Nestled between palm trees and tucked beneath the ever long and expanding Etihad railway, the Al Bithnah Fort and Nature Trail is one of the most underrated places in UAE to pop up in recent years. Opened to the public in 2012, this old UAE heritage area is a must-go during the winter days to experience the countries’ history as well as the nature in UAE which is different to the countries’ usual golden sands and desert dunes.
Because of its location where one has to comb into the midst of the remote Masafi mountains, it also doubles as a great spot for those looking for amazing destinations for a scenic UAE road trip with the blue skies and white clouds hovering over these majestic hills while lush green is cradled in its valleys.
The Al Bithnah Nature & Heritage Hiking Trail (which consists of the fort as well) is located in Al Bitnah, 13 km west of Fujairah, situated in Wadi Ham, which overlooks a small green oasis that is now used for agriculture and farming.
The place has a history that dates back 3000 years ago when Bithnah, along with its valley, was used as a common trade route for merchants and travelers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, which makes it a great spot for hiking in Fujairah in the current era.
Today, some of its historical bits still remain and is a great spot to get a taste of good old Earth as well as a glimpse into its past. For hikers and visitors, it’s advised to see the fort first before the hiking trail as the fort would only take around 30 minutes to an hour to explore while the hiking trail can go more than 2 hours.
So for those looking for some bit of outdoor activities in UAE, you can head here for a well rewarded time. To know how to get there, keep scrolling below!
Al Bithnah Fort
The Bithnah Fort has been considered a valuable historical piece in the Emirate as well as the UAE’s history with its past of wars and battles. Its walls tell tales of prisoners and soldiers past while its old gates are now surrounded by the touch of modernity, mainly the Etihad Railway that looms over it. That said, it’s still one of the best natural places in UAE for some green surrounded by the majestic mountains of the emirate.
Its Prominence in History
Overlooking the beautiful views of the Masafi mountains and light greenery, the Al Bithnah Fort (built in 1735) is one of the historical places in UAE that should definitely be on every explorer’s list. It was renovated in 2012 and is said to be the second-largest fort in the country. If the walls could talk, it would narrate its days of the long battles and wars it had fought in the late 18th to early 19th century.
You can access the fort through the gate of one meter (3 feet) in height which will take you to a circular hall with eight windows, all of which can be used as a watch point to secure its 360-degree parameter. What makes this fort unique is its upper floor, which has a jail and a hanging room that was used for prisoners, as informed by the fort’s guard, Naser.
The Jail & Hanging Room
When you climb the fort’s stairs leading to the top floor, a small room is tucked into the corner. Small windows are furrowed into the walls to let in light and air. The only other thing in this room is a set of long stairs leading to a basement that is the size of the same room. It is believed that this “basement” which is void of any light or sounds, was actually a jail where prisoners and war hostages were held.
Another similar but larger room is tucked into the other corner of the fort. This room also has a set of similar stairs going 9 to 11 feet below. A small chamber with wooden blocks on the ceiling takes up the space in this cold, dark room. This room is also similar to the jail where no light can be entered here. Travelers who are afraid of small spaces or darkness are advised not to climb down these stairs but if you like a bit of thrill, then carry a torch and make your way down.
The fort also gives spectacular views of the surrounding and famed Fujairah nature sitting in the valley of its mountains. The fort also has its strategical points where the soldiers could watch intruders and take them down before the enemies could enter the fort doors. Make sure to ask for Naser, the guard, as he will show you all the important points and spots that the soldiers had used.
The Hiking Trail
Before you see the Bithnah forts as you drive towards it, a small path with an old watch tower can be found on the left. This watch tower is the start of the Al Bitnah Nature and Heritage trail and it is one of the best hiking trails in UAE. While the path is suitable for beginners, it is still advised to have proper hiking shoes and perhaps a hiking pole for the older folks that isn’t very used to uneven grounds. This trail is also great for experienced hikers looking for less hassle hiking in UAE.
The Watch Tower Point
When you start your hiking journey, you’ll soon come across a small watch tower perched on top of the hill. This tower was built during the 1700s when the guards, in their active days, would stand here day and night on the lookout for intruders. If they saw anything suspicious, they would fire their guns into the air and warn the citizens residing in the valley as well as the other soldiers in the surrounding towers, or on guard duty, at that time. The continued hiking trail down the path is also said to have archaeological sites and gravestones of the brave soldiers that lost their lives in the war.
The Mountain Path
From here, the trail then starts off into the mountains for a bit of fun and thrill. Mud-coloured hills with the haze of winter (or the heat of summer) stretch as far as the eye can see. With little vegetation growing here and there, it makes one feel like they are walking along ancient plains that are shown in movies like Alpha or 10,00 BC. The trail is laden with stones on both sides so hikers can easily make out the path they have to stick to and avoid wondering off into the wilderness.
Beginner hikers can walk all the way until it starts going up the slopes. If you aren’t used to hiking and don’t have the proper gear to climb up then avoid going to the summit as it can get dangerous when climbing down due to loose rocks and uneven ground. That said, most of the path is easy and if you feel like you had enough, you can simply turn back and return to your car.
Vegetation and Wildlife
But until the steep climb, the road is an easy hike with plenty of biodiversities. While on your walk, you’ll see natural thorny trees and bushes popping up here and there on your way. Small farms with plenty of green doing their agricultural activities in the valley will also catch your eyes as you make your way around the mountains. The place also has migratory birds and even goats walking along the top of these grand, brown mountains.
This Fujairah hiking trail has both flatlands and narrow paths. While it’s not a threatening cliffside, make sure to be careful as you can to avoid falling as it can still be dangerous. As mentioned before, the rocks are loose and the path is uneven. That said, it’s still an enjoyable hike for both beginners and experienced walkers alike.
How to Reach Al Bithnah Nature & Heritage Trail
Reaching Al Bithnah would be tough if you’re considering public transport as buses don’t take this route. The fastest way would be by car. You can either drive your own or rent a car and a driver for you and your group.
For drivers getting there in their own ride, you can follow this route map to the fort and this map for the nature trail. Yes, they are both close to each other but in separate locations. As mentioned before in the article, at the start of the nature trail you will see the watch tower with a flag.
But if you just want to get a glimpse of just the fort without going for the hike, and would rather take the time to see the rest of Fujairah’s gems, then you can book anyone of these private tours with pick up and lunch options depending on your budget and sight-seeing plans:
Private Fujairah Daytrip With Lunch
Private Full Day Fujairah Tour with Dubai Pickup
Private Masafi & Fujairah Tour
Things to take note:
Timing: While there isn’t a specific time, it’s better to head here in the morning if you plan to take the hiking trail. This way you’ll have enough time to explore the fort and the trail as the sun sets quicker in winter days.
Must-carry: Take a small hiking bag with you. You’ll also need a couple bottles of water and a torch in case the sun sets before you make your way down.
Gear: Wear hiking shoes or sports shoes. The trail is uneven and has loose pebbles that you can easily trip over. If this is your first time hiking, check out the beginner’s hiking guide for a heads up on what you will be needing on your first hike.
Be respectful: Remember! This is a wildlife area. Be sure to not litter, destroy vegetation or disturb wildlife. You might end up on the wrong side of the law if you harm the animals!