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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Great driving roads: Jebel Jais Mountain Road, Ras Al Khaimah

Although only recently opened, the Jebel Jais Mountain Road has already become a magnet for enthusiastic drivers, sightseers and extreme athletes.
The Jebel Jais Mountain Road in RAK. Reem Mohammed / The National
The Jebel Jais Mountain Road in RAK. Reem Mohammed / The National
Jebel Hafeet gets all the kudos as the UAE's best driving road, but there's another snaking ascent carved through a rocky mountain face that matches it for visual drama and adrenaline potential.

Although only recently opened, the Jebel Jais Mountain Road has already become a magnet for enthusiastic drivers, sightseers and extreme athletes (such as the longboarders we featured in Weekend a few weeks ago).

You can't quite get to the 1,934-metre summit of Jebel Jais by road just yet, as the last 4.8km to the top is still rubble, but there's more than 20km of smooth blacktop from the base to the end of the road.

Jebel Jais is the highest peak in the UAE and forms part of the Hajar Mountains that begin in the Musandam Peninsula and stretch to Sur in Oman. Estimates suggest the road is costing the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah more than Dh300 million.

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It's not just the proverbial road to nowhere, as there are plans to eventually build a hotel, cable car, paragliding launch ramp, golf course and ski slope at the summit (it does snow there in winter, and there will no doubt be machines to top up the white powdery stuff).

The easiest way to get there is to take Emirates Road (E611) to Ras Al Khaimah, then ask the locals for directions, because there are no signposts to the mountain. There are two lanes up and one coming down, the road surface is excellent and there are good sight lines, so the ascent is an ­absolute hoot.

Be aware, though, that there's a horde of shutterbugs, picnickers and Sunday drivers scattered all over the mountain on weekends, who tend to park their cars willy-nilly and wander across the road randomly.

There are a handful of viewing points along the way, and it's worth pausing at these, because the vistas are breathtaking.

Your weapon of choice should be something with a decent dollop of power and grip - I was piloting the 286bhp, all-wheel-drive Audi S3 reviewed above, which proved well suited to the task. You'll wear an even wider grin in a Lamborghini Aventador or Ferrari 458 Speciale, but there's fun to be had in (or on) ­almost anything with wheels.

What else to do while you're there

Top up on some culture: Ras Al Khaimah's National Museum is housed in Al Hisn Fort (formerly a fortress that served as a residence for the emirate's ruling family) and is packed with exhibits that showcase RAK's cultural heritage and archaeological heritage.

Take a dip: The Khatt Springs provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in hot mineral water with a high sulphur content, which is said to have healing qualities. There's also a palm-tree-lined health resort, making it the perfect place to rejuvenate.

Pitch a tent: Ras Al Khaimah offers a number of camping venues along the coastline, in the mountains and nestled in wadi beds. Once settled in, you can fire up a barbecue, unwind from the stresses of city life and stare at the night sky.

Tee off: Tower Links Golf Club is an 18-hole golf course with a floodlit driving range and putting green. There's also Al Hamra Golf Club, but you'd better take plenty of balls because the course snakes around four interconnected open water lagoons that are connected to the Arabian Gulf.

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