The mountain community embraces sustainable development with a focus on the future and passion for the past.
Flanked by the imposing Hajar Mountains, the quiet town of Hatta, inhabited for more than 3,000 years, is located in an unusual inland exclave of Dubai along the Omani border. Today the restored ruins of a 19th-century fort and its two watchtowers made of stone, clay, and palm timber are some of the few structures left that bear witness to an earlier era before highways both paved and cyber connected the community to the rest of the world. Historically, Hatta was a small village tethered to freshwater-spring-fed farms and animal husbandry, as well as serving as a seasonal destination for coastal families who would travel inland during the hot summer months to escape the sweltering temperatures of the shores.
Today Hatta is seeing a different kind of visitor. Outdoor thrill seekers, mountain bikers, hikers, kayakers, and picnickers flock to the area from all over the emirate during weekends year round to get away from the bustle of modern-day city life and to immerse themselves in the serenity of the surrounding mountain-scape. In April 2017, the first phase of the Hatta Hiking Project was inaugurated by Dubai Municipality, featuring a 9 km route called the City Hiking Trail, offering both flatland and more advanced climbing pathways that weave through the Hatta Heritage Village, Al Tala Park, a number of farms, and a fruit and vegetable market.
The area’s oldest and hardest-working residents, the local wild bees, which have been producing prized mono-floral honey from Sidr and Samar trees for millennia, are abundant. In February 2017, the town hosted its very first Hatta Honey Festival, bringing together beekeepers and curious visitors from all over the region, spotlighting the local delicacy and its corresponding traditions. The Honey Festival, like the Hiking Project, is an example of what’s being facilitated by the 1.3 billion dirham Hatta Development Plan. With 40 programs across the social, economic, and cultural sectors, the initiative is aimed at expanding services and opportunities for youth and residents while attracting visitors through an emphasis on eco-tourism.
A steep hike up a side road that weaves through tucked-away date farms leads to a breathtaking view of the surreal emerald-green waters of the Hatta Dam. The pools, which brim after a rainfall, can be kayaked or pedal-boated across, selfie stick in hand. But the magnificent scene is much more than a stunning backdrop for a weekend getaway.
The Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) has initiated development on an impressive 250 MW hydroelectric power plant, which when complete will be the first of its kind in the country and region. The plant will harness the energy generated from millions of gallons of falling water released from the dam and will use solar power to pump it back up, creating a feedback loop sustained by the local mountain springs and rain. A representation of the emirate’s commitment to renewable and sustainable sources of clean energy, this project aligns with Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to have the emirate meeting up to 75 percent of its energy demand with clean sources.
From the historic fort lookout point on top of Hatta Hill Park, the valley below gleams in the sun with dense rows of brand-new, freshly painted buildings. Older homes have been replaced with large comfortable villas that stand side by side in suburban formation. There’s a new hospital, several large educational facilities, a big emerald-green football field, and a new shopping mall. Under the development program, 600 new homes for Emiratis will be added to the community in the next three years, as well as numerous landscaping projects that will help promote a healthy lifestyle among residents. The plan will also direct youth toward professions that are in alignment with what the local environment has always supported through scholarships for education in agricultural studies and veterinary services. Cultural events, the development and restoration of heritage and archaeological sites, and agricultural-sector enhancements are all aimed at expanding and modernizing the community while preserving, consulting with, and honoring its heritage.