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Up in the cool Hajar Mountains, Hatta offers a respite from the heat of the coastal Emirates when the temperature tops fifty degrees and the humidity nears saturation. But it's also a worthwhile place to visit in its own right, with the spectacular oceanic crust thrust up into jagged rocky peaks, and the ever popular off-road route to Hatta Pools.

When we lived in the UAE in the 1980s we would occasionally have a family drive up to Hatta, and I clearly remember using the pool at the Hatta Fort Hotel which 25 years later was still going strong. We didn't however do anything as adventurous as the rocky road to Hatta Pools, which although nearby is actually over the border in Oman, as evidenced by the change in phone network. Oh, and by the man with a rifle that we had to show our passports to.

Pallette of the Hajar Mountains

The various layers of the Hajar Mountains, disappearing southwards into Oman. The mountains rise to nearly two thousand metres in the north of the Arabian Peninsula, and are unusually made of oceanic crust. If you look around you can find fossilised seashells.

Hatta Fort Hotel is the premier accommodation in the area, and offers secluded rooms in the cooler mountain air, and now a lagoon pool in addition to the original pool.

Hatta Fort Hotel

Pool at Hatta Fort Hotel

I clearly remember swimming in this pool in the late 1980s, and was happy to find it was still there as I remembered it in 2011.

From the Fort Hotel there are views of the mountains in all directions - this one appears to have had a road cut into it almost all the way to the top.

Mountains near Hatta

Palm trees and greenery

A guest relaxing amongst the lush greenery of the Hatta Fort Hotel gardens.

Your first sign of arrival in Hatta proper is the Fort Roundabout, with its own mini-fort. The road from Dubai to Hatta crosses through some Omani territory, necessitating two stops and flashes of the passport. In the 1980s of course, they didn't bother with any of that and you wouldn't even have known if you didn't have a map.

Hatta Fort Roundabout

Hatta Dam

There is a large dam just south of Hatta village, a gravity design with a big spillway.

I guess the dam isn't often actually put into use, judging by the lack of water in the reservoir behind it.

Reservoir at Hatta Dam

Tourists at Hatta Pools

There's always water at Hatta Pools though, a popular beauty spot a few miles off the main road and into Omani territory.

Hatta Pools is fed by water from up in the Hajar Mountains, and downstream of the swimming holes it cuts into a deep gorge, not unlike Linn of Dee in Braemar.

Gorge at Hatta Pools

Lone man surveying hatta pools

A lone local surveys the changing colours of the rocks as the sun goes down.

Hatta Pools at dusk, calm after most of the tourists have disappeared back along the dusty track to civilisation.

Hatta Pools at dusk

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2013