Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
With nearly 12km of perfect, winding tarmac and an almost lunar landscape, Jebel Hafeet has put Al Ain on the world's motoring map. Jorge Ferrari
With nearly 12km of perfect, winding tarmac and an almost lunar landscape, Jebel Hafeet has put Al Ain on the world's motoring map. Jorge Ferrari
Peter Thoeming says the BMW K1300S is perfect for Jebel Hafeet's corners.
Peter Thoeming says the BMW K1300S is perfect for Jebel Hafeet's corners.

Jebel Hafeet - the greatest road in the world?

Al Ain's hairpin mountain road earns praise from an Australian journalist seeking out the world's best asphalt.

At 11.7km long, climbing 1,219m, with 21 corners and a surface as smooth as glass, it's little wonder that the road up and down Jebel Hafeet, in Al Ain, is regularly voted as the world's greatest drive. I managed to go through an entire tank of petrol when I recently drove it in a Ferrari 458 Italia and came away elated, utterly spellbound by its sheer brilliance. Viewed from the air, it looks like the world's most technical grand prix circuit, and it's on our doorstep.

So when the editor of Australian motorcycle magazine Road Rider asked his readers to suggest the world's best road for bikers, for inclusion in a future series of features, Jebel Hafeet unsurprisingly got a fair share of the votes. And Peter "The Bear" Thoeming is actually here, having made the journey from Sydney just to try it out for himself. "I made it clear to our readers that this was to be no democratic election," he jokes. "If a road makes it onto the list then it'll be me who's ridden it. So here I am."

Thoeming has been a motoring journalist for 25 years, choosing to leave his position as an art director for record company CBS in Australia. "I decided I'd woken up my last rock band to take them to a photoshoot," he recalls, "and I decided, seeing as I had some time on my hands, to join a friend of mine and ride our 250cc Honda dirt bikes from Sydney to Dublin in Ireland." The madcap journey took seven months and he covered the voyage for a magazine and radio station. A new career was born.

"The idea for these features came to me after I watched that movie, The Bucket List [it's about two ageing men deciding to do all the things they really wanted to do before "kicking the bucket"]. I started looking on the internet and there are loads of websites detailing thousands of roads, so I thought I'd throw it open to the readers," says Thoeming. The criteria he lay down included a decent road surface, good corners, impressive scenery. "But beyond that," he says, "the roads needed to have a special, unquantifiable magic."

Jebel Hafeet happens to be the first to be judged and BMW has kindly provided him with a new K1300S sports bike, along with a special set of protective clothing that's supposed to keep a rider cooler than conventional gear. It's 45C today, though, so it has its work cut out.

Yesterday he spent the entire day riding up and down the jagged mountain, getting a handle on it and judging whether or not it makes the grade as one of the world's greatest roads for motorcyclists. "Many of the lists out there are made up of routes that are brilliant for car drivers but useless for bikers," he remarks, "so I've really tested this one. Unfortunately, there's a bit of roadworks going on and there's some gravel on the surface, which isn't good news when you're on two wheels."

In his considered opinion, does Jebel Hafeet get the thumb's up? "It does, without a doubt. It ticks all the boxes regarding corners, surface condition and scenery," he enthuses, "but it also has that extra specialness. You're rising from a flat, dust-shrouded plain and the mountain is almost invisible from a distance. It's fascinating, and the anticipation levels that build as you approach it simply add to the thrill. It's an otherworldly environment and simply a terrific road for spirited riding."

Jebel Hafeet makes it onto another "world's greatest" list, then. We should be proud.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 S*uce store at The Dubai Mall. Courtesy: S*uce

S*uce celebrates 10 years of style

As they celebrate their 10th anniversary, the founders and staff of the made-in-the-UAE boutique S*uce look back at their fashion success story.

 Who did we give five stars to? Mathew Kurian / Ravindranath K / The National

Your guide to the UAE’s best burgers

In search of the perfect burger, The National staff taste-tested the country's many burger joints. Which ones stood out from the pack?

 Sense, A Rosewood Spa offers The Gulf Cure, a 90-minute organic treatment that makes use of the detoxifying and relaxing powers of seaweed. Courtesy Sense Spa

Testing the subtle powers of seaweed at Rosewood Abu Dhabi’s Sense Spa

Add seaweed to your beauty regimen, says Kalpana Ramgopal, after a treatment at Sense, the spa at Rosewood Abu Dhabi leaves her with silken skin.

 The Emperor 1688's Golkar brothers. Courtesy Fashion Forward

The Emperor 1688, Kage and House of Fatam nominated for Woolmark Prize

Three UAE-based brands have been nominated for the International Woolmark Prize: the menswear label The Emperor 1688 and the womenswear brands Kage and House of Fatam.

 Steamed Shrimp Dumplings at Lao restaurant the Waldorf Astoria, Palm Jumeirah. (Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria)

Dim sum to die for at Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah

Waldorf Astoria has made its debut along the Eastern crescent of Palm Jumeirah. Worth a visit for the Dim Sum is Southeastern Asian restaurant Lao. Check out chef’s recipe below and see our slideshow of other top dishes to sample.

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings

(serves 10 people)

Ingredients:

Prawns 250g

Potato starch 25g

Tapioca starch 25g

Spring onions 20g

Lukewarm water 20ml

Banana leaves 20g

Sesame oil 50ml

Sesame seeds 50g

 Entrance of the Zuma restaurant at DIFC in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Zuma bans cigar smoking

Zuma, the high-end modern Japanese restaurant concept, has banned cigar smoking in its Dubai location. The move follows the ban on cigar smoking in its bar and lounge areas during lunchtime service that was introduced in April last year and the Dubai Government’s anti-tobacco law that came into force in January.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National