protected area known for its biodiversity and scenic beauty. Various hiking paths cater to different skill levels, including routes leading to natural pools and panoramic viewpoints.

  • Enjoy sunset at the Corniche

Wrap up your day trip by enjoying a mesmerizing sunset at Khor Fakkan’s Corniche, offering stunning views of the coastline and the Indian Ocean.

  • Go on snorkeling trips to Shark Island and Snoopy Island 

From the coast of Fujairah, you can hop to Shark Island, famous for its coral reefs and diverse marine life, and Snoopy Island, named for its unique shape resembling the beloved cartoon character. Both offer pristine sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, where you can snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, and canoe.

  • Visit Oman without a visa

Only about 15 minutes’ drive from the Al-Rabi Trail is the Madha exclave town, a territory belonging to the Sultanate of Oman, surrounded by the UAE. While relatively small, Madha boasts its own charm with glimpses of traditional Omani architecture where travelers can immerse themselves in the cultural blend of both nations.

Even more intriguing is the fact that within the confines of Madha, there is a small area called Nahwa that falls under the jurisdiction of the UAE.

There is no official border, therefore no need for a visa.

Where to Stay in Khor Fakkan

The Al-Rabi trail can easily be done as part of a day trip from Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Ras Al Khaimah, but if you’d like to extend your stay, here are some top-rated hotels in Khor Fakkan:

Nozol Alrayaheen, Khor FakkanLocated 1.5 km from Khor Fakkan Public Beach, this 3-star hotel provides accommodation with a garden, a terrace, a restaurant, free private parking, an ATM, and a concierge service. From USD 176 per night for a one-bedroom house.

Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort & SpaOffers a private beach area, an outdoor pool, a gym, a restaurant, a children’s playground, water sports facilities, and spa treatment rooms, including sauna and steam rooms. The suites come with a spacious living room and a dining area. From USD 113 per night for a Deluxe Twin Room with mountain view.

Al Marsa Hotel Apartments, Khor FakkanSituated 600 meters from the public beach, this sustainable aparthotel offers free private parking, free shuttle service, and luggage storage for guests. All units come with a seating area, kitchen, and dining area. From USD 109 per night for a one-bedroom apartment.

Final Thoughts

Hiking the Al Rabi Trail in Khor Fakkan presents the priceless experience of witnessing one of the most spectacular summit views in the UAE. And the fact that you only have to hike a couple hours on a relatively easy trail to enjoy that panorama makes it a no-brainer for those looking to create unforgettable memories in this beautiful country.

Whether you’re in Abu Dhabi, Dubai or other surrounding emirates, the Al Rabi Trail stands as a must-visit destination in the UAE for adventurers seeking a balance of physical challenge and natural splendor.

Have you hiked the Al-Rabi trail in Khor Fakkan? What was your experience like? Share in the comment section below.

Posted in United Arab Emirates

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