The Wadi Wurayah in the Emirate of Fujairah has a sensation to offer: a waterfall in the middle of the desert. Its riverbed and the steep rock faces of the picturesque wadi attract not only animals to the cool water.
Wadi Wurayah in the north of Fujairah, a UAE emirate, is one of the few permanent water sources the United Arab Emirates has to offer. Although in summer temperatures rise up to 50°C between the almost vertical rock faces, the amount of precipitation in the cooler winter is enough to fill the water holes for the whole year.
This also creates the unique phenomenon of a waterfall that does not dry up in the middle of the desert - and thus an entry on our list of the top 10 sights in the United Arab Emirates. UNESCO declares Wadi Wurayah a biosphere reserve.
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PICTURES: Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah
Approach to Wadi Wurayah
About 5km after Khor Fakkan, a tarred road branches off from the main road to Dibba and leads into Wadi Wurayah. The road ends after about 11 kilometres above the wadi, from where you can already hear the waterfall rushing, which you can reach on foot after a few hundred metres. A steep path leads down to the riverbed.
On the way in Wadi Wurayah
The steep walls of the wadi that rise up along the banks of the river invite you to go hiking, and the wadi can also be explored further by off-road vehicle.
Despite the barren living conditions, the Wadi Wurayah is populated by animals that come here mainly in search of water. And so some of the rarest animals in the Arab world can be found in the wadi, such as the Arabian tahr, a shaggy, goat-like ungulate, the desert lynx, the Arabian mountain gazelle or the Arabian leopard.
In addition to mammals, 75 species of birds and 17 species of reptiles also live in Wadi Wurayah. The freshwater resources of the wadi are also home to some 300 plant species, from tall, shady acacias to low bushes. Butterflies, among others, are responsible for pollination, and new species are still being discovered in the wadi.
Wadi Wurayah Sanctuary
Word of the beauty and idyll of the wadi spread quickly not only among the locals but also among tourists, who increasingly counted the dreamlike valley among their excursion destinations. The animals that came to the wadi to drink felt disturbed by the many visitors, who were guilty not only of noise pollution but also of pollution and even poaching.
Sheikh Hama ibn Muhammad ash-Sharqi saw a need for action here and placed the wadi and a total of 129 square kilometres in its vicinity under protection. Thus, on 16 March 2009, the first mountain reserve in the United Arab Emirates was created.
Closure of the protected area in December 2013
In December 2013, the road leading into the wadi was closed. The impact of tourism was no longer sustainable, despite the protective measures for the wadi's ecosystem. Plants were damaged, rubbish left behind by campers, rocks sprayed with graffiti and even animals killed.
Since 2018, it has been under strict protection as a UNESCO biosphere reserve and can now also be visited again.