11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fujairah
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 monuments - 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 favourite weekend escape. The beautiful coastline is ideal for scuba diving and sunbathing, while the city is a great base for explorations into the Hajar Mountains.
See also: Where to Stay in Fujairah
1 Al-Bidyah Mosque
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.
2 Fujairah Fort
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.
3 Al-Hayl Castle
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 defence, used as a base for surveillance and patrolling.
4 Bull Butting
Bull butting was introduced to the United Arab Emirates by colonisers from Portugal. In Fujairah, bull butting takes place every Friday and is a popular family event. The day begins with 20 bulls battling each other, and numbers slowly dwindle as winners move on to the next round. The prize for the winning bull is to have his value increased. For tourists the contest has an extra frisson of danger as even though bulls are tied up and handled by attendants, they sometimes break free and have been known to charge spectators.
5 Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Fujairah's modern Sheikh Zayed Mosque covers a site the size of three football pitches and boasts six minarets 100 m high. The mammoth prayer hall has space for 32,000 worshippers. 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.
6 Bithnah Fort
Located outside of Fujairah city 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 defence of the United Arab Emirates' eastern region.
7 Fujairah Museum
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 life.
8 Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs
Located 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.
Fujairah is the only emirate 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, while the beaches provide plenty of opportunity to soak up the sun. Most have excellent facilities for a day trip, including sunshades, loungers, cafes and restaurants.
Due to the topography of the area, the region around Fujairah is well known for its wadis. In Arabic, a wadi is essentially a dry riverbed (that can contain water after a heavy rain) but can also refer to any valley oasis. Wadi-bashing (four-wheel-driving or hiking through the wadis) is one of the major things to do during a visit. Among the most beautiful wadis in the areas are Wadi Siji, Wadi Saham and Wadi Mai. Wadi Ham is the longest valley and Wadi Al Tawain is fun to visit just as much for the stunning mountainous route it takes to reach it. North of Fujairah, Wadi al-Wuraya is also a main tourist attraction. Here you'll find waterfalls plummeting down to a beautiful pool, perfect for bathing.
The village of Masafi is located on the edge of the Hajar Mountains near Fujairah. It was originally a trading post and refuelling stop before the region's modern highways were built in the 1970s. Masafi sits on the border between two emirates, with the larger section of town part of Fujairah and the smaller section belonging to the Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah. Masafi is famous in the United Arab Emirates for its natural springs, and the Gulf's leading mineral water producer (named after the town) is located nearby. On the Dubai-Fujairah Road as you approach Masafi, the excellent local market is a great place to bargain for carpets, earthenware products, antiques and local handicrafts.
Where to Stay in Fujairah for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Fujairah for its surrounding dive and snorkeling sites, reputedly the best in the country, the coast's beach resorts are a great place to stay. Though many lie a fair distance from the city center, you can use the beach resorts as a base and venture further afield to the historical attractions, most of which also lie outside the city limits, including Al Badiyah Mosque, Al-Hayl Castle, and Bithnah Fort. Below are some highly-rated hotels in popular locations for tourists:
- Luxury Hotels: These top-notch accommodations on Al Aqah Beach, about 55 minutes' drive north of Fujairah's city center, are all large family-friendly resorts with spas. They average about 10 minutes' drive from Al Badiyah Mosque. The Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, with an on-site PADI dive center, sports an eclectic Middle Eastern style. Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, with a more contemporary aesthetic, is another family favorite, as is the Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa next door.
- Mid-Range Hotels: About eight minutes' drive north of Al Badiyah, Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort, with an on-site PADI dive center and two-bedroom suites for families, looks out to Snoopy Island, a popular snorkeling spot. Other popular mid-range resorts on the coast include the Radisson Blu Resort, about 18 minutes' by car from Al-Bidyah Mosque, and Hilton Fujairah Resort, five minutes' drive from the city center. Both have swimming pools and small private beaches.
- Budget Hotels: If you're looking for affordable accommodation, hotels in the city tend to be cheaper than the larger resorts along the coast. Only seven minutes by car from Fujairah Fort, Ibis Fujairah offers excellent value in the city center, with a swimming pool and mountain views, as does the nearby Novotel Fujairah. Even closer to the fort (a four-minute drive) is the Nour Arjaan Fujairah, with contemporary rooms and suites that are ideal for families or longer stays.