• Tom Bushell

Hiking // How to hike the Wadi Shawka trail in Ras Al Khaimah // UAE

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

Hiking in the UAE is incredibly rewarding with views across the largest mountain range in the eastern Middle East Peninsula

  • Rewarding hike for all forms of fitness

  • Incredible views of the Middle East’s ‘Rocky Mountains’

  • Cabana’s dotted across all routes for shade and resting spots

  • Easy to access by car with parking at the start/end point, no 4x4 needed

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I loved this hike in the United Arab Emirates. It's perfect for all forms of fitness, accessible and full of adventure.


Within an hour of Dubai you are in a different world


The Wadi Shawka hike in Ras Al Khaimah is only a 60-minute drive from Dubai, but a world away in terms of scenery, landscape and sounds and the perfect location for exploring.


Yes, the UAE does offer more than just the 5* luxury that Dubai is often known for.


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The hike begins with a stroll around the lake formed by the Wadi Shawka Dam. At the far side of the lake, you’ll reach the base of the staircase that leads you up to the upper levels of the hike. The staircase includes resting points where you can sit down – if you tackle the trek early in the morning, the initial staircase climb is mostly in the shade, but set off later in the day and you’ll struggle to find any rest bite from the sun.



Stunning views of the Middle East’s Rocky Mountains


Once you arrive at the top, you will follow a path along the top edge. Ahead of you and to the right you will be welcomed by spectacular views of the Hajar mountain range.


The Hajar mountain range spreads right across Oman and the north eastern areas of the United Arab Emirates and is the highest mountain range in the Middle East’s Eastern Peninsular.


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‘Hajar’ translates to ‘rocky’, lending itself to the nickname, the ‘Middle East’s Rocky Mountains’.


It’s easy to see why the mountain range is named 'Hajar'. The terrain is mostly made up of gravel, boulders and rocks. You won’t need to climb over many big boulders on this route however with the tracks mostly easily laid out.


Scramble downhill


You’ll find the path becomes a little difficult to keep track of for a short stage. A little scramble downhill is required to reach the other tracks that wind their way trough the mountains.


Don’t be concerned though, with just a little care you’ll find this little stretch is easy for any fitness level. Once you have scrambled down to the more obvious tracks, you’ll have a choice as to which direction to go.


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No matter which route you take, as they are loops, you’ll find that they all bring you back to the same place. I headed right before reaching a cabana for lunch and then I headed back from where I had just come from, which led me back to the starting point where you park your car.


Rest up at multiple cabanas and take in the quietness


Cabanas are situated on all paths providing a perfect resting place, shade and a good location for eating, taking in the view and swallowing up the peacefulness. If you’re coming from Dubai or another urban hub within the UAE, the quietness is something to fully appreciate. You’ll feel a world away from the hotels, busy highways and bustling shopping malls.


The final stretch back down to the road is easy to follow, but can be quite steep in parts, so again, care is needed. Once you have reached the bottom you’ll find the parking where you parked on arrival.


If you've got a day free, I would highly recommend tackling this hike for a great view of one of the Middle East's most impressive mountain ranges.



How to get to Wadi Shawka:

  • Head east on the E102 which can be joined from the E611.

  • Turn off at the Shawka junction (some spellings of ‘Shawka may differ) – about 10 minutes past the junction for Mleiha.

  • Drive through the small village of Shawka and turn right at the signpost for ‘Wadi Shawka Dam’.

  • Continue along the tarmac road and park at the ‘Dam Management Office’. From Dubai, journey time is around 60 minutes.

  • *No 4x4 needed


Recommended supplies

  • Hiking boots although a good pair of trainers with good ankle support would do.

  • Suitable clothing depending on season.

  • A hat and sun protection.

  • Lunch and plenty of water.

  • A charged mobile phone – there is a phone signal throughout the hike.


Covid-19 Make sure to carry a face covering with you incase the trail is busy or you pass other hikers on the paths.

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