This month I want to look at general preparation for any activities in the Wild so everyone knows what they need to do to have a fun and safe time in the Mountains and Wadi’s around the Fujairah Emirate.
As we all know this is the Arabian Peninsula and apart from the sand and Camels it is famous for being hot! Even in the winter the midday temperatures can get above 30 degrees centigrade and in the summer we often see highs of 52 degrees. Between the hours of 11am and 2pm it is generally considered to be best to be either indoors or under shade. Although we all want to work on our tans the risk here is much higher for burning (especially people with light skin tones) and with pro-longed exposure we also risk skin cancer. Long sleeves shirts and Pants rather than shorts are best for hiking. They also help protect us from thorny bushes and rough rocks.
The area from Dibba to Hatta is called the Hajar Mountain Range and it extends right down to Oman and the Yemen. The ground is rough and where there are no paths there are lots of loose rocks and gravel underfoot. The Wadis are also a mix of pebbles, gravels and sand. This makes injuries like twisted ankles or slips and grazes quite commonplace but with a little preparation we can protect ourselves from this. Sturdy hiking boots are always better than trainers or flip-flops. The toes are covered so we if trip over rocks we don’t get cuts and our ankles are supported so we are less likely to twist an ankle if we trip. Wearing a thin pair of liner socks as well as a thicker pair of walking socks will decrease the likelihood of getting blisters.
There is a surprising variety of wildlife in the UAE and a lot of this is accounted for in the Wadis or the mountain ranges. You should keep a good lookout for snakes which may be poisonous (not all snakes here are poisonous) and this includes looking before we place our hands on rocks or as we step over fallen logs or boulders. The snakes are nocturnal hunters but they like to sunbathe during the day as they are cold blooded reptiles and need the sun’s heat. You may also find that scorpions are attracted to your body heat so shake boots before putting them on and look carefully under sleeping pads when you roll them up.
The older Bedouin people who lived in this landscape before oil was discovered knew the uses for food and medicine of every plant in the wild. This knowledge is now quite rare and although there are a lot of plants and fruits in the Mountains and Wadis and even the desert that are edible we should not try anything unless we know for certain it is safe and if an expert or a local has shown it to us. Whenever it rains you will see local families heading into the mountains or stopping by roadsides to pick plants. If you also stop and ask them what they are looking for they will normally be only too happy to show you and share the knowledge with you.
What to pack:
There are a few essential items you should always carry when you head into the Mountains, Desert or Wadis. Even when you are exploring small villages and Castles it is a good idea to keep these things in a backpack in the car or always have them ready to go out with:
Basic First aid kit – Treat; Cuts, Sprains, Scalds, Sun Stroke, Diarrhea, Headache, Allergies
Map of the area – If you can get hold of one and if you know how to use it a compass and GPS are also very useful. Many UAE publications give GPS Coordinates for the start, waypoints and finish of specific activities like; Off-roading, Mountain Biking, Hiking etc
Water – At least 1 liter per person for exploring villages or ruins by car and at least 1 liter per person for every 2 hours in the winter for hiking and 1 liter every hour in the summer for hiking
Food – You should carry snacks around with you all the time like nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, pieces of fruit and if you are out hiking you should pack more substantial food like sandwiches or a piece of pie or a shwarma. Food gives you energy and in the heat you may not feel like eating but you will still be using energy.
Scarf – A local shamag is a good thing to carry and you can use it to cover your head from sandstorms, the sun, insects etc. It can also be used for a range of other needs; A blanket, A towel, a Sling, Women can cover up with it if they are in rural locations
Shelter – It’s a good idea to invest in a lightweight Tarp or thin plastic sheet and some nylon cord. You can use this to construct a shelter to give you shade from the sun if you need to rest and you don’t see any natural shade. You can also use it in a rainstorm
Mobile Phone – Not everywhere in the Mountains and Wadis has reception but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry it for emergencies. No matter what the problem is the Emergency hotline in the UAE is 999 You should tell them the following information:
Who you are
Where you are
How many people are involved
The nature of your emergency
You then either tell them you will wait there to meet the emergency services team or that you will return to the site of the incident to wait for help to arrive.
Toilet Things – There are very few toilets in the wild (a few near car parks) and you may need to use the toilet when you are out on hikes etc. If there are farms or houses nearby and you are desperate you can knock on a door and ask for assistance but if not then you should try to have as little impact on the landscape and environment as possible. Doing a number 1 is easy (!) but a number 2 a little harder. If you have small children there may be a certain amount of cleaning to do as well. Carry a few plastic bags to put dirty things into. A portable baby changing mat is a good idea to protect youngsters skin from rough ground and rocks. You can buy packs of 10 wet wipes and packs of 10 toilet tissues. You can also buy a small garden trowel or foldable shovel from places like Carrefour. If it’s a number 2 and not a baby then find a private place and dig a shallow hole (6 inches is fine) to go to the toilet in. When you are finished you can fill the hole back in and place a rock over the top to stop animals like foxes from digging it up. This hides the paper too so nobody else has to see it.
If you are planning a trip into the wild then it’s a good idea to tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back by especially if you are planning to go off the beaten track and do some exploring. You should tell that friend or family member where you are going to and give them a rough idea of what you plan to do there. The UAE doesn’t have an official Mountain Rescue Team yet but the Police will know what to do if someone is reported as missing.
One final thing to check before you head out is the “Weather Report”. The Wadis and mountainsides are baked dry like concrete in the sun and are prone to flash flooding in rain storms. A Wadi bed that you walk up from the carpark can become a river bed in as short as 5 minutes from the start of heavy rain so always avoid Wadi’s when there are rain or storm warnings.
Stay safe, plan your trips in advance and pack at least the basic’s for survival whenever you head out into the wilds.
Dan Wright and his wife Nirjala have spent 6 years in the UAE of which 4 have been in the Fujairah Emirate. Dan works as a Team Leader for a Military Cadet program in Fujairah ATHS/STS school. He is also a Volunteer rescue technician for the UAE “SANID” program and he runs an “International Award” Club in his school.
Dan and Nirjala spend most weekends exploring the Adventure activities and Geology, Wildlife and Archaeology of the Fujairah Area. His monthly feature “Going Outdoors the Wright Way will look at the various Outdoor activities available to us in and around the beautiful Fujairah Emirate.