Discovering the Emirates: Things to do in Fujairah
Located on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates, Fujairah sets itself apart. This picturesque region of rugged mountains and unspoiled beaches is the youngest of seven sibling emirates, and has all the opportunity for prosperity and growth, with none of the over development. Take a look at our guide to the best things to do in Fujairah for some holiday inspiration beyond the bounds of Dubai.
The capital city of Fujairah is something of an uninspired economic and business mainstay, where the anti-pedestrian infrastructure makes it impossible to get around on foot. Yet what the city lacks in imagination and touristic venture, it makes up for with an authentic insight into local life. Taxis are in abundance here, and one will pick you up from the side of the road if you attempt to walk; jump in and head straight for the Central Souq where a traditional, no nonsense bartering of meat, fish, vegetables, and spices will ensue.
Following this hectic cultural immersion, get swept along with the crowds to an unassuming dirt arena on the outskirts of town for the popular event of bull butting. Introduced to the emirates by Portuguese colonisers, Fujairah has claimed this sport as its own, and bulls are brought from across the UAE to lock horns for the notorious championship title. Each day begins with 20 bulls that are put through a series of rounds, while families watch in excited anticipation from their cars; occasionally a rogue bull breaks free and charges a spectator – but that’s all part of the fun.
A rather more placid experience of local culture can be obtained at the Fujairah Museum, where items found during excavation at nearby Bithnah, Bidya, and Qidfa demonstrate that the area has been inhabited for more than 3,500 years. The comprehensive collection includes antique treasures of carnelian beads and Bedouin jewellery, as well as items of Bronze and Iron Age weaponry, vessels, and arrowheads.
Yet the real jewel in the crown of Fujairah city is located on the dusty outskirts, where a momentous fortification rises like a phoenix from the ashes of the old town. Originally constructed during the 16th century, Fujairah Fort is built from wood, gravel, mud and gypsum, while the design includes a combination of circular and square towers that aided its defence. Following years of abandon, this majestic fort has been expertly restored and the heavy wooden doors reopened to the public following a resurgent interest into its historical importance. The historic village below the fort is still in the process of reconstruction, although several parts have been successfully completed and visitors are free to roam at their leisure.
Beyond the city limits, Fujairah is scattered with a great number of historical landmarks, including the archaic mosque at Al Badiyah, which dates back to the 15th century and is the oldest in the entire UAE. Venture deep into the foothills of the rugged Hajar Mountains and you’ll find Al Hayl Castle, a historic defence that was once home to the ruling family of Fujairah but has long since been abandoned. Another historic defence for visitors to explore is Al Bithnah Fort, which traditionally guarded the route into Fujairah with spectacular views over cross-country thoroughfares. The terrain is rough here and you’ll need a four-wheel drive to access, but you might be lucky enough to spot a caretaker who can show you around.
Historical fortifications and local culture aside, Fujairah is blessed with a landscape of such dramatic and diverse beauty that it puts the other emirates to shame. Silhouetted against the rugged backbone of the Hajar Mountains, the topography of the region is characterised by great valleys of dry riverbeds, otherwise known as wadis. Among the most famous in the area are Wadi Ham, which can be viewed from Al Bithnah Fort, and Wadi Wurayah, where an oasis of water has created a plunge pool that’s ideal for restorative bathing.
Another distinctive feature of Fujairah is its exclusive coastline on the Gulf of Oman, which offers more unspoiled beaches and diverse sea life than any emirate bordering the Persian Gulf. Travel north to make the most of this beautiful setting at Dadna Harbour, or simply check into five-star luxury at the nearby Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. From here, you can enjoy the benefits of a professional dive centre, and witness the exceptional beauty of Fujairah’s coral reefs as you tour the depths of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, take advantage of the beautiful sandy beaches and water sports available further north at Dibba Al Fujairah, where the city meets the ocean beside the northern Omani exclave. There are several dhow cruises available from here as a result of the local fishing trade, which provides a relaxing cultural wind-down to your adventures out at sea.
Written by Elizabeth Gourd