Cultural tours, quality diving, relaxing weekends and the UAE’s best sunrises can all be found in Fujairah. Pack your bags and head away for a weekend break sandwiched between the Hajar Mountains and the Indian Ocean.
Sat on a different body of water, backed by mountains rather than desert and with a population that is a fraction of Dubai’s, Fujairah can seem a world away from the rest of the UAE and in many ways, it is. But it is a world just two hours’ drive away and there is lots to explore for trip-happy Dubaians. Check off Time Out Dubai’s list of 20 places that need to go on your Fujairah travel itinerary.
What to do
Diving and snorkelling: While Abu Dhabi diving is good for exploring reef systems, the Fujairah coast, especially north towards Khor Fakkan and Dibba, has more sea life. Either with an organised dive or simply snorkelling it is not unusual to see turtles, sharks and rays among enormous schools of fish. Most Fujairah hotels offer diving packages in the Indian Ocean. Alternatively, dive specialist Al Boom has a dive centre at Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. Al Boom offers equipment hire and guided dives at the best spots.
• Al Boom Diving Centre, Le Méridien Al Aqah, Fujairah, www.alboomdiving.com (09 204 4925).
Wadis and mountains: Drag your eyes away from the Indian Ocean and look back inland for views of the imposing Hajar Mountains backdrop. The craggy peaks and wadis offer the country’s best hiking spots and some amazing scenery. Different to the rolling dunes and pristine beaches, this is rugged and challenging. Until you know the area better, hiking and mountain biking should be done with an organised tour group – especially as we’ve heard reports of currently popular areas such as Wadi Wurayah being closed off in recent months. Tour organiser Absolute Adventure has hiking and cycling tours for all ability levels, including a Dibba mountain trek and coastal tour.
• Dibba Climb Dhs350 for adults, Dhs350 for kids. Absolute Adventure, 606 SIT Tower, Silicon Oasis, Dubai, www.adventure.ae (04 392 6463)
Bull-butting and a (DAILY) Friday Market: You won’t get a better feel of the difference between East and West coast than by combining a trip to the Masafi Friday Market (we know that it's technically Ras Al Khaimah but it is just 20 minutes from Fujairah) and an iconic Fujairah sport. Driving on the E88, you will suddenly come to the Friday Market in Masafi, about 30km before Fujairah centre. Stop and take in the sights, sounds and smells and pick out bargain rugs, ceramics and fresh fruit and vegetables. After stocking up, continue on to Fujairah to see some bull-butting. Every Friday on Fujairah corniche, on an open and flat stretch of dusty, bare land, hundreds of spectators gather to watch the ancient sport of bull-butting. The sport entails two enormous bulls locking horns and undertaking bouts of what is best described as ‘bull sumo’.
• Drive to the Oman end of the corniche and turn right. Crowds start to appear at 5pm.
Add a new mall to your collection: Dubai residents, at least, will not find anything overly groundbreaking about Fujairah’s flagship shopping mall. But tourists and mall-collectors will appreciate the more than 100 high-street stores, an impressive food court, 11-screen cinema and Magic Planet entertainment centre. The central location makes it convenient for a mid-adventure cool-off and refuel as you move from mountain to beach or vice versa.
• City Centre Fujairah, www.citycentrefujairah.com (09 201 2310).
Watersports and boat trips: If scuba or snorkelling are not your scene, there are still stacks of sea-based activities to try in Fujairah, and the International Marine Club is the hub for many of them. This stretch of coast has the UAE’s best fishing, with dorado, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, amberjacks and marlins all realistic targets. Trips are organised from the Marine Club or if you’d rather just sight see and pleasure ride, there are boat and jet-ski rentals offering that. If you’re lucky you might also see a convoy of Harley-Davidson riders pull up at the club’s Bikers Café as this is a popular end for weekend road trips.
• Fujairah International Marine Club, Corniche Street, Fujairah, www.fimc.ae (09 222 1166).
Where to eat
McGettigan’s Fujairah: Just like the Abu Dhabi and Dubai branches of the ever-expanding Irish chain, only more so. With the relative lack of competition, McGettigan’s has a stream of ladies’ nights, open mic gigs, quiz nights, sport screenings, happy hours and brunches that make it a Fujairah favourite. Pub food staples such as burgers, pies and fish and chips are served in abundance.
• Daily, noon-1am. McGettigans, Tennis & Country Club, Fujairah, www.mcgettigans.com (09 224 4880)
Waves: The wonderful beaches are one of Fujairah’s best attractions, so why not extend your beaching hours by sitting down to eat on one? The Fujairah Rotana’s restaurant, Waves, sits on the sands and from your candlelit table in a private cabana the views across the Indian Ocean are sublime. Our tip though, if you are here to propose, avoid the grilled seafood platter – nobody is going to say yes after watching you demolish THAT mountain of food.
• Sun-Thu 7pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 7pm-11pm. Waves, Fujairah Rotana, Al Aqah, www.rotana.com (09 244 9888).
Sensasia: Despite the Miramar Al Aqah’s beachfront access, this pan-Asian restaurant is an indoors affair with a dark dining room. Thankfully, it falls on the stylish end of the dark spectrum with stylish decor and dramatic Asian furnishings. Food is premium Asian with Japanese teriyaki, Indonesian nasi goreng, Chinese Manchurian and Singapore lobster among the offerings.
• Daily 7pm-11pm. Sensasia, Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, Al Aqah, Fujairah, www.miramaralaqah.com (09 244 9994).
Sardinia: Authentic Italian cuisine from the kitchens of Italian chef Angelo Usai have given this restaurant quite a buzz. The dining room is simplistic and the location next to free zone gates makes it a less obvious choice when compared to some of the more glamorous hotels, but ask diners exiting the restaurant if they enjoyed the genuine Italian food made the traditional way and the answer is likely to be a resounding yes. A gem in Fujairah.
• Daily 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Sensasia, The Club, Sakamkam, Fujairah (228 3601).
Al Meshwar: A visit to this enormous Lebanese eatery is nothing if not an experience. From the outside it looks like a cross between a castle and a mountain (perhaps a nod to the surrounding forts and hills) while the cavernous inside has moons and stars painted onto ceilings. Try and order if you like, but it’s better to hand over decision making to the legion of waiters who scurry between tables dropping off grilled meat platters, hot breads and piles of hot and cold mezze along the way.
• Al Meshwar, Hamad Bin Abdullah Road, Fujairah (09 222 1113).
What to see
Al Badiyah Mosque: In a country short on historic attractions, the nation’s oldest mosque is a standout sight. Believed to be more than 500-years-old and still hosting daily prayers, the mud and stone built mosque was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by global travel website TripAdvisor. A must to see the region’s history.
• To arrive at the mosque take the coastal road north out of Fujairah and past Khor Fakkan until reaching the village of Badiyah.
Fujairah Fort: This fantastic old fort outdates the formation of the UAE by centuries and has a colourful and proud history. Damaged in the early 20th century by British soldiers, it has since been restored to its former glory and the surrounding area turned into a heritage village that should sit high on your list of must-see sites both night and day.
• Fujairah Fort, Fujairah Heritage Village (no number).
Fujairah Museum: While Fujairah Fort rightly dominates holiday photo albums, the neighbouring museum (part of a Heritage Village attraction) is worthy of exploration. Artefacts lay claim to more than 3,000 years of settlements in the region and there is the usual Bedouin museum displays of tools, jewels and weapons from historic tribes in the area.
• Fujairah Museum, Fujairah Heritage Village (09 222 9085).
Al Hayl Castle: Drive 15 minutes out of Fujairah and there is another excellent historic attraction. Al Hayl Castle is believed to have been built in around 1830 and is one of the best preserved buildings from that era. You can only access it by a slim dirt track, but if you have a 4x4 the potential photos alone make it worth the trip. Except on Fridays there is usually somebody around to give you a mini tour of the stunning fort and surrounding archaeological areas.
• Take the E89 from near the City Centre Mall and follow the signposts southwest out of Fujairah for approx. 13km.
Al Bithnah Fort: The third genuine must-see military fort in Fujairah is believed to be an 18th-century landmark and has played a role in the East Coast’s colourful military history. A watch point across the Hajar Mountains, it is also one of the first attractions you can see from the Masafi road into Fujairah. No matter how keen you are to get to your hotel and beach, no weekend in Fujairah photo album is complete without stopping off for a picnic here.
• Follow the E89 out of Masafi for 16km towards Fujairah until you pass through the village of Bithnah. The fort is on the right hand side.
Where to stay
Le Méridien Al Aqah: Le Méridien Al Aqah combines the quality service and facilities of a premium Dubai hotel with a secluded location to make for great getaways of the sporting, romantic or family type. It has 230m of private beach, a highly regarded spa, watersports, kids and teen clubs, and good dining options. A sparkling Friday brunch is held at Views (Dhs200 if booked online) but if you prefer to keep the day free for exploration then an evening meal at Thai restaurant Taste before a visit to top floor grape bar Astros, is recommended. Regular deals and packages for weekend trippers are offered although promotions are currently transitioning from summer to autumn, so check ahead for details.
• Standard room from Dhs650. Le Méridien Al Aqah, Dibba Road, Fujairah, www.lemeridien-alaqah.com (09 244 9000).
Sandy Beach Hotel: This low-rise beach resort has been attracting divers to its shores for decades. The main attraction is ‘Snoopy Rock’, just a short swim from the private beach. Named after its uncanny resemblance to the sleeping cartoon dog it is a great snorkelling and scuba diving spot. The arrival of big-name hospitality neighbours has led to a major refurbishment in recent years. Rooms and chalets that were once ‘surfer chic’ are now modern and comfortable. Dining is still limited but the addition of Amouage, a beach shack-themed seafood restaurant now means there is onsite food worth staying around for, which was not always the case.
• Beach chalet from Dhs400 per night. Sandy Beach Hotel, Dibba Road, Fujairah, www.sandybeachhotel.ae (09 244 5555).
Hilton Fujairah: The centrally located Hilton Fujairah offers easy access to heritage, shopping and basic nightlife attractions making it more suitable if you’re making the hotel a hub rather than a final destination. Having said that, it does have an impressive stretch of beach, and watersports and a tennis court are on hand if you’re done with exploring for the day. Buffet restaurant Al Ghorfa has different theme nights every day of the week and is on a par with a decent Dubai buffet. Fez nightclub is unlikely to attract the big name DJs seen in Dubai but its late bar, live band and pool tables will keep you entertained until 3am.
• From Dh695 per night. Hilton Fujairah, E99, Fujairah, www.hilton.com (09 222 2411).
Novotel Fujairah: Sacrifice direct beach access and you make a big saving on price in Fujairah and with rooms at less than Dhs300, the Novotel is worth considering. Located amid a cluster of hotels it is just minutes away from the Fujairah City Centre mall. A lounger on the terrace swimming pool has good views so you can top up a tan before the sun disappears behind the Hajar Mountains. If you’re determined to stay in the hotel – and after coming such a long way it would be a shame – then the best dining option is all-day dining international restaurant, Flavours.
• From Dh295 per night. Novotel Fujairah, Hamad Bin Abdullah Road, Fujairah, www.novotel.com (09 223 9999).
Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah: Drive north approximately 50km north of Fujairah city and you will find one of the UAE’s most secluded beach resorts. The O2 Spa, infinity pool and long stretch of beach give it a decadent feel while the dramatic mountain-meets-coast location make for a beautiful setting. Other than interacting with the scenery through a variety of adventurous ways, there isn't a great deal to do in this small, remote corner of Fujairah. Stay on site and dine at signature Arabic seafood restaurant Al Nokhada.
• From Dh500 per night. Radisson Blu Resort Fujairah, Dibba, Fujairah, www.radissonblu.com (09 244 9700).
All room prices quoted on booking.com for a single night on Friday September 18.