East Coast – Fujairah
A trip to the east coast is ideal for those who wish to discover the backside of the country and feel the essence of days gone by. The route will take you across desert landscape and beautiful mountain range and will pass small village towns and local market.
1) Friday Market (Masafi)
A colorful local traditional market selling all sorts of products from rugs, vegetables, fruits, plants, souvenirs and many more, the attractive things about the market is that the produce is usually fresh and locally grown, although, how much of the Friday Market fruit and vegetables comes from nearby is anyone’s guess. It is good to wander into the pottery shops where you can purchase locally made pots, cups and incense burners.
For those who must have the climate-controlled malls, the Friday Market counters with its creative alternative. People can drive alongside the stalls, place their orders and make their purchases all from the comfort of their air-conditioned vehicles. The best shopping experience is when you get out of the car and the Friday Market is ideally situated to provide a timely stopping off point for travelers making the trip to and from Fujairah.
Back in the days where oldest selling principle in the book—‘taste and see’. The vendors, who are mainly from Bangladesh, will sit you down, thump on a melon to test for ripeness and cut a generous slice for you to sample.
Buying carpets and mats at the Friday Market is equally a fascinating business. If you happen to stop in the early afternoon, chances are you’ll see most carpet sellers lying out the front of their shop having a sleep. The shops are open but the workers enjoy the split shift approach to employment. There are no counters dividing shopkeepers from customers and you roam around the large areas poking among the piles of carpet. When a design takes your fancy, if you as much as turn your glance away, the carpet seller from Kabul will pull out a variety of alternatives.
2) Hajar mountain landscape
The road to Fujeirah takes you across this majestic landscape of rugged mountains and Wadis. The distance from Masafi to Dibba is about 35 km and there are many stops on the way where you can gaze at the deep gorges and lush green farms and oasis.
3) Masafi town
Masafi is a village located on the edge of the Hajar Mountains in the United Arab Emirates. It developed along the old unpaved road which ran from Fujairah to Dubai via Sharjah. It was a trading post and refueling stop for 4×4 vehicles and camel trains that plied the route before the modern highways were built in the 1970s. The village is divided into two parts. The larger belongs to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah while the smaller belongs to the emirate of Fujairah. The town is famous for its mineral water factory “Masafi water” which has one of largest distribution network in the entire gulf.
4) Dibba town
This large natural harbor on the east coast of the northern Emirates has been an important site of maritime trade and settlement since the pre-Islamic era. There is some slight evidence, mainly from tombs, of settlement during the later 2nd millennium and the early first millennium BC. Soon after the death of the prophet Muhammad a rebellion broke out at Dibba and a faction rejected Islam. Some sources including say that at least 10,000 rebels were killed in one of the biggest battles of the Ridda wars. The plain behind Dibba still contains a large cemetery which according to local tradition represents the fallen apostates of Dibba.
During the time of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mu’tadid (AD 870–892) a great battle was fought at Dibba during the conquest of Oman by the Abbasid governor of Iraq and Bahrain, Muhammad bin Nur. Thereafter references to Dibba in historical literature are scarce, until we come to the Portuguese who built a fortress there. Dibba (Debe) appears in the list of southeast Arabian place names preserved by the Venetian jeweler Gasparo Balbi in AD 1580 and depictions of its Portuguese fort can be found in several sources, such as Cortesao’s Portugalliae monumenta cartographica.
Around 1620–1621 the Italian traveler Pietro Della Valle, while staying with the Sultan of Bandar Abbas, met the son of the ruler of Dibba. From this he learned that Dibba had formerly been subject to the kingdom of Hormuz, but was at that time loyal to the Safavids. In 1623 Safavids sent troops to Dibba, Khor Fakkan and other ports on the southeast coast of Arabia in order to prepare for a Portuguese counter-attack, following their expulsion from Hormuz. The Portuguese, under Rui Freire, were so successful that the people of Dibba turned on their Safavid overlords putting them all to death, whereupon a Portuguese garrison of 50 men was installed at Dibba. More Portuguese forces had to be sent to Dibba in 1627 as a result of an Arab revolt.
In 1645 the Portuguese still held Dibba but the Dutch, searching for potential sites for new commercial activities, sent the warship Zeemeeuw (‘Seagull’) to explore the Musandam peninsula between Khasab, on the Persian Gulf side, and Dibba on the east coast. Claes Speelman, the captain of the Zeemeeuw, made drawings in his logbook, including what is certainly the earliest depiction of Dibba in a European source. Within a year or two the Portuguese were forced out of Dibba and held only Khasab and Muscat, which they finally lost in 1650.
Today Dibba is divided into 3 parts, Dibba Al Fujairah, Dibba AL Hisn (Sharjah) and Dibba Al Baya (Oman)
5) Bidiyah Mosque (oldest mosque in the UAE)
Located half way between Dibba and Khorfakkan, It is estimated to date to the 15th century, however some estimates place the building’s age a thousand years before the arrival of Islam in UAE. The site was investigated by the archaeological center of Fujairah in co-operation with the Australian, University of Sydney from 1997-98 and Fujairah Archaeology and Heritage Department came up with the conclusion that the mosque was believed to be built in 1446 AD, along with the two watch towers overlooking the mosque and the village.
The small, square structure has an area of 53 square metres and was built from materials available in the area, primarily stones of various sizes and mud bricks coated in many layers of whitewashed plaster. The roof has four squat, helical domes that are supported by only one centrally placed pillar that also forms the ceiling. Entrance to the mosque is through double-winged wooden doors. The prayer hall has a small mihrab (the niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca), a simple pulpit, arches and openings. A central pillar divides the internal space into four squares of similar dimensions. The pillar supports all four domes that can be seen from the exterior.
Inside the prayer hall, a number of small decorative windows allow light and air to stream into the mosque. There are also cube-shaped spaces carved into the thick walls where copies of the Quran and other books are to be stored. The mosque is still in operation, and continues to host daily prayers. In addition, it is a tourist attraction in Fujairah.
6) Fujairah city
Fujairah is the 5th largest emirate and situated on the east coast, overlooking the Gulf of Oman (Indian Ocean).
In 1902, Fujairah entered into treaty relations with Britain, becoming the last of the emirates to join the Trucial States. On 2 December 1971, Fujairah joined the United Arab Emirates.
Fujairah’s economy is based on subsidies and federal government grants distributed by the government of Abu Dhabi (the seat of power in the UAE). Local industry consists of cement, stone crushing and mining. Resurgence in the construction activity helped the local industry. There is a flourishing free trade zone, mimicking the success of the Dubai Free Zone Authority which was established around Jebel Ali Port. Building construction is a common sight in the Emirate of Fujairah. The federal government employs the majority of the native, local workforce, with few opening businesses of their own. Many of the locals work in the service sector. The Fujairah government prohibits foreigners from owning more than 49% of any business. The free zones have flourished, partly due to the relaxation of such prohibition within the zones, as full foreign ownership is allowed there. Sheikh Saleh Al Sharqi, younger brother to the ruler, is widely recognized as the driving force behind the commercialization of the economy. Fujairah is a major bunkering port with large scale shipping operations taking place every day. Shipping & ship related services are thriving businesses of the city. Due to the business friendly environment and ease of logistic support, ships trading from the Persian Gulf anchor here for provisions, bunkers, repair & technical support, spares & stores before proceeding on long voyages. The city is also geographically well suited for such ship service related activities.
The ruler is planning to make changes that will affect Fujairah. Among tourism projects in the pipeline is an $817m resort, Al Fujairah Paradise, near Dibba Al-Fujairah, on the northern Omani border, next to Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. There will be around 1,000 five-star villas as well as hotels, and it is expected that all the construction work will be finished within two years.
The Sheikh is trying to improve opportunities for the local workforce, by trying to entice businesses to locate in Fujairah and diverting Federal funds to local companies in the form of development projects.
The Habshan–Fujairah oil pipeline has been announced which will create an oil export terminal in the Emirate.[
The emirate has gained lots of attention and support in the last decade after the decision of the federal government to connect the oil pipe line from Abu Dhabi to the port terminals in Fujeirah; this gave the emirate a vital strategic importance and helped it develop its infrastructure on par with the other larger emirates.
7) Kalba and Khor Kalba
Kalba is a city and an exclave of the emirate of Sharjah lying on the Gulf of Oman coast north of Oman and south of the emirate of Fujairah. Khor Kalba (Kalba Creek), a mangrove swamp, is located further south of the town. The town was captured by the Portuguese Empire in the 16th century and was referred to as Chalba. It was an independent member of the Trucial States of the Coast of Oman from 1903 to 1952.
Khor Kalba is one of the oldest mangrove forests in Arabia and home to a variety of plant, marine and bird life not found anywhere else in the UAE. Here you will see the rare white collared kingfisher and some of the region’s endangered turtles.
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