After an hour-long ride along Ras al Khaimah’s jagged Hajar Mountains, the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian peninsula, we had arrived at our destination atop Jebel Jais. The lot of us were strangers, stemming from four different countries across three continents but had confessed our fears of today’s adventure as if we were long-time friends. Stepping off the 12-seater van, I could hear the crunch of the pebbles underneath my trainers and I wondered how old they were while silently questioning whether or not this would be my last day alive. This fear, of course, was almost entirely unwarranted, but being one who until age twenty could only conquer the most child-friendly roller coasters, my stomach had been doing cartwheels since I had woken up that morning.
“You have to sign both the front and back”. We now sat inside the Jebel Jais flight center signing waivers that waived the company to any liabilities should we happen to accrue any bodily harm or worse. My being in Ras al Khaimah was entirely unplanned. In fact, I had only learned I’d be traveling approximately three weeks prior and so, despite my insecurities, I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime feat that had to be conquered. It seemed as though the universe was playing a hand in my ending up at that exact place at that exact point in time and I knew backing out would not only be cowardly but a slap in the face of destiny.
A second van took us to the launch pad and we arrived just as someone was being pushed off on their flight. The Jebel Jais Flight, which has broken records as the world’s longest zip line, is approximately 1.7 kilometers long and takes passengers almost an entire two minutes to cross from one end to the other.
“So,” began a man whose accent I immediately recognized as Spanish, “who’s first?” For the last hour, my mind had anxiously begun forming ideas of all the ways that this could go completely awry, however, I had also spent the last hour putting on a facade that screamed “cool, calm, and collected” urging each person in my party to make the jump as opposed to backing out . And so, to keep up with my outward stature, I found my hand shooting up into the air instantly. I could hear the sighs of relief echo around me and before I knew it I heard that same familiar crunch of rocks under my shoes as I made my way to the start line.
Unlike other zip lines, the Jebel Jais flight requires passengers to lay on their stomach, arms reaching behind their backs and holding onto part of the ropes that kept you in place during the ride, an awkward and uncomfortable position at first. “Are you ready?” My eyes shut tightly, “Yep, let’s do it”. A loud whirring of the zip line and a sharp gush of wind blowing past my face, and just like that any fears I may have had retreated as I flew over a beautiful abyss of layered limestone and ophiolite. With two full minutes to cross, I had found myself relaxing, looking from side-to-side, and taking in my surroundings with pride, knowing that only those willing to make the jump would experience this area from this perspective.
All too soon, the brake cable kicked in as I pulled into the disembarking base, already longing for the adrenaline that I had just felt. As I was unhooked and disconnected from my zip line, I gazed out along the mountainous landscape, which was now aglow with beginning stages of a sunset. The view from the departure point was remarkable but nothing could compare to this view. The sky began to tint with light pinks and oranges and I couldn’t help but think that no matter how great life may be, sometimes something even better lies just one courageous leap away.
Check out the full ride below: