Fujairah, she sure ain’t pretty!

One of the main strips in Fujairah, UAE One of the main strips in Fujairah, UAE

It’s not the prettiest town, you could even say it’s ugly. Me, I say it’s absolutely hideous with barely a redeeming feature about the whole place. People may disagree with me, but I’d be happy to take part in a national televised debate about the pros and cons of Fugairah’s beauty.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Fujairah

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Fujairah

To be fair it does have a spectacular Mosque, the second biggest in the UAE behind the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It is a massive building, and the minarets can be seen from pretty much anywhere within a 5km radius. But I challenge anyone to find another redeeming feature about the city itself. Outside of town there’s apparently a few interesting sites. We heard ok things about Al Bidiyah Mosque, Al-Hayl Castle and Bithnah Fort, but we didn’t go to any of them. They’re at least 15kms out of town and we were more interested in relaxing by the pool at the Hilton (given our travel budget normally we wouldn’t stay at a Hilton, but there was a great deal going so we couldn’t resist).

Some of the landscape on the way back to Abu Dhabi

Some of the landscape on the way back to Abu Dhabi

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, in fact I’d encourage everyone to take a drive from Abu Dhabi or Dubai to the north-east coast. It’s incredibly fascinating countryside, far different to what I was expecting. I thought I’d see nothing but miles and miles of rolling sand dunes, but it was harsher than that with lots of hardcore shrubs that must be able to survive on barely any water dotted all over the landscape.

The towns we passed through looked deserted, although temperatures in the mid-40s probably had something to do with not seeing a single soul walking the streets. We must have passed at least 100 half-finished mansions that looked abandoned. Either the owners were still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis, which we’ve been told the UAE is only just starting to recover from, or work had stopped for the summer. Either way it was an eerie sight like something from a horror movie where the homes are occupied by a murderous inbred family, luring in foreign visitors before slaughtering them in the most sickening manner. Needless to say we didn’t stop to ask a local for directions!

The rocky Hajar Mountains, UAE

The rocky Hajar Mountains, UAE

Just before you get to Fujairah you pass through the Hajar Mountains which was probably the highlight of our trip. Imagine humans decided to build six lane highways on the surface of the moon, through the rockiest mountains imaginable. This is what driving through this range was like. There wasn’t a single skerrick of life bar the bravest shrub clinging onto the hillside for dear life. Just when you thought nothing could possibly want to spend any time in this environment, we drove through a valley and a street lined on one side with carpet shops and the other side fruit and vegetable shops bizarrely appeared out of nowhere. What was even more crazy was there wasn’t just one of these rows of shops, but two about five kilometres apart! I’m not sure how they stay in business, but there were people parked outside the fruit shops buying produce so I guess they go ok.

Fujairah Fort, UAE

Fujairah Fort, UAE

After Jack and I took a drive around town to check out the sites, one thing struck me as simply baffling. Why are there are so many hotels in this place? There’s even an international airport! I just don’t get it, what’s the huge attraction? Am I missing something? It can’t be the fort or museum in town which are two of the most uninviting buildings I’ve ever had the misfortune of setting my eyes upon. Or the public beach which is not much better. Perhaps it’s the bull butting competition held every Friday, where 20 bulls vie the title of the best head butter. Who knows?

By this point you must be wondering why we decided to visit in the first place. Well, we wanted to visit somewhere other than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and we were told that a couple of days here might be worthwhile. To be honest we enjoyed our stay immensely and have no regrets about our decision. The drive from Dubai, and the drive back to Abu Dhabi was eye opening and educational in equal measure. But what Fujairah does really well is resorts, and swimming in the lovely pool or at the private beach was just what we needed given we’ve visited during the middle of the UAE summer. This was what really attracted us to Fujairah and we made the most of our time there. Jack loves swimming so he had lots of fun, especially with other kids from Syria, Sudan, England, Romania and loads of other places, and Sarah got time to finish a university assignment she needed to get done.

An interesting round-about feature, with our hotel in the background

An interesting round-about feature, with our hotel in the background

Fujairah is a good base to do things outside of Fujairah. Apart from the sites already mentioned earlier, a visit to a local wadi can be an interesting adventure. In Arabic, a wadi is a dried riverbed that may flow after a heavy rainfall, or a valley oasis. There’s a few in the area, and you’ll need a 4WD to get to any of them, but it’s the journey rather than the destination that is the best part of the trip. The best in the area are Wadi Siji, Wadi Saham and Wadi Mai, while a little further north is Wadi al-Wuraya where you’ll find waterfalls plummeting down to a pool that is perfect for bathing.

Some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the UAE can be found off the coast of Fujairah, while a trip to the village of Masafi can be fun due to the famous hot springs found there. Another place for hot springs is the Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains. The springs produce sulphuric water that is pumped into two separate pools, one for men and one for women to bathe in.

So, would we go back there again? Not a chance, but it was an interesting drive out into the UAE countryside after spending all of our time so far in the big modern cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But if you’ve got a bit of cash to spend and spare time to drive to the best places (which are all outside Fujairah), then you should lock it into your UAE itinerary. Just make sure you stay in a good resort with a very nice pool!

Click on the photo gallery to check out some images of our stay in Fujairah…

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