Hiking // How to hike the Al Rabi Tower summit trail in Sharjah // UAE
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Starting from the historic Al Rabi Tower, this hike offers stunning views from top to bottom overlooking a historic UAE port city
A 90-minute drive from Dubai
Well laid out graded trails
Incredible views from start to finish
Amazing vantage point across Khor Fakkan and Gulf of Oman
Historic Al Rabi Tower marks the start and end point
4 hours average duration, moderate difficulty with a good base level of fitness needed
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The Al Rabi Tower is the official start point to the Al Rabi Mountain summit trail. Once a vital watchtower built in 1915, it would keep watch for any incoming trespassers heading towards Khor Fakkan, the UAE coastal city in the emirate of Sharjah.
Nowadays, its operational days are long gone, but there is something rather reassuring about the tower watching over hikers as they set about summiting the Al Rabi Mountain.
The Al Rabi Tower trail is a must do hike in the UAE
Being a lover of sport & adventure, I enjoy nothing more than sharing a hike that is accessible for everyone and provides amazing views at the summit. And with the Al Rabi Mountain trail, I have just that for you.
This hike offers the best summit views in the United Arab Emirates - in my opinion, and don’t get me wrong, there are some very good summit views around the country – but the Al Rabi Mountain summit has all the right ingredients to make for a fulfilling adventure. .
It’s accessible for everyone, it’s challenging but not out of bounds for the majority, its trails are well maintained and signposted and the summit itself, well - it’s stunning.
In every direction you look you'll be greeted with a different, glorious landscape. Views of the Gulf of Oman to the north, south and east, the historical town of Khor Fakkan to the north and the Hajar Mountains and Fujairah to the west and south.
A full panoramic vista of unrivalled viewing to soak up until your heart’s content.
The start point at Al Rabi Tower
Google Maps will get you straight to the car park hikers must park at (details below), it’s a patch of gravel at the bottom of a tarmac road that leads you up to the official starting point of the hike at Al Rabi Tower.
A tip for you, try and park underneath the lone tree in the car park. When you return to the car after the hike, you’ll thank me that the car hasn’t been in direct sunlight for hours.
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Once you have walked up the tarmac road, the official start point of Al Rabi Tower is a glorious place to begin and finish your adventure.
You will see for yourself when you arrive, the tower sits in a commanding position, as a watchtower should do, looking over the city of Khor Fakkan.
Benches and viewing areas provide an inspiring moment to take in the views before you set off on you way.
Do you know what I find impressive? The Al Rabi Tower which stands at no more than 10 metres tall was celebrated as a construction marvel when built over 100 years ago.
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Funny to think, less than two hours down the road the world’s modern day tallest tower stands proudly at 829 metres – the Burj Khalifa.
I wish I could be around in 100 years to see what people think of the Burj Khalifa. I doubt it will be the starting point of a hike, but you never know.
The Al Rabi Tower is a fitting start to this hike, as history is scattered everywhere you look. From looking out to the ocean where a German submarine sank in 1943 during World War II – it wasn’t discovered until 2009! – to casting your eyes over Khor Fakkan, a UAE city of great importance, once ruled by the Portuguese.
There is a story to tell at every turn.
Easy to follow trails
As you begin the hike, you will notice straight away that the trail is brilliantly laid out with ample signposts to keep you on the right track.
The first part will see you climb for around an hour or two depending on your pace, to the first peak. This is a hard slog and to get as much shade as possible, you should start hiking as soon as day breaks.
If you don’t fancy climbing all the way to the first peak, there is actually a shortcut when you reach the rest point at the 1500 metre distance mark.
Here if you take a right turn, you will walk along a fairly flat trail to a campsite area which sits in a low point between the first peak and the summit.
If you choose to tackle the first peak, it is worth it for the views and once at the top, you will then follow the trail down from the first high point, which will also bring you to the campsite area.
The campsite area is a bit of flat ground, with a little area of shade thanks to a canopy. It is also an excellent location for taking photographs before you tackle the final ascent to the summit.
Mountain views and the 'secret beach'
From the campsite area, to the south, you’ll see the Gulf of Oman stretch out as far as the eye can see. The sunlight’s glistening reflection on the water is only interrupted by a usually busy fleet of container ships arriving from the world over, anchored up and awaiting there docking time within the Khor Fakkan port.
This area of the Gulf of Oman is also the area where the German submarine sank back in 1943. It was discovered some 25 miles out.
In the foreground you will see the mountain gradually fall away towards the water’s edge. It’s at this point you will notice what looks like an irresistibly secluded beach.
Sadly you are not allowed to go there, and there are signs warning you not to. You can understand why, it would be a risky journey to make on foot.
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The beach, known simply as the ‘secret beach’, will have to remain secret – but just looking towards it acts as a nice moment of serenity and calm before you begin your summit climb.
To the north, the city of Khor Fakkan is framed wonderfully between the mountains surrounding you. Get your camera out here; it’s a fabulous view, in both directions.
The climb to the Al Rabi Mountain summit
The next step is to hike the final ascent to the summit. This part will take you about 30 minutes. There is a big UAE flag standing tall at the summit, which guides you towards your target. Well marked out trails lead you up, with some large rocks to navigate but nothing that stops you in your progress for long.
Once you reach the summit, find a rock to sit on, soak up the awesome views and pat yourself on the back. It’s a challenging climb up to this point at 395 metres above sea level – but still very doable for anyone with a flutter of fitness and a dollop of determination.
I mention in the above video how the summit feels similar to that of standing at the top of Table Mountain in South Africa. A high point towering over an urban hub, with a beach, coastline and port nestled into the flat lands below.
Other people on the summit when I was there talked about its similarities to Rio de Janeiro.
The photo opportunities are a plenty, make sure you get one with the UAE flag in shot and the landscape behind.
You can see why I consider this summit the best summit in the UAE. Taking in all considerations, for me it offers everything you want from a hike with the immense summit views you want to be greeted with after a hard climb.
Khor Fakkan - a UAE city of great importance
Khor Fakkan, which sits proudly at the bottom of the Al Rabi Mountain was once ruled by the Portuguese back in the early 16th-century until their power began to decline around 100 years later. In those days, the city was called ‘Carfacao’.
In the mid-19th century the city was wrestled from the Omani Sultan and into Sharjah's hands. The city actually sits in a Sharjah exclave, a section of the emirate completely separate from the main land mass of Sharjah and is surrounded by the emirate of Fujairah.
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Khor Fakkan means “Creek of Two Jaws”. This name relates to its setting on a crescent shaped bay flanked by two headlands. From the mountain as you look down towards Khor Fakkan, you can clearly see the geography that lends itself to its name.
It's coastal location is clearly why so many have fought to rule over this land, and Sharjah's quest for it to be within their borders is an inspired move. It means the emirate of Sharjah is the only emirate of the seven emirates in the UAE that has a coastline on both the west and east coasts.
Khor Fakkan is also home to the only natural deep-sea port in the region. This container shipping terminal is rather important to Sharjah's and the UAE’s trade industry.
Views all the way down
The route back down is ultimately the same route as the one you took up, apart from the fact the shortcut is much more desirable on the return journey.
What is nice is that on the way down you pretty much have the incredible views over Khor Fakkan all the way back due to the fact you are now facing the city.
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It’s a vibrant sight to swallow up. The whiteness of the city, the blueness of the ocean and the mountains all around.
You will finish where you started. The Al Rabi Tower. And in a similar vain, you’ll be a little tired, a little sweaty, you might feel 100 years old but you’ll still be standing….
It may have been built as a watchtower to defend Khor Fakkan from intruders, but in its new role, I wonder how many times the Al Rabi Tower has watched over and had a giggle at the many out of breath hikers returning from their adventure on the Al Rabi Mountain trail.
Durable trainers or hiking boots are best
Take plenty of water, 3 litres should be enough.
Take a towel and a change of top. It's a sweaty and humid hike at times.
Make sure you're phone is charged and you have told family/friends of your schedule.
A hat, sunscreen and any other sun protection you can find is important as there is not much shade.
Even though the hike is not particularly technical it should not be underestimated as it does require a good level of fitness.
How to reach Al Rabi Tower:
Search for Al Rabi Tower in Google Maps which will guide you to the hike car park
Car park for hikers is at the bottom of the tarmac road that leads up to Al Rabi Tower
There is parking at the Tower itself but this is for Tower visitors only
Journey duration is 90 minutes from the downtown end of Dubai
The mountain can be quite busy with hikers so have your face mask handy incase you find yourself close to others.