x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Air Bag: When UAE roads throw you a curve, take it

C'mon, the weather is perfect for a weekend drive. Open the map and pick a route; do some exploring and find some adventure.

Even in the ever-changing landscape of the UAE, this is pretty big news for people on the eastern coast of the country.

Earlier this month, a new, three-lane motorway was opened that now directly joins Dubai and Fujairah. The motorway, carved out of the mountains and with a set speed of 120kph, will apparently halve the time that it would normally take to travel between the two areas. Authorities say it will be a boon for eastern residents, opening up job opportunities in Dubai and bringing prosperity to villages along the route; perhaps it will even coax those residents of the UAE's largest city - usually loath to wander beyond its gleaming borders - into exploring more of this beautiful country. As long as it doesn't infringe on the weekend brunch, of course.

Just for curiosity's sake, you'd probably want to plan a day on the beach in Fujairah, taking the new route to check out the new tarmac, the camel bridge near Malaiha and the deep rock cuts that literally take you through the mountains. Plus, you can enjoy the fact that heavy lorries are not allowed on the route; just set the cruise control and sit back. And then, if you are a person who really, really likes to drive, you'll never take that route again.

Sorry, UAE, but there are far better - or at least, far more fun - routes to get out east. And if you really feel adventurous and enjoy being behind the wheel, you don't even have to reach the eastern coast to enjoy yourself.

Just take a look on a map; little, winding snakes of roads that take you to villages with names such as Huwalat, Al Qor and Wahla, places so out of the way that, were it not for the journey, there really wouldn't be a reason for most people to actually reach the destination.

These roads are especially appealing to people in the central and western parts of the country because, let's face it, we just don't have a plethora of interesting routes to take out here. It's fine if you feel like you need to see your destination an hour before you get there - most of the roads are as straight as an arrow. It makes sense if you're just cutting through desert land, but it doesn't make for a very interesting drive, does it?

The eastern routes are particularly thrilling if you ride a motorcycle, where all the fun is leaning it over in the curves. They've got tight, twisty bends, long, sweeping turns and elevation changes that will have your stomach in knots, if that's what you like, not to mention stunning mountain, wadi and seaside views. But be forewarned: these are rural roads, and you're likely to come across a local resident, stray goat or camel or, depending on the season, a pool of water flowing from a washed-out wadi around the next bend. Be careful.

C'mon, the weather is perfect for a weekend drive. Open the map and pick a route; do some exploring and find some adventure. Meet some interesting people when you stop for a tea at one of the local restaurants. Take care and respect the locals and the land, and I guarantee you'll rediscover the joys of being behind the wheel.