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Surprise! Dubai has mountains!

mountains dubai

When I pictured Dubai, I envisioned a hot dry place where desert sands brush up against soaring skyscrapers.

I had no idea there were mountains. Please guys, tell me I am not alone in imagining this, right?

When my alarm started to sound around 4am one morning during my two week trip to Dubai a few months ago, I groaned and whined, not wanting to get up for another sunrise shoot.

I hate early mornings, something not particularly conducive with someone wanting a career involving photography. For most landscape photographers, their days revolve around the soft beautiful light of sunrise and sunset, where my best mornings involve no alarms and soft feather beds.

Sigh.

mountains dubai

mountains dubai

But I was dragged from my comfortable bed in the big city (and boy are they comfortable beds) to head out on a promise of sunrise in the mountains.

Mountains in the desert of Dubai? Wait, I’m confused.

The only benefit (in my opinion) of getting up so early in the morning is that the humid summer sun has yet heat the surrounding deserts, keeping everything comfortably cool, and even more so in the Al Hajar Mountains (The Stony Mountains) where we were headed on the border with Oman.

Dubai is so photogenic (check out my favorite photos here) and I couldn’t wait to see a side of this UAE metropolis few knew about.

mountains dubai

mountains dubai

I dozed on and off in the front seat of our SUVs on the way out of the city, finally waking up as we made our way off the highway onto backcountry dirt mountain roads.

I could just see the silhouettes of the mountains against the inky black sky that was slowly shifting to dark blue. They seemed to jut out of nowhere, straight from the ground, and not for the first time I was hit with the feeling that we were on Mars.

There’s no two ways about it, these mountains felt out of this world!

mountains dubai

mountains dubai

After living in New Zealand for a few years, I have truly come to appreciate the natural beauty of mountains. For some reason I can’t explain, I have always been drawn to mountains, no matter where I am in the world.

Getting to see these mountains around Dubai blew me away, and not because they were so impressive. To be honest, nothing can really compare with the mountains where I live in Wanaka, but the Al Hajar Mountains had their own kind of beauty, especially because they exist in a place where people don’t seem to realize they are there.

I’d almost argue that these mountains are probably Dubai’s best-kept secret. So be cool guys. Don’t go blabbing about them, deal?

dubai mountains

mountains dubai

Dubai is busy and big, modern and new, and to be fair, it’s not a place most people visit for nature. But if you are like me and are drawn to the natural side of the world, you can even find it here in Dubai.

I can’t believe these mountains are only an hour or so drive away from downtown Dubai.

After days of intense humid heat that comes with visiting Dubai in September, it felt so good to pile out of the car and feel cool night air on our faces. We stopped just as the sky started to lighten, each wandering off in a different direction scouting locations for sunrise.

I snapped a few photos here and there but I was mostly focused on the mountains. It felt like I was in Star Trek or something – the landscape felt otherworldly.

mountains dubai

mountains dubai

After the sun was fully up, we regrouped and headed down another “road” to a local waterfall and watering hole. This area seemed to be a popular spot with locals to cool down, swim, camp and hangout.

It was already getting pretty hot and it was hard to resist jumping in the water, but we made friends with some locals who tried to outdo each other and impress us but doing some bombs off the cliffs. Considering Dubai is about 90% expats, I was impressed we had the opportunity to hang out with some locals.

They walked back with us to the cars, pointing out some of the birds and local lizards, excited to share a piece of their home with strangers. These are my favorite moments when traveling, what about you?

Did you know Dubai had mountains? Would you like to explore this part of Dubai?

mountains dubai

mountains dubai

Many thanks to Dubai Tourism for hosting me in the UAE and thank you Lauren Bath for inspiring me and making me part of the team. Like always, I’m keeping it real, like you can expect less from me. 

82 Responses to Surprise! Dubai has mountains!

  1. solosophie December 24, 2015 at 3:34 am #

    I totally agree; early mornings are the worst! The mountains look amazing in the morning light though- I had no idea there were mountains in Dubai either!

    • Liz December 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Phew not just me 🙂

    • Visiit.com January 19, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

      This is in East Coast. Most people miss this place when they travel dubai.

      • Liz January 24, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

        I know!

  2. Lauren December 24, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Wow, absolutely gorgeous! That blue lizard is the icing on top of the extraterrestrial cake!

    • Liz December 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      RIGHT?

  3. Kelly December 24, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I think you’re definitely not alone in not knowing about Dubai’s mountains! I love these kind of rough, rugged, other-worldly landscapes. And that lizard is so freaking cool!

    • Liz December 24, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      It was so cool to see!

  4. Ronit Shah December 24, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

    I want to ask you that you have mentioned that you got your first taste for traveling when you was 16 years old.
    Which was the place where you got this delicious taste?
    Can you share some moments for your first trip/taste?
    Please?

    Thank you so much!

    • Liz December 27, 2015 at 4:34 am #

      I went to Europe on a high school summer field trip for 10 days to London, Paris and Spain, it was awesome!

  5. Andrea @ Green and Turquoise December 25, 2015 at 5:31 am #

    Wow I had no clue that Dubai had mountains! Which is totally embarrassing btw because I have been there once. Your pictures are absolutely gorgeous!

    • Liz December 27, 2015 at 4:35 am #

      I don’t think many people know!

  6. Ron December 25, 2015 at 8:59 am #

    Merry Christmas

    • Liz December 27, 2015 at 4:35 am #

      Merry Christmas!

  7. Alex Antunes December 25, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Congratulations, Amazing Photos

    I found this very beautiful place I want to visit soon

    the photos you see here give me a mad desire to pack up and travel

    • Liz December 27, 2015 at 4:35 am #

      Thanks!

  8. Kate December 27, 2015 at 1:09 am #

    Wow! I had no clue there were mountains in Dubai – fabulous photos!

    • Liz December 27, 2015 at 4:37 am #

      Thanks!

  9. Noah December 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Had no idea that Dubai had mountains as well … looks like I’ll have to visit them when I get there!

    • Liz December 29, 2015 at 7:52 am #

      Add it to the list!

  10. Prachi Sharma December 29, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    Fantastic blog Liz.

    Dubai is such a man-made miracle (glitzy shopping malls, sky scrapers, islands) that people tend to forget that even Mother Nature has a important role to play in its beauty.

    Next, time you are here, please take road trips from Dubai to gorgeous places like Fujairah, Hatta, Jebel Jais… and discover more gems like these!

    Nice blog btw. 🙂

    • Liz December 29, 2015 at 7:53 am #

      awesome tips thank you!!

  11. Robin December 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    I totally hadn’t pictured Dubai having mountains. But you’re right, it’s super Star Trek-ky looking. Thanks for showing another side of the modern marvel that is Dubai!

    • Liz December 30, 2015 at 9:11 am #

      Thanks!

  12. Jennifer Cooper December 30, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    Great post – your photos look great and no I didnt think Dubai had mountains! You mentioned they were on the border with Oman which is one place I would like to visit one day – I’ve heard good things about it.

    P.s ive recently moved to NZ (golden bay!)

    • Liz January 1, 2016 at 2:51 am #

      Enjoy Golden Bay!!!

  13. Madi | Restless Worker December 31, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    I can definitely say I did not know Dubai had mountains! Although I am a morning person 4 am is a ghastly hour. Your photos make it certainly well worth it, they are beautiful!

    • Liz January 1, 2016 at 2:52 am #

      Thanks!

  14. Daphne January 1, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    Wow, you managed to make these mountains look like the planetscape of Mars. Truly surreal and beautiful, and I loved seeing your silhouette atop that peak. Very lovely, thanks for sharing a unique facet of Dubai that’s rarely talked about or seen!

    • Liz January 18, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

      That was my friend Jarrad Seng but thanks!

  15. Zascha January 2, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Well, I wouldn’t have thought that either. That does definitely not look like the Dubai I imagined in my head! But it certainly does look wonderful.

    • Liz January 18, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks!

  16. leah January 3, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    Wow, love that pink/red shot! Dubai is on my radar.

    • Liz January 18, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks!

  17. Amy | Toothbrush Travels January 6, 2016 at 4:19 am #

    Early mornings are the worst but that lizard is SO cool!
    Seeing locals let loose in a unique part of Dubai must have been pretty special too! xo

    • Liz January 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

      haha it was pretty cool!

  18. Brian Wallace January 10, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    Amazing photos! I also didn’t know Dubai had mountains, another destination to add to my travel list 🙂

    • Liz January 18, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

      Cheers

  19. Luke Mitchell January 19, 2016 at 3:23 am #

    Reading through these comments is hilarious. Apparently you and I are not alone at all. When I read your headline I thought, “No, no way, there’s what in where? I have to see this.”

    Sure enough, mountains! It’s a similar reaction here in South Africa, for some reason people have it in their heads that there is nothing but savannah and plains, long flat areas with roaming lions, zebra and antelope. While you CAN see those things, they’re certainly not where most people live. We have cities just like anyone else, and Cape Town has the biggest flattest mountain in the world, the town actually built around it, it’s the coolest thing to see firsthand, it looks as out of place as your mountains in the photos (which are stunning by the way) I think they’re worth the early morning rise!

    I’ve only stopped off in Dubai as a stopover between long legs of flight, but it seems like staying a bit longer is warranted now, because like you I share a passion for mountainous terrain and I’d love to go see it.

    • Liz January 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

      it’s a fairly cool part of Dubai!

  20. Lorraine Robinson January 20, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Delighted to find your blog…. I’m going to Dubai next Tuesday. Great info.!

    • Liz January 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm #

      Have fun xx

  21. Jonah January 21, 2016 at 5:28 pm #

    Those mountains look like they’re from another planet! That’s awesome. Hopefully I’ll be able to explore/travel to somewhere similar soon enough!

    -Jonah-

    • Liz January 24, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

      That’s what I thought too!

  22. Osiris Tours January 25, 2016 at 2:10 am #

    WOW! what an inspiring and informative article!
    Traveling to Dubai is in the top of everyone’s bucket list!
    Using your tips above will definitely lead to a unique travel experience to this small beautiful country!
    Great job Liz, keep up the good work

    • Liz January 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

      Thanks

  23. Lucy January 26, 2016 at 3:55 am #

    Wow! Like you I had totally written off Dubai as a place to only see very modern architecture and possibly get arrested for holding hands or drinking alcohol. I like this side a whole lot more.

  24. Zoey Francis February 3, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Wow! Seriously a very surprising piece of information for many of us that Dubai has mountains! The beautiful pictures show the beauty of the natural landscape. I wish to visit this place someday and capture the beauty under my lenses.

    • Liz February 3, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      Thanks!

  25. Kevin February 4, 2016 at 6:14 pm #

    From the pictures, it’s definitely not in Dubai, but amazing it is. 🙂

    • Liz February 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      yes it’s in Dubai, on the border with Oman

  26. International Honeymoon Packages February 13, 2016 at 12:44 am #

    Wow, I dont know there is mountain, today i gain this thing, Mountains picture are beautiful…

    • Liz February 13, 2016 at 8:51 am #

      They are!

  27. Sara Lins February 13, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    Wow, what great pictures of these mountains. Loved it.

    • Liz February 15, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks!

  28. Chris Vincent February 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm #

    Loved this post about Dubai! It’s nice to see the more rugged side, knowing Dubai is mostly known for its luxury shopping and ultramodern architecture! It seems like no other place in the world, having the world’s largest snow park, where you can ski and then drive a Formula One race car at the Autodrome on the same day — Exotic! Anyway, enjoyed reading your post!

    • Liz February 18, 2016 at 9:44 am #

      Thanks!

  29. Arctic Monkeys February 19, 2016 at 3:05 am #

    Sure enough, mountains! It’s a similar reaction here in South Africa, for some reason people have it in their heads that there is nothing but savannah and plains, long flat areas with roaming lions, zebra and antelope. While you CAN see those things, they’re certainly not where most people live.

    • Liz February 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      Well, nobody lives in these mountains, the desert stereotype is definitely true for Dubai. Just that there is a small area of mountains if people want to go and explore

  30. Shells February 21, 2016 at 3:55 am #

    Hi liz,

    Beautiful post.
    Where exactly it is located and is there any specific spot for sun rise?

    • Liz February 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

      nope, anywhere

  31. Lena March 4, 2016 at 9:06 am #

    Ha! Who would have thought to find this in Dubai? I get the same comments when I post pictures of Tenerife in Canary islands. Apparently, people imagine it to be white sand beaches and crystal clear water, when in fact it’s black volcanic sand and a lot of Atlantic ocean waves. No place for bathing 🙂

    • Liz March 6, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

      right?

  32. Tae March 16, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    Those mountains look amazing! Usually when I go to these barren places, like Haleakala National park, I like to take black and white photos. Some tweaks here and there, and you’ll end up with dramatic b/w scenes dripping with amazing textures!

    • Liz March 19, 2016 at 4:33 am #

      good idea 🙂

  33. Rajkumar March 17, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    Amazing Post Liz,
    Al Hajar Mountains is one of coolest place from crowded Dubai. you have capture amazing pictures of the mountain. there is another mountain near Dubai called hatta mountain, this is also one of the best place to visit.

    • Liz March 19, 2016 at 4:33 am #

      So cool!

  34. Deborah April 5, 2016 at 2:18 am #

    Great photos!

  35. Saiba mais April 29, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Nature always amazing , beautiful pictures congratulations …

  36. Gabi May 10, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Great post ! I am happy you are showing not a traditional way of traveling to Dubai 🙂

    • Liz May 11, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

      Thanks!

  37. Mike Rebar May 11, 2016 at 5:01 am #

    Thanks for posting this article, I too am drawn to the mighty mountains and to hear of your adventures to this particular range was very exciting. You see, for now, I am on a low-yield wanderlust as I raise my beautiful daughter in Ohio and mainly travel to destinations inside the U.S. (until she turns 16), but I ‘wander’ all around the Globe on Google Earth and Google Drive and I discovered these mountains behind Dubai just recently and could find little pics and even less blog about them. I have Dubai on the bottom of my bucket list, but now that you added sweet mountains to hike in I might let it shift up to the top ten position.

    I am now following your blog, I found you whilst cruising around NZ on Googs. Travel well, peace.

    • Liz May 11, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

      Thanks!

  38. Salvatore May 11, 2016 at 5:20 pm #

    Great photos and post!

    • Liz May 11, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

      Thanks!

  39. Heritage India Tour May 14, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

    Wow, I know dubai is desert place, First time read it, It is really some surprising news for me, Dubai mountain pictures are so cool…

  40. Ooty Tour Packages May 16, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Dubai? I just came to know after seen your pictures.

  41. Ooty Tour Packages May 16, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    Dubai? I just came to know after seen your pictures.Thanks.

  42. Dubai Visa July 27, 2016 at 12:49 am #

    Dubai is best tourist spot in world. there are many tourist detonation for travelers.

  43. Beatrice August 13, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

    I had Dubai on the bottom of my garbage list, but now that you added sweet mountains to hike in I might let it shift up to the top ten position.

  44. Deb at Headout August 20, 2016 at 8:50 pm #

    Had no idea seriously! Such beautiful rugged landscapes just outside a city which is famous for its luxurious lifestyle – what a contrast! And that blue lizard, wow! Are there designated trails?

  45. Olivia Taylor September 22, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Dubai is awesome!!! Nice pics… sharing more with us. Cheers!

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