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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Visitors to RAK's newest attraction will need a head for heights

Observation decks are near the summit of the UAE's tallest mountain

A series of observation decks built into the mountainside will offer views across the Al Hajar mountain range. Jeff Topping / The National
A series of observation decks built into the mountainside will offer views across the Al Hajar mountain range. Jeff Topping / The National

For those with head for heights, this October will see the opening of a new observation deck nearly twice the height of the Burj Khalifa.

Now under construction on the slopes of Jebel Jais, the UAE’s tallest mountain, the viewing platforms will look out over Ras Al Khaimah from around 1,300 metres.

By contrast, the tip of the Burj Khalifa measures 830 metres, while its “Sky Experience” viewing deck is just 555 metres.

Developed by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), a series of observation decks built into the mountainside will offer views across the Al Hajar mountain range, which extends into Fujairah and northern Oman.

The tourism authority hopes to attract hikers and mountain bikers who will use it as a starting point for exploring the area, along with less adventurous visitors who can drive to platform to watch the sun rise and set, and catch glimpses of the local wildlife, which includes mountain goats, the Arabian tahr and the rare Blandford’s fox.

An illustration of Ras Al Khaimah’s new Jebel Jais Observation Deck which is due to open in October.
An illustration of Ras Al Khaimah’s new Jebel Jais Observation Deck which is due to open in October.

Haitham Mattar, chief exectuive of RAKTDA promised that the decks would have an appeal: “Beyond the very active. The deck will let visitors take in stunning sea and mountain views, and the magnificent sunrises and sunsets.”

The project will include an events arena and a permanent location for food trucks. It will be lit by solar energy, with care being taken to preserve the area’s natural beauty.

“We have worked very hard to implement natural, locally-sourced materials into the site – we want the Jebel Jais Observation Deck to blend as seamlessly as possible into the mountain façade,” said Mr Mattar.

As an added bonus, the mountains offer a respite from the heat of summer. Temperatures at that altitude are around ten degrees cooler than at sea level.

The mercury on Jebel Jais peaked 28°C on Sunday, compared with 40°C in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

In winter it is a different story. The summit of Jebel Jais is nearly 2,000 metres, and temperatures often fall to near or below freezing, with snow recorded on a number of occasions, including this February.

The observation decks are just the latest in a series of initiatives to open the mountains of RAK to adventure tourism.

The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata or 'Iron Path', which opened last November, is a climbing route that uses an iron cable fixed to the rocks, and also features several zip lines, including one of 300 metres.

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