The Garden City

I spent my first stint in Dubai getting around in taxis, on the Metro, and walking.  Taxis are pretty cheap and there are loads of them; I lived near Dubai Mall Metro station and it stops near work; and walking is pretty easy, apart from between the months of May and September, when you'd often arrive at your destination damper than if you'd just stepped out of the shower.

Regardless of these facts I decided it was now time to purchase a car and do what everyone else here does: drive.  This being the city of the supercar (and the city of cheap petrol), I opted for something I'd never have (or be able to afford or run) in the UK.  After a bit of test driving and working out what my dirhams would get me, I settled on a brand new Toyota 86 GTX.  While not quite a supercar, it's been pretty highly rated by anyone who's driven or reviewed it (Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear car of the year in 2012, no less - and even that didn't put me off).  Needless to say, I absolutely love it.  There are plenty of faster cars in this city but for fun and driving pleasure, it's pretty damn good.

Toyota 86 GTX
The only problem is the roads.  Yes they're usually pretty busy and at certain times of the day, Dubai crawls to a standstill across parts of the city.  But it's not that - the problem is that the roads are all pretty straight.  Check out a map of Dubai - outside of the city, there aren't many curves or bends.  I drive a fair bit to Abu Dhabi for work and that involves pointing the car in the right direction and not moving the wheel for 150km.  Yet this is a car built for twists and turns - and there aren't very many here.

But there is one very twisty road.  Considered to be (probably) the best driving road in the country, the route that runs to the top of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain is nearly 12km long, rises over 1,200 metres and has over 60 turns.  Therefore, definitely the road to test out the new car with.

Green Mubazzarah in Al Ain, UAE
The Green Mubazzarah in Al Ain
We picked a sunny Friday (which wasn't difficult) and headed south-east to the city of Al Ain.  135km from Dubai, the city is the second largest in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the fourth largest in the UAE, and borders our neighbouring country of Oman.  Known as the Garden City due to the greenery sprouting from the oasis the city is built around, Al Ain was the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed, the country's first president.

The view from Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain, UAE
The view from Jebel Hafeet
On arriving in the city we stopped for lunch at the Green Mubazzarah, strangely leafy and fertile after a long drive through the sand dunes, before heading on and up the mountain.  Jebel Hafeet (Jebel means hill in Arabic) is the UAE's second highest peak and has become a bit of a tourist attraction.  Setting out on the tarmac, the road to the top does indeed twist and turn a lot and without anyone in front of you to get in the way, it is a lot of fun to drive up.

The view from Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain, UAE
The twisty road to the top
Jebel Hafeet restaurant, Al Ain, UAE
No five star dining at the top
There are a few places to pull over and admire the view on the way, but at the top of the mountain you're greeted by a large car park and a rather sorry looking restaurant.  The vista out across the desert though is spectacular.  On a clear day you can see for miles and miles, out over the deserts of Abu Dhabi emirate one way, and over Al Buraimi, the neighbouring city in Oman, the other.  It's clearly a popular place to come, and with a hotel and a royal palace at the top too, the mountain has been attracting tourists and the ruling families for years.  The road itself is pretty incredible and you always wonder how they build these things, but then you remember you're in the country where building absolutely anything seems possible.

Al Buraimi in Oman, from the top of Jebel Hafeet
The view out over Oman
Toyota 86 temperature gauge showing 50 degrees centigrade
Yep it can get warm here...
The journey back down was hampered by being stuck behind a queue of traffic - it seems even the mountain isn't free from the congestion this country is plagued with.  But as a place to test out the car on on some twists and turns, I've not found a better road here yet.

There is always the Yas circuit in Abu Dhabi to try out though...

Toyota 86 GTX in Dubai UAE
Location: Jebel Hafeet - Al Ain - United Arab Emirates
UAE 5530489598265670342

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