It’s Friday and today is the fourth day of our road trip. And we were in Fujairah.
Fujairah is the only Emirate of the UAE that is almost totally mountainous and the only one on the Gulf of Oman in the country’s east instead of Persian Gulf (the other six emirates). A busy trading center, with its Fujairah Port and free zone, Fujairah’s economy is based on subsidies and federal government grants distributed by the government of Abu Dhabi. Local industry consists of cement, stone crushing and mining. Its strategic location, which provides easy access to international shipping routes, has played a key role in its development as one of the world’s top oil-bunkering ports. The main business area is along Hamad bin Abdullah Rd, between the Fujairah Trade Centre and the coast. While Fujairah has an airport, it is closed to passenger aviation at the present time.
The city is growing in stature as a business destination, particularly where oil is concerned, but tourism remains somehow significantly behind. Nevertheless, Fujairah is a great spot for fishing, diving and watersport. Fujairah is also a base to explore countryside and discovers wadi, waterfalls and even natural hot spring. (References: Wikipedia, Wikitravel)
There isn’t so much to see and do in Fujairah (city) and therefore we decided to take a trip out of Fujairah in the morning with the plan to return in the late afternoon for Fujairah museum and fort.
First stop is Al Hayl Palace.
Al Hayl Palace coordinate: 25 05’04.93″N 56 13’36.40″E
The historical site of Al Hayl is nestled in the hills behind modern day Fujairah. The site itself is huge and within it the intrepid wanderer can stumble across many different signs of human occupation, such as hilltop forts, ancient and fairly recent villages, Palaces of Arab royalty, and modern date-palm cultivation. There are even beautiful examples of rock art (“petroglyphs”) to be found there as well. The date of the construction may be as early as 1830 AD.
To go to Al Hayl Palace we needed to take Road E89 to Masafi and turn left at about 1.4 km after (long rectangle) roundabout near airport. Then drive straight following a dual carriageway road for 4km and another 6.4 km on smaller tarmac road. You will come across wadi dam and broken road (impacted by flood) along the way.
There is a site keeper/watchman who can offer you a short guided tour.
From Al Hayl Palace, I decided to bring the other 2 Jakcom families (Did I mention this earlier? Jakcom stands for Jakarta Community) to Hatta owing to Friday (all tourist attraction must have been closed for Friday prayer and lunch break).
From Al Hayl Palace, we tracked back the road from Fujairah but then turned right after 6.4km to take a road leading to Sharjah – Kalba road (E102) and eventually to Road E44. The drive was wonderful, with excellent road network and all in good condition. We travelled through wadis, mountains (that gave us a wonderful driving experience, ascending/descending , and winding through the rocky mountains), man-made tunnel (Wadi Al Helo Tunnel), and small villages. I can see how considerable efforts have been put by the UAE government for their public benefit. We managed to have a photostop at tunnel exit.
Wadi Al Helo Tunnel entrance (from Kalba side) coordinate: 24 58’57.64″N 56 15’03.11″E
Hatta is a town in the Hatta Mountain and is a part of Dubai Municipality. Hatta is about 115 km southeast of Dubai City or 62km from Fujairah. Because of its altitude, Hatta has a milder climate than the city of Dubai, making Hatta a popular vacation place.
The most recognizable landmark of the town is Hatta Fort that stands majestic ally at the center of a roundabout on Road E44. Nearby is a 4-star Hatta Fort Hotel.
Hatta Fort coordinate: 24 49’04.37″N 56 08’00.10″E
It’s Friday afternoon and our search for lunch break results nothing. Hatta Cooperative building at the Hatta Fort roundabout corner is nothing than a supermarket. We were told that that is a new building and more shops will be coming.
We then visited Hill Park, a rocky outcrop turned into a town park. At the hill top there is a watchtower where visitor should take hundreds of steps to reach it, but the view worth the climb. Several shelters – good for barbecuing during winter – are provided along the steps. At the foothills are – some being constructed – sports facilities like swimming pool, tennis court, jogging track, and playground. Entrance is free.
Hatta Hill Park coordinate: 24 48’05.24″N 56 07’45.19″E
Back to Fujairah, we took a different route by detouring to Kalba and Khor Kalba, a small town less than 10km south of Fujairah.
Kalba is part of the emirate of Sharjah and renowned for its mangrove forest and golden beaches. There is also a fishing village that maintains much of its historical charm.
South of Kalba, Khor Kalba (Khor is the Arabic word for “creek”) is situated in a picturesque tidal estuary. This is believed to be the most northerly mangrove in the world and the oldest in Arabia. The mangrove is home to a range of marine and birdlife.
We arrived in Fujairah late afternoon and rushed into Fujairah Fort and Museum.
Fujairah Fort is situated on the coastal plain between the date palm gardens and the modern city of Fujairah, surrounded by the remains of the old town houses.. It is positioned on a natural rocky outcrop overlooking the old village, the coastal strip, and the entrance of Wadi Ham. The fort is constructed with rocks and a lime based plaster. It has undergone several building phases throughout its history. Now it has been restored to its former glory. The construction of this fort occurred between 1500-1550.
Fujairah Fort Entrance coordinate (see below picture): 25 08’07.90″N 56 20’18.61″E
Fujairah Fort coordinate: 25 08’19.47″”N 56 20’13.40″E
Fujairah Heritage Village
Near Fujairah Fort, this heritage village has a good selection of traditional houses (‘arish) and fishing boats (shasha) made from palm fronds, providing an interesting backdrop to its living reconstruction of traditional life on the East Coast.
Fujairah Museum Entrance: 25 08’06.64″N 56 20’19.70″E
Situated just south of the fort and opposite the Ruler’s Palace, Fujairah Museum is a small modern building where many of the artifacts found in archaeological digs at Qidfa, Bithnah and other places are on display. Entrance fee is minimal (3-5 Dhs per person).
That’s was it for the day. We had a luninner (lunch and dinner) at Fujairah Tower (where the first 2 floors are a small shopping mall with only a handful of shops). No other mall in Fujairah; Safeer Mall is being constructed on the northside of Fujairah City.
We ended the day by swimming, and relaxing at Hilton private beach and recreational facilities.
Other important historic buildings in Fujairah
The following are other important historic buildings in Fujairah – which unfortunately not visited during our trip.
Awhala Fort coordinate: 24 54’29.45″N 56 18’12.39″E
South of Kalba, very close to the border with Oman, lies the village of Awhala. Awhala is the home of another historical fort. The fort lies right on the edge of the Wadi Hulu. This fort was recently investigated by archaelogist and was discovered to be built on the top of an Iron Age defensive structure. There are remains of an associated village on the west side of the fort and the area also hosts several petroglyphs.
Al Bidiya Mosque
Al Bidiya Mosque coordinate: 25 26’20.02″N 56 21’13.88″E
Just north of Fujairah along the coast lies the coast lies the town of Bidiya, the home of the UAE’s oldest still functioning place of worship. This building is unique in its design with four small domnes help up by a massive central column. The mosque is flanked by four watch towers situated at the top of the mountains to the west. The construction of this mosque may be as early as 1446 AD.
Bithna Fort coordinate: 25 11’25.01″N 56 14’03.99″E
Situated in Wadi Ham, which runs through the Hajar Mountains from Fujairah to Siji, lies the modern village of Bithna. Just near the village, protruding out the top of date palms as areminder of times gone by, is Bithna Fort. The building is quadrangular with two towers, one at each corner of its western face. It has been well constructed using stones bound with mortar and coated with plaster. The south west tower colapsed at one stage and was rebuilt using modern materials. There are also remains of dwellings associated with the fort and archaelogist uncovered several ancient burial chambers and settlements.
- Weekend Breaks, UAE & Oman, a book by Explorer Publishing
- Important Historic Building in Fujairah , a booklet available in Fujairah Museum, Department Heritage and Archaelogy, Government of Fujairah