Hatta, United Arab Emirates

Photo: Alexandermcnabb at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s hot in Dubai. Even though the sun set a few hours ago, the temperature has barely budged. The air feels heavy. A sea breeze is nonexistent. There’s also no rain in the long-term forecast. You need to get out of the city.

Hatta is where locals go to escape the heat and the humidity along the coast of the United Arab Emirates. The small town is only an hour east of Dubai, but it sits in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains near the Omani border. The craggy mountains are the highest range on the eastern Arabian Peninsula. It’s where traditional homes and mosques were made of mud and palm-tree trunks. They’ve been reconstructed in Hatta Heritage Village. Plus turquoise rainwater from the mountains collects in the Hatta Dam. It’s a beautiful spot that both prevents the town from flooding and offers a refreshing soak.

The mountain town is also home to one of the oldest hotels in the country. JA Hatta Fort Hotel was built in 1981 and underwent major renovations last year. The rustic hotel sits right at the base of the mountains. It’s surrounded by 80 acres of gardens, which include olive, apricot, and pomegranate trees. Musandam leaf-toed geckos and Jayakar lizards try to blend in with the dusty rocks. Lappet-faced vultures circle overhead. While the sound of rushing water—this time falling over the rock waterfalls in the pools—can always be heard in the distance.

Photo: JA Hotels & Resorts

You’re welcomed to the hotel with a cool drink and freshly picked dates in the main building. Stone pathways connect the rest of the chalet-style buildings. You find a high, wooden-beamed ceiling and cool stone walls in your room. There’s a terrace with a mountain view, as well. You had planned on taking a shower—your second of the day—as soon as you arrived. But the beads of sweat on your forehead have dried. Your body temperature has already regulated. You feel calm and relaxed.

It no longer sounds crazy to start planning outdoor activities for the next few days. You want to head into the mountains to go biking and hiking. You want to practice your swing on the tennis court and get a few pointers on the golf course. You’re also considering attempting archery for the first time. It’s a traditional sport, for both hunting and recreation, in Dubai, so this is the place to learn how to shoot a bow. The range offers lessons, arm guards, and plenty of practice arrows. Plus, if you hit the bullseye, you can celebrate with a cocktail on the Sunset Terrace.

So yes, it’s still hot in the United Arab Emirates. But in Hatta, it seems to be more from the adrenaline rush than the heat.

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