Fossil Rock and Wadi Shawka | UAE Road Trip

by Vanessa Wanders Miles
Sunrise at Fossil Rock in Sharjah on our UAE road trip

Sunrise at Fossil Rock

With the weather starting to cool down in the UAE and the chance of seeing the shooting star from the Orionid meteor shower, camping in the desert was the only way to spend the weekend. We took a girl’s road trip from Dubai to camp by Fossil Rock in Sharjah then head to Wadi Shawka the following day.

What is Fossil Rock?

We were 3 ladies and a wolf-dog on this trip and our chosen spot was by Fossil Rock in Sharjah, officially called Jebel Maleihah, around one hour drive from Dubai. Fossil Rock is so-called due to the abundance of marine fossils that can be found on its slopes. This area is rich with the fossils of shells and small sea creatures that were on the ocean floor millions of years ago when water covered much of Arabia. These were created when limestone formed around their shells to make a mould, which then solidified to leave a perfect imprint.

Camping at Fossil Rock

It seems Fossil Rock is a favourite spot for the local dune buggy and 4×4 drivers so you can expect the constant revving of engines to be heard in the distance, probably not the best camping location if you’re seeking a noise-free getaway from the city of Dubai.

Making campfire by Fossil Rock in Sharjah on a UAE road trip

It was nearly sunset so it we had to quickly unpack the car to get the tents up. Thanks heavens for the easy to pitch tents that take less than two minutes to pop up and put the sand pegs in, happy days! This still gave us time to practice our archery skills with the bow and arrow before it went dark.

We built the fire to cook our mushrooms and Arabic pitta bread, simple but tasty. We laid back to patiently wait for the Orionid meteor shower. Unfortunately the peak was the following night but we were lucky to see some flashes which are the rocky debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. The sky is always clearer in the desert away from the city, it is so calming to get lost in gazing at the various constellations.

Sunrise at Fossil Rock

We woke up at the crack of dawn, there is something very magical about seeing the desert at sunrise. One piece of advice I have for you if you ever go camping with a wolf-dog I recommend you take your shoes inside the tent as I guarantee they won’t be fit to wear again! The tent came down as quickly as it went up which made packing up super easy.

Camping with a wolf dog by Fossil Rock in Sharjah, United Arab EmiratesDriving through the desert to the main road, a large group of camels trotted towards us. The wolf dog had refused to get in the car and was running alongside the car, there was a nervous moment as they checked each other out. Bang, they got on like a house on fire! Glad he’d jumped in the car when we drove past the feral desert donkeys though!

Camels by Fossil Rock in Sharjah making friends with our wolfdog

Exploring Wadi Shawka

Thought an early morning hike would be just the ticket so went to explore Wadi Shawka on the eastern exteriors of Ras Al Khaimah bordering Sharjah. Unfortunately, there was a lack of water due to an extremely long and hot Summer. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can walk the 10km around Shawka Dam. We had to get back to Dubai but we were happy to have a little scramble up the wadi and a gentle stroll in the beautiful outdoors. Much more of this to come in the UAE now Winter is here…

Pools at Wadi Shawka in the United Arab EmiratesExploring Wadi Shawka in Ras al Khaimah

Wadi Shawka pools on a UAE road trip


How to get there

DUBAI TO FOSSIL ROCK: The journey takes around 1 hour depending on your starting point in Dubai. Take the Sharjah-Kalba Rd/E102/S116

FOSSIL ROACK TO WADI SHAWKA: Takes around 30 minutes on Sharjah-Kalba Rd/E102. 

Road trip checklist

CAMPING GEAR: Easy pop-up tent, sleeping bag or sheet depending on time of year, pillow or blow up mattress for comfort, and foldable camping chairs. If your car can’t get too near your camping spot, a beach wagon is a fabulous idea to easily shift your stuff!

COOKING EQUIPMENT: Campfire grill grate, kindle (not often much around in the desert), lighter (for an easy life), and lots of delicious food to pop on the grate!

ESSENTIALS: In case of emergencies, take extra water and a power bank to charge up your phone if you need to call for assistance.


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Sanity 21st November 2017 - 9:13 pm

Sounds like I need to visit UAE again pretty soon and for longer than a layover for a change!

Vanessa 22nd November 2017 - 7:28 am

You’re always welcome, so many adventures to be had in the desert!

Sanity 22nd November 2017 - 7:33 am

Had a few many a while ago, would be good to have more with a wiser mind…

Marcella & Tim 23rd November 2017 - 6:32 am

Sounds like a pretty great alternative to your derailed plans! We’d love to camp in the desert 🙂

Vanessa 24th November 2017 - 9:45 am

Yeah I agree and India isn’t going anywhere. Camping in the desert is so much fun, very different to camping in the UK where I’m from, you’re never sure if the heavens will open or not!

Maria 25th November 2018 - 10:22 am

Hi Vanessa, I want to ask how far the fossil rock to wadi shawka?

Vanessa 25th November 2018 - 4:44 pm

Hi there, it is around 30-40 minutes drive. Will you be camping?

Alison 14th October 2020 - 2:32 pm

Hi Vanessa, do you need a 4×4 to get to these locations?

Vanessa 14th October 2020 - 10:57 pm

Hey Alison, You would need a 4×4 to get to Fossil Rock but you can reach the Wadi Shawka with a normal car and then starting hiking. Let me know if you need any more help, otherwise, enjoy your adventure!

Santosh 19th November 2020 - 10:34 pm

Is there any public transportation to get to Wadi shawka ?

Vanessa 25th November 2020 - 11:18 am

I’ve not travelled on public transport out of Dubai but I believe you can get a bus from Dubai Itilhad to Al Dhaid then it would be a taxi from there. I would certainly check online before travelling. Good luck!

Dan 4th September 2022 - 11:47 pm

Hi Vanessa, great article, I’m soon to move to the UAE from the UK and looking for camping options when we arrive. Could you recommend some accessible spots that can be reached without a 4×4? Happy to hike a reasonable distance. Thanks!

Vanessa Wanders Miles 5th September 2022 - 1:59 am

Hi Dan, Good luck with the impending move. You can camp at Wadi Shawka and Snoppy Island (Fujairah) which would be accessible without a 4×4. I also went camping on the shores of Dalma Island, ferry from Abu Dhabi, it’s quite a long drive. Or Khasab in Oman. Both Dalma Island & Khasab, you didn’t need 4×4 but I did them carpooling with groups on – a great way to meet new folk too. If you like hiking you could try the Hidden Oasis in RAK. If you want to explore further afield, sign up with Trekkup – amazing trips! Any more questions, give me a shout 🙂


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