We drive new Jebel Jais Mountain Road

This is the Middle East’s best driving road. We try it in three different sports cars

Team MME knows this road, we’ve been here before. But the tarmac previously only went about 10km along it, so we haven’t been back in a few years. However, it’s now 70% complete and it’s sort of open – if you can find it.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

What is this road, and where does it go?

It literally snakes its way up Jebel Jais, which at 1900m is the UAE’s tallest mountain. Commissioned by Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, it’s estimated to be costing over AED300m ($82m), they’ve been building since 2005, and over 5.2m cubic metres of rock, stone and concrete has had to be cut, blasted, removed or filled in.

Why are they building this amazing road? As much as we’d like to think it was purely for the benefit of petrolheads like us, there is of course a good commercial reason. Being the tallest peak, even in Summer the weather is great up there (about 10-15 degrees C cooler) and in the winter it gets as low as -3 degrees C with snowfall having been seen in 2004 and 2009.

They’re going to build a massive winter holiday resort at the top complete with cable cars, paragliding points and some have even suggested, a ski slope!

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

But we’re more interested in the fact that there are eight hairpins and countless corners on the upper part of a road that runs over 35km and rises 1700m, and as well as being scenically spectacular, it is a driver’s delight.

So which car would be the best to take up here? Well Team MME brought three entirely different sporty rides to find out.

Fraser Martin brought the mid-engined 616bhp rear-wheel drive Mclaren MP4-12C Spider supercar, Shahzad Sheikh the front-engined 218bhp all-wheel drive Mini Paceman John Cooper Works compact sports SUV, and Imthishan Giado, his own 200bhp front-engined rear-wheel drive Toyota 86 sports car.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Thanks to Kenneth Wong for this great Polaroids

McLaren MC4 12C Spider

Fraser Martin:

It’s a pretty eclectic mix, you’d have to admit, and I struggled on the way home to think of anything that I could see that all three had in common – apart from the obvious stuff like tyres, a driver and the like!

I drove the McLaren up and down and it was by far the quickest of the three, unsurprisingly, though Shahzad did make a reasonable fist of keeping up in the MINI (easy when you have someone clearing the road for you and giving you warnings with the brakelights!).

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

In fact, the yellow Spider was almost too quick, given the conditions, and with a dusting of loose gravel on some of the corners, I could see that there were going to have to be quite serious compromises made on to how hard we could try, if all the toys were coming home.

Nonetheless, and without really pushing, I was topside a good three minutes clear of either Shahzad Hopkirk in the Paceman or Imthi-Morgan Freeman in his very own hot FT 86 Toyota.

The McLaren also benefitted from having carbon ceramic brakes which just seemed to get better the hotter they got, so despite fairly committed use, they were as fresh as a daisy when I parked at the end of the tarmac. In his defence, Imthi did have a passenger, but it is a poor excuse!

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Was the MC4 12C Spider the best car for the day? On this day, and on this particular not-yet-cleaned road, probably not; that honour would have to go to the MINI with the permanent four wheel drive. It was no slouch and could be seen rolling a bit in the corners when it was in my rear-view mirror, but it hung on through the squirrely bits like scatology samples to a bedcover!

But let me back there again, once the road is formally open, the surface has been swept and bedded in with a nice coating of rubber on the corners, and a clear run, and I cannot think of anything that would be better, quicker, more satisfying or indeed more flattering than the McLaren. It really deserves the badge of Supercar.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Toyota 86

Imthishan Giado:

If there is an automotive equivalent of the Battle of Waterloo, this superb mountain road was it for my humble 86. At no point was it a contender on the charge up the mountain, and more the point, it was a real handful getting it all the way up as well.

Rear wheel drive! The ads scream at you from the billboards. Well on this particular expedition four wheel drive ala the MINI Paceman would have been infinitely preferable as I scrabbled my way up the never-ending series hairpins in a sloppy fashion, constantly on the lookout for loose pieces of gravel and shale. Hit them, and the tail would step out – and step out hard, until the stability control brought everything back under wraps.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Rather than stringing the bends together, it became a frustrating waiting game of trying to put what little power there was down as early as possible, balancing certain-wheelslip with my own steering timidity through the mindbendingly sharp bends.

Brakes? Well they held up just fine but then of course they would – the front pads are uprated Ferodo 2500s and the fluid’s also been swapped for some Motul 660. Nothing short of a racetrack is going to trouble that lot, and this wasn’t even close.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Did I mention power? Where the turbo cars could comfortably romp up the hillside, content in the knowledge that they can essentially create their own atmosphere at will, my 86, starved of oxygen, felt like it was down a good 100bhp by the halfway point. By the top, it felt like a slightly asthmatic Yaris.

Overall, I can’t say it was the most pleasurable drive I’ve ever had. It was a lot of hard work and frenzied gearchanges making that climb and none of it in an especially good way. Bottom line, if you’re going to be charging up mountains a lot, get a faster car. Or easier still – a faster driver.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Mini Paceman John Cooper Works

Shahzad Sheikh:

And then we come to the not-so-little Mini. At the beginning of the day, both the other two pointed and laughed at the JCW on stilts that I had brought along, and whilst I dutifully defended the Pacemaker, as I kept calling it, I have to admit, I’m not exactly sold on its looks either.

Whatever you may think of this car on perceiving it from the outside, fortunately from behind the wheel, it’s pure Mini. And I believe, and I also think the others have begrudgingly conceded, that on the day, I was in the best car for the job.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

From a practical point of view, the numerous and quite nasty speed humps that you encounter just to get to this new road, not to mention the brief non-tarmaced off-road bits you have to get across along the way, gave the Toyota and certainly the Macca pause for concern, but the Mini just giggled as it skipped over the rough stuff.

When it came to the road itself, which as already mentioned, was still covered in sand and grit, usually on the most critical apexes, the all-wheel drive JCW had an advantage over the others. Not only superior grip, to go along with its great handling and reassuring and accurate steering, but a lovely linearity to proceedings when traction did break, as it frequently did.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

There were occasional bouts of understeer and even oversteer, but mostly its response to losing its tenacious grip was to four-wheel drift. A fraction lift on the throttle would see it hook up again, and with the turbo still on song, shoot out of the apex.

The real advantage with having a car like this, in a situation when I’m chasing the blazing yellow streak left by a McLaren up ahead, on an unfamiliar road with some quite treacherous bits, is that there is neither too much or too little power.

As mentioned there was enough to keep the Mini’s head high in this company, but not too much to make things scary for the driver. I could go flat out but still remain well within the car’s dynamic ability and my own very average skillsets.

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

The only issues I had was that three quarters of the way up, I had to ease off and let Fraser disappear, because the Pacemaker started to overheat (well we are still in the middle of summer!), fortunately a few minutes later the warning light disappeared and I could unleash it again. Also after completing the downhill run – again probably harder and faster than the others dared, it did have some brake fade for a while, fuel consumption too was higher than expected.

Overall though, I absolutely fell in love with this new road, and a lot of that is down to the inherent greatness of the Mini. What a blast!

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

Where is it?

So how do you get there? Well it isn’t the easiest road to find, or to access – be warned there are some gravel bits you have to traverse to reach it, which could be a problem for really low sportscars. Essentially it’s the road that forks off to the left just before the UAE checkpoint on the Ras Al Khaimah-Wadi Bih road, 25km from RAK towards the Hajar Mountains.

Have you driven the new road. What did you think of it? What did you drive it in? What would be your best choice to drive up there? Let us know in the Comments section below

47 responses to “We drive new Jebel Jais Mountain Road”

  1. Bruce Mascarenhas says:

    What are the GPS Cordinates to this location? Pls. share them. Thanks, Bruce.

  2. Navneet says:

    I’ve driven there couple of times this year in my ’13 MustangGT and just loved this road.
    The last I went to Jais was about 10 days ago and the road is not even 30% complete (from the point of incline)…wonder if you say 70% is complete from inclination point or from the last roundabout to Jais?
    I love driving my convertible there & would recommend other ‘drivers’ (especially convertible cars) to experience this road as well!
    I would love to listen the soundtrack of a Lambo there 🙂

    • admin says:

      [Shahzad] It’s described as being 70% complete according to recent newspaper reports, but yes I think that’s looking at it from the base right up to the where the resort is going to be.

  3. Bilal says:

    Just went there today after finding this article of MME.
    Its amazing and yes its 80% complete, but you cant reach the top since the tarmac hasnt reached the top. Work is going on.
    Only if you’re willing to take risk and have a 4×4 you can get on top.
    But its higly risky, since there are no side barriers and no tarmac.

  4. Niloy says:

    I’d been there almost about a year in my ’09 Rav4 back when it was just a gravel track. That had been by far one of the best ‘road’ trips. Blasting up and down a near rally stage was brilliant! That day, the soccer mum 4×4 was really utilized for what it’s worth.

  5. Steve Jones says:

    Was there this weekend, and what a ride….a truly, truly epic road.
    Route was blocked half way up, but worker moved the cone out of the way once we agreed “not to go fast”. There was more grip than expected, particularly after the very slippery roads that lead to the mountain section, only lots of second gear throttle out of the fantastic array of hairpins leading to any real traction issues (although 4WD would definitely be quicker). Anyone with any petrol flowing through their veins needs to go try this road, but let’s keep it quiet(ish), eh?

  6. Drizzle 70 says:

    Had a blast driving this road with friends earlier this year, mid-May 2013. They had just laid down 6km on the top section of perfectly smooth clean new tarmac. Blew me away. There were no painted dividing lines in May like I see in your photo’s. The top half of the road was blocked off by a guard, but a local sheik allowed us through and we had it all too ourselves. Will remember it forever. A drivers dream road I stated to my friend. As an avid BBC Top Gear fan I said the guys needed to come here and drive this road when completed, as its the best drivers road in the world. Maybe in a Ferrari 458, Toyota LFA, & Lamborghini Adventador!

  7. Joshua says:

    I was there in May 2013 because I wanted to get to the top and see the mountain. I was driving my rental car, which was not exciting at all, but the road and the scenery was great. I hope to return in November, and hopefully the road will allow passage to the top. This is a great drive even if you don’t have a hot car, and will become a great destination for car lovers and average joes once completed.

  8. My Road says:

    I can honestly say that I have driven this road several hundred times. This is due to the fact that I was part of the team building it over the last several years. I took a mate up in his GT3 and I doubt many would have been up faster – a quick car and nav who knows every corner.

    Enjoy!

  9. Osama Rashid says:

    GPS coordinates please! We’re planning to go mid-November.

  10. stranger says:

    can someone please tell me location of this place starting from safeer mall in rak

    thanks

  11. Smart Pants says:

    Howdi, I plan to go up there this weekend. Have a heavy 4×4 though not built for rough terrains .. Was wondering whether camping is allowed and whereat at the top? Also whether I should pack my passport with me for any reason? And how long would it take roughly along with the accessibility up there this weekend (i.e. whether its closed to the public or partially open).

    Thanks for the headsup. Dropping my digits for anyone who cares to join or have any other tips. 0553330055
    Cheers All,

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] Not sure about camping – there’s a military base nearby so I wouldn’t recommend it. A passport is not necessary because you’re still very much within UAE borders. And as for how long – budget about 3 hours approx at an easy pace.

  12. abdul hameed says:

    If there is any chance for rain,Police is blocking the road for safety measures( Wadie s are more dangerous).
    So make sure before starting!.

  13. Ali Suhail says:

    Hello guys,
    I live in Ras-Al-Khaimah just around 25 mins away from Jabel Jais and i often go over there to enjoy driving winding roads. Went last Tuesday at the top after the recent storm which happened last week. The road is in pretty bad condition, most of the rocks have fallen on hairpin turns, Reaching the jabal jais road is also not easy anymore for a low profile car, as me n my friend were in a ford focus, our car was badly hit under-body couple of times and in the middle of the lengthy up hill after around 10-15 kms, whole rocks have fallen and blocked a hairpin… So all the sports cars owner out there, if you guys are deciding for a road trip, i recommend you to wait for few weeks, so municipality clean it all up… as per now it is very difficult to take a sports or a low profile car over there unless you have a good SUV… though saw some range rovers and cayenne tearing the road and hairpin turns apart… with tiny rock particles edging off and flying everywhere .

  14. jafar says:

    02/12/2013 to me and my friends went to jebel al jais its a beautiful place , we went to end of the road and I used my old car nisan sunny 1998 model

  15. Zaheer says:

    Hi

    Is there an option to offroad up the mountain and will be a ford expedition good enough to do that. I would highly appreciate if someone can help me to know the terrain better.

    Best regards
    Zaheer

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] I reckon your Expedition should be fine Zaheer, smaller cars like Cherokees have been up to the top with no problems.

  16. nafsal says:

    is is a rite time to go now? im having a maxima…i would love to experience the road…

    • abdu samad says:

      this time is good man and you can use any car evan small cars like a toyota yaris i was there yesturday its superb me n my frends we enjoyed lot…………………s

  17. Haroon Mah'd says:

    I was there yesterday Enjoyed a lot…..Nafsal, Maxima is enough to go there

  18. Anoop says:

    I have a Toyota yaris 2009 model. Can anyone suggest Is this car is enough to go Jebel Jais??

  19. Liz says:

    Hi everybody

    Is the road work complete ? Few months back when we went, we were stopped in the middle and turned back due to the construction work. What’s the status now…please some updates….

  20. Vels says:

    Almost complete but a dirt road leads upto the top. From there you can trek to top of the peak & what a view from there. You can see the Khor Khwair & all the cement plants from the top. Yesterday it was little hazy & weather is 5-6 degs less than at the RAK city.
    You can have a nice BBQ out there. Great place to spend the weekend. Take everything with you as no shops exist there currently.

  21. Yoosaf Lulu says:

    Dear Friends,

    This is very good place to spent your weekend. Roads are fine and the climate is around 10-15 degree at the top. Please buy everything from RAK city before going to top of the mountains as there is no way to get water, tea or anything in between.

  22. Pratik Doshii says:

    Is it a good place to set up a over night camp with booze, bon fire and bbq ?
    Is there any Cops around the area anywhere ??

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] Pratik: There’s a military base nearby with regular patrols at night so I’d advise against any consumption of alcohol in the vicinity.

  23. mohan.m says:

    Hi,
    I want to go there with my family and children with an ordinary car (Camry 1996 model ) Will it be safe?/ In case of any trouble with the car how to get in touch?/

    • admin says:

      [Shahzad] Well technically speaking, the road is not officially open. So if you’re very concerned about safety and access to emergency services I would probably recommend against taking your family.

  24. petr.t says:

    Hi all,
    we visited end of the road (not finished yet to the peak) on Fri 10th January. Road looks very unsafe and probably difficult to maintain in future, without nets and water drainage to avoid gravel and stone falling on to road and water/stone errosion of the road and kerbs/safety walls . Some stones (up to 1m in diameter) on the road would casue fatal accident if would hit a car. Stones in walls looks very unstabile and easy to release.If that happen …would be impossible to leave that area without help from valley. Road is probably not offical opened, but no warning marks/info. In many road sections just one line able to drive for both directions.. On the other hand…weather was excellent ( blu sky, +-12C) and hiking up to saddle offers wonderful view. Worth to come and see…with some risk measures in mind. Sad that many visitors leave garbage after pickniking and not able to follow the rule: what you bring up..take back, too.

  25. Mohamed Nazeem says:

    1 km before the tarmac ends,there is an unpaved gravel road to the left..the way up this road really thrills…! especially the view from the top..

  26. Prabhat Singh says:

    When would be the best time to visit, early evenings till sunset or when the sun is about the come up (early mornings)? Stay overs (Camping) is that possible?

  27. Muhammed says:

    Dears,
    I am planning to go there with my Ford Fusion tomorrow. Any suggestions? how is the climate there now a days?

  28. eCLiPSe says:

    Good Day,

    We are planning to go here at Jebel Al Jais this coming Eid. Is it a good time to visit this place?

    Thanks,
    eCLiPSe

  29. Harshad Soman says:

    A friend just told me about Jebel Al Jais – highly interested in making the trip! Is a 4×4 essential to go to the top? I am a pretty good driver and think it’d not be difficult managing a sedan (hyundai accent/corolla) even with the uneven rocky surface. Would that be taking too much risk?

    • admin says:

      [Shahzad] Most of its is tarmac and great fun to drive. But once you get to the end there is no more black-top, so ideally you should have a 4WD with decent ground clearance to continue to the top. That’s our advice.

  30. Mrs HD says:

    That’s and informative review! Jebel Jais looks even more charming in Winter, when you see groups of revelers camping, hiking and enjoying barbecues all over. What is even more breathtaking, is the sunset view from the top. Drop by my website for a sneak peek! https://sliceofdubai.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/jebel-jais-ras-al-khaimah-mountainside-getaway/ 🙂

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