Home / Site Visit: High way to Jebel Jais

Site Visit: High way to Jebel Jais

by Stian Overdahl on Dec 25, 2012

Piles of aggregate waiting to be compacted that have been trucked from the crusher at the top of the hill. To the right, a JCB sits on a plateau creat
Piles of aggregate waiting to be compacted that have been trucked from the crusher at the top of the hill. To the right, a JCB sits on a plateau creat

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PMV travels to the highest road building site in the United Arab Emirates, in Ras Al Khaimah, to visit an ambitious road building project that seeks to turn the mountain into a popular and accessible tourist destination.

By the standards of mountainous countries such as Switzerland, Nepal or India, 1900 metres may not seem like a particularly high mountain. But in the UAE, that’s roughly the height of its highest peak. Jebel Jais is located in the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, some 25 kilometres from the turn off from the main town.

The site of occasional snow fall in the winter, the mountain is a designated as a tourist destination, with ambitious plans to build a resort on the mountain top (albeit plans that were hatched prior to the Global Financial Crisis).

The first order of business however, has been to build a road up the mountain. Contractors GMC have been at work on the project since 2005, and are nearing completion of the project.

Comprising of 36km of road, rising up to a height of 1700 metres (5577 feet), the massive work site has been a challenging undertaking, and a huge volume of cutting and backfilling has been required.

“This road is one of the special roads in the UAE, because it really mountainous,” says project manager Yaghoub Alipur Vaezi, of General Mechanic Company (GMC), RAK Branch.

The plans on the wall of his office show the twisting route of the road, and shaded areas indicate what has had to be cut away from the mountain to accommodate the roadway.

According to GMC’s website, the Mountain Road to Al – Jais contract was awarded in October 2004, by the Office of His Highness, Sheihk Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, and was then worth AED: 115m ($31.3 million).

Work began in 2005, and is expected to be completed by the end of January. Due to the length of the project, inflation has meant that the initial price would now be much higher, and GMC have managed to renegotiate terms on a number of items in the contract. The total cost of the project is estimated at 300 million dirham, says Vaezi.

While the project duration was initially estimated to be 36 months, once work began it was realised that the amount of material to be cut far exceeded what had initially been estimated by examining aerial photos and maps, says Vaezi.

“The volume of cut, blasting, and taking material for filling or disposal areas, as per our original contract, was 2.5 million cubic metres. But later on, after finalising all drawings, it became 5.2 million m³ - more than double.”

Of that volume, 3.4m m³ of the cut material was used in the road construction, and the remaining 1.8m³ was extra.

This was disposed of in different areas along the roadway, creating areas which in the future can be used for parking or to build on. It was this extra volume of material that delayed the project, says Vaezi.

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