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Things to see and do in Fujairah

An exotic Arabian jewel with celestial mosques and ancient forts, idyllic beaches and glistening waters, Fujairah has preserved its fascinating heritage while embracing modern development. The emirate offers a quieter alternative to the hustle and bustle of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but there is still plenty to see and do for the active traveller from safaris and watersports to sightseeing and souks.

The landscape ranges from golden beaches backed by a clutch of holiday resorts to the dramatic peaks of the Hajar Mountains and hidden desert ravines ripe for exploration. For travellers who want to explore by car, Fujairah has cheap fuel and an excellent road network plus it offers the chance for off-road adventures through rugged mountain valleys.

Local culture and heritage

To browse traditional Arabian souks and explore historic sites, travellers can take a tour of Fujairah City and see a clutch of places in one day. The city has several markets including a fish and gold souk where you can shop for goods and get a snapshot of day-to-day life. The tourist night souk, set along the seafront corniche, is not-to-be-missed, featuring stalls selling crafts and food as well as live entertainment. During Ramadan and Eid, the souk is a hive of activity open into the small hours and featuring fireworks.

On the outskirts of the city, you can find the impressive Fujairah Fort, which dates back to 1670 and is one of the oldest stone castles in Arabia. It was once the home of the ruling family and its cavernous halls and towers have been fully restored. Around the fortress is Fujairah Heritage Village, which showcases emirati traditions with restored buildings and items from local life. The city also has a fascinating museum housed in a Moorish-style mansion that charts the region's history and customs with ancient exhibits including archaeological finds from the Bronze, Iron and Pre-Islamic Ages.

As keystones of Islamic architecture as well as religious centres, Fujairah's mosques are well worth seeing, especially as the emirate boasts not only the second largest mosque in the UAE but also the oldest. The enormous dazzling white proportions of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque with no less than six minarets is a sight to behold in Fujairah City, while to the north the much more humble Al-Bidyah mosque, moulded from mud, exudes charm and history. Tiered domes and a heavily flanked entrance give it a very distinctive appearance and it was once part of a town by the same name. Archaeological digs show the site has been in use for thousands of years, with an Iron Age tomb located to the north and artefacts uncovered such as pottery and arrow heads dating to 1,000BC.

Similar archaeological finds from Bithnah, located beyond Fujairah City, are exhibited in Fujairah Museum and show that the area where Bithnah Fort now stands has been occupied for millennia. The fortress itself was built in 1735 in a rustic shape that resembles a giant sand castle. It overlooks Wadi Ham, which is Fujairah's longest valley. Fans of castles might also like to visit Al-Hayl fort, the former headquarters of the ruling family with a history dating back 250 years.

In the shadow of the Hajar mountains, the town of Masafi is known for its natural springs but it is also a particularly good spot to shop for Arabian goods. There's a great local market selling traditional arts and crafts, vases and urns, handmade rugs and oodles of exotic fruits and dates. The town also has an interesting history as a former stop on the old trade route through the mountains before roads were built to traverse the emirates.

Desert discovery

The rugged and steep terrain of Fujairah's interior has given rise to a whole host of deep ravines, boulder-strewn dry river beds and oases known as wadis. These scenic grooves in the landscape can snake for up to 30km, with surprises such as springs, wildlife, strange rock formations or green orchards waiting around every corner. Exploring these areas in four-wheel drive vehicles or hiking on foot has become so popular that the activity has even earned its own name - wadi-bashing. As the longest ravine, Wadi Ham is ideal for hiking, while Wadi Mai and Wadi Saham are among the most scenic.

You can take a 4x4 wadi safari or hire your own off-road vehicle to see the wadis, and some are reached via magnificent drives through the Hajar mountains, in particular the route to Wadi Al Tawain. The most novel and well-known of the valleys, Wadi Wurayah is part of a national park and home to a rushing waterfall, natural pools and a stream that's ideal to cool off in the desert heat. It's also a popular area for hiking, where you can glimpse rare local animals such as the Arabian leopard and see bright dragonflies hovering by the pools.

World-class watersports

There are ample opportunities for aquatic adventures along Fujairah's coastline. Its warm, clear waters full of marine life, make it well suited for snorkelling and scuba diving, and watersports facilities and equipment is fairly readily available. Travellers staying at the resorts along Al Aqah beach need only don a mask and snorkel to enjoy a virtual aquarium in the waters surrounding Snoopy island, just offshore. Divers Down UAE dive centre next to the Miramar hotel at Al Aqah beach arranges trips to the dive sites along the Gulf of Oman coast, said to be the best spots in the country. The hotel is a great all-round base if you want to try a range of water-based activities at the Adventure Sports facility that offer everything from doughnut and banana boat rides, parasailing and water-skiing to snorkelling cruises and fishing trips.

One of the most pleasant ways to enjoy Fujairah's stunning scenery is to take a cruise along the coast. Cruise beyond Fujairah's borders to the north and the high cliffs and opalescent waters of the Musandam peninsula offer even more spectacular views and deserted beaches. Travellers can book tours aboard traditional dhow boats with the chance to spot dolphins and visit sea turtle nesting beaches.

Rest and relaxation

Fujairah's sun-kissed golden beaches facing onto the Gulf of Oman are some of the best in the UAE. The coastline is known for its pale fine sand, clear waters and scenic mountain backdrop, ideal for long days spent dozing in the sun and cooling off in the shallows. Most beaches, such as those at Dibba and Al Aqah, have sunloungers for hire and places nearby to grab a bite to eat. Surrounded by Fujairah but actually part of Sharjah, the region's most picturesque bay of Khor Fakkan is well worth visiting on a day trip.

Many of Fujairah's high-end hotels have spas that specialize in inducing a state of total relaxation with a range of holistic and wellness treatments. But the emirate also boasts a number of natural springs where you can experience the healing power of nature. Fed by hot springs, Madhab Park at the edge of the Hajar Mountains has two pools and sulphuric springs where visitors can soak in the waters and benefit from health-enhancing properties. Said to ease aches and pains, the spring is the perfect stop after a half-day hike in the picturesque surrounds.

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