What shall we do on our day in Fujairah?
We had a day in Fujairah and decided that the best way to see the main attractions was to do a tour. There were other activities on offer through the ship such as Wadi bashing (basically driving in a 4x4 up a wadi or dry river bed) or snorkeling but we were not convinced that there was lot to se so we opted for the cultural alternative looking at the main sights that Fujairah offered.
A mud Fort you can’t go in:
We left from the port at 10am on a coach and made our way to the first stop which was Fujairah Fort. This mud brick fort was constructed originally in the late 1600s and is said to be the UAE’s oldest fort. It has been recently renovated and there is still a lot of excavation taking place beside the fort which will become part of a heritage museum according to our guide. At present you cannot enter the fort but can only take photos from outside.
View this one from above
The next stop on our circular tour was to view the Bitnah fort and oasis. Once a again we were only able to photograph this fort but this time we could only do it from above the oasis looking down from the road into the town of Bitnah and its green oasis as well as the fort. This fort was a later fort built to protect the strategic mountain pass in the 1700s and it stands well above the water course of the wadi Ham. It did look quite idyllic don there with all the date palm trees and the fort standing proudly above all the green in the valley while all around was dry rock and sand.
Two toilets for 150 people:
We then drove on to a local town market known as ‘The Friday Market’. The name came from the fact that it began on Fridays but is now open every day. This market is on the road to Sharjah just a few km from the Masafi roundabout .It appears that the petrol station next to this market had a toilet that the coaches used but there was only ONE female and one male toilet for the entire coach group. Luckily our bus was the first of four but even then some people were in the queue for 20 minutes and longer. We tried to be as quick as we could but as there was no light in the toilet you had to leave the toilet door open so one person could not even be washing their hands while the other used the toilet! After achieving the toilet break we wandered up and down the market but really there was nothing of interest. All the goods came from other countries, carpets from Pakistan or Iran, plastic toys from who knows where, textiles and embroidery from India and Pakistan, fruit and vegetables that were beautifully presented but we had no need to buy as we had so much food on the ship. Once we had all managed to use the toilet facility the coach turned around and headed back towards the roundabout in Masafi roundabout to head back towards Fujairah city.
Into the mountains of Hajjar:
The Arabic Hajjar mountains translate to be ‘Mountains of Stone’ and they are the highest point in all of the UAE. The mountains begin in Oman and continue south close to the coast of the Gulf of Oman. They are desert mountains, stark, rugged with deep wadis and gorges. They look quite treacherous and not welcoming at all. Fossil evidence shows that around 150 million years ago these mountains were under the sea.
Big houses and interesting roundabouts
Passing through Dibba which is a town where Sharjah, Fujairah and Oman all have territory we were very taken with the roundabouts which had huge decorative sculptures on the centre and were beautifully maintained. One had a lamps, another a fountain with dolphins while another had seven large urns, one for each emirate. When passing through the Sharjah area there were the most enormous houses owned by the local Arab people. They were ornate and the size of about four of our houses at least with high walls surrounding them and high decorative gates, they were a sight to see. The houses were large enough to house their family which may be more than two generations plus all their working staff and their families. Some of these families had cooks, cleaners, chauffeurs, gardeners and others so you can imagine how big they were.
A tiny mud mosque
Our final stop was a small mud brick mosque in the Sharjah area of Khor Fakkan believed to be one of the oldest mosques in the UAE. This mosque is thought to date back to the mid 1400s. It was carefully restored in the late 1900s by UAE’s Heritage and Antiquities Ministry with the help of the University of Sydney. As it is constructed of mud brick I assume the restoration of both this and the fort virtually means rebuilding but I am not sure. However once again we were not allowed in. Entering mosques in the UAE is not permitted for non Muslims except for one in Abu Dhabi and I believe one other. We were able to walk around and it was very different from other mosques as there was no obvious minaret and it was tiny with no windows apart from those with carved mud brick decorations so it must have been quite dark inside.
There was another single toilet for each sex here buy as we arrived the queue was already huge so I decided I could wait!
Back to the port:
As we drove back to the port we passed the huge oil container storage area which is the second biggest in the world after Singapore. This was not exactly a scenic sight but interesting that Fujairah with no oil reserves had the second biggest oil depot and container port. This was their contribution to the UAE oil industry as they provided access to the Gulf of Oman and Fujairah is the only emirate to have access to this body of water.
What did I think of Fujairah?
Fujairah is obviously one of the poorer emirate states and building has not taken off as it has in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are hotels along the coast but realistically tourism is not nearly as big a deal here as in other UAE states.
I found the tour interesting and it gave us a good look at this emirate but really there is little here to call me back. We saw the main highlights and although quite interesting they really were not that thrilling.
The population of Fujairah is small and this emirate is one where there are more locals than expat residents. We saw very few people on the streets or around the mountain villages. There were people in the town where we stopped for the market but it was far from crowded. Our four coaches doubled the number of people in the town on the streets.
I’m not sure I would put Fujairah down as one of my ‘must see; places but it was interesting to visit and I did enjoy our day there exploring this very quite emirate and it was certainly a contrast to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.