Fujairah is a modern, industrious city that is the main settlement of the east coast. The emirate is separated from the rest of the United Arab Emirates by the jagged line of the Hajar Mountains. Although the city itself is a grid pattern of high-rise office blocks, much pride and fine restoration work has been put into the few historic attractions – the Al-Bidyah Mosque and Fujairah Fort being two excellent sightseeing highlights of a visit here.
For many tourists and visitors, Fujairah is a laid-back relief after the bustle of Dubai. For Emirati locals, it’s a favorite weekend escape, with its beaches taking center stage on the things to do list. The beautiful coastline is ideal for scuba diving and sunbathing, while the city is a great base for explorations into the Hajar Mountains
North of Fujairah city, the mud-brick Al-Bidyah Mosque is the oldest in the United Arab Emirates and was named after the town that once surrounded it. The engineering features are a major accomplishment for the period of construction. The mosque consists of a prayer hall decorated with arches and featuring ventilation openings and a mihrab (prayer niche pointing to Mecca). A central pillar divides the internal space into four squares of similar dimensions, covered by domed ceilings.
The site surrounding the mosque has been excavated to reveal that it has been inhabited for 4,000 years. A large Islamic graveyard just to the north contains a massive tomb dating back to the Iron Age, which when unearthed revealed fragments of pottery, metal arrowheads, and other artifacts dating back to at least 1000 BC.
Built in 1670, Fujairah Fort was badly damaged by a British attack in the early 20th century. Considered the oldest fort in the United Arab Emirates, it has served previously as both a defensive building and a home for the ruling family. And for many centuries, it was the only stone building along the Fujairah coast. The fort has three major sections, several halls, one square tower, and two round towers. In recent years, it has been fully restored to its former glory.
The area surrounding the fort is now part of a Heritage Village set up by Fujairah’s Department of Archaeology and Heritage. Here, you can see restored old houses, exhibits about traditional life, and a display of the Al Yazrah irrigation system that Emirati farmers used in their fields.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque:
Fujairah’s modern Sheikh Zayed Mosque covers a site the size of three football pitches and boasts six minarets 100 meters high. The mammoth prayer hall has space for 32,000 worshipers. Its white facade has made it one of the city’s major landmarks, and it ranks as the second biggest mosque in the United Arab Emirates after the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, the interior of the mosque is not open to non-Muslims for sightseeing, but you can take photos of the exterior of the mosque.
Outside Fujairah city, 13 kilometers away along the main highway, Bithna Fort once stood watch over the strategic routes crossing the Hajar Mountains through Wadi Ham. Built in 1735, the fort was considered of vital importance to the defense of the United Arab Emirates’ eastern region. The fort’s bulky frame of thick golden-stoned walls, edged by a chunky circular watch tower makes it particularly photogenic, while the views from the ramparts over the countryside of palm groves and jagged mountains behind are spectacular.
Just south of Fujairah Fort, the Fujairah Museum has an excellent collection of artifacts dating from the early Bronze Age that were unearthed during archaeological digs at Qidfa and Bithnah. Exhibits include Bronze and Iron Age weaponry, painted pottery, carved soapstone vessels, and pre-Islamic silver coins. One of the museum’s prized pieces, discovered at Qidfa, is a bowl made from ostrich egg dating back 2,200 years. There is also a good ethnography section, with displays of traditional Emirati daily life and craft work.
Al-Hayl Castle was once used as the headquarters for Fujairah’s ruling family. Built approximately 250 years ago, it has played an important role in the area’s defense, used as a base for surveillance and patrolling to guard Fujairah from attack. Not much remains today – the original fortifications have long since been demolished – except one two-level tower, which sits on the hill as a reminder of the days when these forts were scattered all across strategic hillsides in what is now the United Arab Emirates.
Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs:
In the foothills of the Hajar Mountains, outside Fujairah city, the Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs are a popular local retreat. The mineral springs here produce warm sulphuric water that is pumped into two swimming pools. There are separate bathing areas for males and females. It’s a family-friendly place that gets packed on weekends. If you’ve been traveling and need some downtime, this is a great place to relax and allow the warm, mineral-rich waters to soothe any niggly pains
Fujairah is the only emirate in the UAE to not have its coastline along the Arabian Gulf. Lying along the United Arab Emirates’ eastern side, Fujairah’s beaches sit on the Gulf of Oman. Some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving sites in the country are found offshore here, so this is a must-do destination for underwater enthusiasts visiting the region. For the less active, the beaches provide plenty of opportunity to soak up the sun. Most have excellent facilities for a day trip, including sunshades, loungers, cafés, and restaurants.