Surprise! Dubai has mountains!

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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.


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. 

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85 Comments on “Surprise! Dubai has mountains!

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  1. 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?

    Thank you so much!

  2. 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!

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