Dubai's Hatta Road = "Tobacco Road"

Hatta was isolated from Dubai at start of 1970s. There was no tarmac road linking Dubai with Hatta. Hatta was only accessible by camel or four wheel drive vehicle. Yet Hatta was a productive farming area growing tobacco for export via Dubai Creek. Sheikh Rashid was a frequent visitor to Hatta eventually building a Guest House there. By the mid 1970s things began to change. Hatta's isolation from Dubai was beginning to fade. Hatta itself started to change.

Road to Hatta - History

Work began in 1972 on the road to Hatta that Sheikh Rashid ordered to be built. He had two objectives in mind for the Hatta Road. Hatta was an important tobacco growing area. Tobacco was then a significant export for Dubai. But Hatta was isolated by the desert. A camel or a four wheel drive was needed to cross the desert to Dubai. Bringing Hatta's Tobacco to Dubai was a difficult and slow business. The new Hatta Road provided easy access for Dubai's Tobacco Crops to be transported to Dubai for export. Hatta was also an important access point to Oman. Oman had traditionally traded with Dubai for much of its commercial and domestic requirements. Oman then had no significant seaports so relied on local sailing craft i.e.dhows to bring goods from Dubai to Oman. Intention was the new Hatta Road would link with a new road planned in Oman to provide an easier trade route for Dubai's export to Oman. This road developed in importance over the following years as even in 2010 Oman still relied heavily on Dubai's Merchants to supply Oman's needs via the Hatta Road despite having developed three major sea ports.

Hatta Road

Hatta Road opened around mid 1970s. There was little traffic initially. Link with Oman was yet to be completed plus strict visa control at Oman's border restricted traffic.

Len Chapman remembers....

Wadi PortraitIt was Friday - our only day off! Two families in two Landrovers set off along Hatta Road, past Green Scree Corner until we saw the track to our right. Down the track, turn left before the village then into the Wadi. Down the Wadi until you could drive no further and there we stopped, unloaded children, cool boxes, beach umbrellas, beach mats and a pile of other stuff. This was a quiet and safe place for children to play.
After our picnic lunch we settling down for a quiet afternoon when visitors arrived - the local Farmer and his father came to see us. They greeted everyone then sat down on a nearby rock. John and myself found rocks too and sat down with them. We chatted - they in Arabic - us in English. We sort of understood each other. The old man produced his small clay pipe and tobacco - probably grown on his son's farm - that's what Farmers grew in Hatta back then - and began filling his pipe. John was a pipe smoker too so he brought out his pipe and tin of tobacco. The old man immediately showed interest in John's tobacco so they swapped tobaccos and lit up. The old man barely took two puffs before starting to cough, splutter and grimace! He didn't like John's tobacco. He turned his pipe upside down and banged it on the nearest rock until all of John's tobacco was shaken from his clay pipe. John, on other the other hand, enjoyed the old man's tobacco and continued to puff contently. The Farmer meanwhile had been showing interest in John's new camera. John handed him the camera, showed how it worked, now the Farmer wanted to take a photograph! Both John and he stood up. John continued puffing on his pipe while the Farmer took John's photo. I had my camera so I took the photo of the Farmer taking a photo of John! Presumably John developed the film later. I didn't see the photo the Farmer had taken. Maybe it's still in one of John's photo albums lying in a drawer somewhere!

Len Chapman 2013

As more people went to Hatta looking for new places to explore, the easy relationship between visitors and local Farmers faded. Farmers resented visitors accessing their land uninvited. There were "confrontations". Rifles were produced and even fired! No one was hurt but some accepted "freedoms" disappeared.