Travel

The area
Between Musandam and Muscat lies the emirate of Fujairah. Unlike its six desert sisters, Fujairah is almost entirely mountainous. The region is of historical and archeological importance, with sites of interest including castles, forts, watchtowers and mosques. In fact, Fujairah is home to the UAE’s oldest mosque – Al Bidyah has been around for more than 500 years.

But that’s not to detract from the city’s modern advancements: its first shopping mall, Fujairah City Centre, opened recently, so those also in need of some retail therapy no longer need to head over to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Diving and watersports are another draw, with the Gulf of Oman offering more diverse sea life than the Arabian Gulf.

Hatta in the Hajar Mountains is another popular attraction. An enclave of Dubai, the educational Hatta Heritage Village features two watchtowers and the Hatta Fort, giving you a taste of the region’s Bedouin roots.

Accommodation
Sandy Beach Hotel on the Dibba-Khor Fakkan road has the feel of a cheap-and-cheerful beachside hotel, though in reality, a stay here is not as inexpensive as you might expect for an older property (in fact, it costs slightly more than the much newer Le Méridien hotel just half a kilometre up the road). But Sandy Beach has plenty of character, representing a lost generation of UAE/Omani hospitality, built much before monstrous towers of glass and steel rose from the sand.

Accommodation at the hotel comes in the form of motel-style chalets flanking the beach and pool. Rooms are clean and simple, matching the basic facilities of the hotel. The resort boasts quite a setting: there are lush gardens, plus the rugged Hajar Mountains behind, as well as something that few hotels can offer – its own Snoopy Island.

Restaurants are functional, rather than atmospheric, and food can be hit-and-miss. Avoid the poor buffet and stick with the great à la carte seafood (try the lobster if you are feeling flush with cash, or the grilled prawns if you are not) and fill up on fluffy bread rather than the soggy, anaemic fries that accompany almost every meal. The poolside bar is great for a quiet (and cheap!) drink as the sun sets in the cooler months.
www.sandybm.com (09 244 5555).

Snoopy Island
Snoopy Island (yes, named after the cartoon dog it resembles) juts proudly out of the Indian Ocean just a few hundred metres from the shore. You’re more likely to come face to face with a shark at Snoopy Island than at Shark Island, some 25 km down the coast – or so I’m told. That seemed like interesting news at the time… right up until the moment I pull on my snorkel, mask and flippers, ready to swim out to the strangely shaped isle. For some reason, I can’t seem to get the Jaws theme tune out of my head.

In reality, you’d be tremendously lucky to spot even a small reef shark during a snorkelling trip – anything more dangerous would have taken a serious wrong turn. The reef that surrounds the island is an occasional visiting spot for rays and turtles, too, though it’s a while before I can make out any sea life thanks to poor visibility due to an oil slick covering the surface of the water – an occasional hazard caused by the nearby port.

Yet as soon as the sandy sea bed beneath me is replaced by reef, I’m encircled by dozens of colourful, fearless fish bouncing around in waters that can get quite choppy. During my hour-long swim I also spot spiny urchins, which I’m careful not to step on, and even a large cuttlefish, but my finned friends prove elusive.

Keen snorkellers (guests and non-guests) can hire equipment from Sandy Beach for Dhs60 per day, while those who don’t fancy swimming out to the island can hire a two-person kayak (Dhs70 for 45 minutes) and paddle out to the beachside of the island, before taking turns to hop on and off for a peek into the blue.

Need to know
Getting there
From Dubai, take the E11 through Sharjah and follow it to Dhaid. Continue through Dhaid until you reach Masafi, then turn right onto the E89, which will take you all the way into the centre of Fujairah town.
Five to try in Fujairah
Kayaking the Kalba
Fujairah’s south coast is fringed by a network of waterways surrounded by mangroves that can be explored by canoe. A peaceful and serene environment, it’s the perfect spot to reconnect with the natural world and catch a glimpse of crabs clinging to trees, rare white-collared kingfishers, herons and turtles. With the ancient rainforest canopy protecting you from the blaze of the sun, it’s a great relaxing excursion. And if you tire of the paddling, you can always run aground on one of the secluded beaches and go for a rejuvenating dip in the sea. Desert Rangers can supply guides and all the equipment you’ll need.
www.desertrangers.com (04 357 2233).

Break out the irons
If you’re one of those people who like hitting small balls across vast landscaped lawns, you’ll be pleased to know that Hatta Fort Hotel has a fantastic driving range. It’s set against the backdrop of the magnificent Hajar Mountains, so you’ll even have a nice vista when you’re teeing off.
www.jebelali-international.com (04 809 9333).

Shoot the fort
Thought to have been built in 1640, the mud-brick Fujairah Fort sits on the hill above the city, surrounded by date orchards and the remains of old buildings. Although the British damaged the fort in the early 1900s, it has now been restored and is definitely worth visiting to experience an original UAE landmark. If you want to step inside for a closer look, entry is free.

Head to Hatta Heritage Village
With a settlement on the site between 20 and 30 centuries old, Hatta Heritage Village is considered one of the oldest sites of human habitation in the UAE. Around 30 mud and barasti-roofed buildings have been carefully restored: you’ll get to see a majlis, a kitchen and bedrooms, offering a glimpse into the social routines of the Bedouin. There’s even an opportunity for you to don traditional clothing and sample authentic food at the café.
Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 2pm-8pm. Right at the Hatta Fort roundabout (04 852 1374).

Visit the friday market
With high-quality Iranian silk carpets on offer for anything up to three times cheaper than the equivalent Dubai offering, this is a great opportunity to save some pennies. Located on the Dubai side of Masafi on the road to Fujairah, it’s a good idea to haggle, as prices are often inflated for tourists. Located between the Hajar Mountains and a nearby wadi, it’s a welcome contrast to the clinical, air-conditioned malls. Other goods on offer include fruit and vegetables, cheap souvenirs and locally crafted pottery and earthenware.
Travel

There's a lot of fun to be had on the UAE's east coast

The area
Between Musandam and Muscat lies the emirate of Fujairah. Unlike its six desert sisters, Fujairah is almost entirely mountainous. The region is of historical and archeological importance, with sites of interest including castles, forts, watchtowers and mosques. In fact, Fujairah is home to the UAE’s oldest mosque – Al Bidyah has been around for more than 500 years.

But that’s not to detract from the city’s modern advancements: its first shopping mall, Fujairah City Centre, opened recently, so those also in need of some retail therapy no longer need to head over to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Diving and watersports are another draw, with the Gulf of Oman offering more diverse sea life than the Arabian Gulf.

Hatta in the Hajar Mountains is another popular attraction. An enclave of Dubai, the educational Hatta Heritage Village features two watchtowers and the Hatta Fort, giving you a taste of the region’s Bedouin roots.

Accommodation
Sandy Beach Hotel on the Dibba-Khor Fakkan road has the feel of a cheap-and-cheerful beachside hotel, though in reality, a stay here is not as inexpensive as you might expect for an older property (in fact, it costs slightly more than the much newer Le Méridien hotel just half a kilometre up the road). But Sandy Beach has plenty of character, representing a lost generation of UAE/Omani hospitality, built much before monstrous towers of glass and steel rose from the sand.

Accommodation at the hotel comes in the form of motel-style chalets flanking the beach and pool. Rooms are clean and simple, matching the basic facilities of the hotel. The resort boasts quite a setting: there are lush gardens, plus the rugged Hajar Mountains behind, as well as something that few hotels can offer – its own Snoopy Island.

Restaurants are functional, rather than atmospheric, and food can be hit-and-miss. Avoid the poor buffet and stick with the great à la carte seafood (try the lobster if you are feeling flush with cash, or the grilled prawns if you are not) and fill up on fluffy bread rather than the soggy, anaemic fries that accompany almost every meal. The poolside bar is great for a quiet (and cheap!) drink as the sun sets in the cooler months.
www.sandybm.com (09 244 5555).

Snoopy Island
Snoopy Island (yes, named after the cartoon dog it resembles) juts proudly out of the Indian Ocean just a few hundred metres from the shore. You’re more likely to come face to face with a shark at Snoopy Island than at Shark Island, some 25 km down the coast – or so I’m told. That seemed like interesting news at the time… right up until the moment I pull on my snorkel, mask and flippers, ready to swim out to the strangely shaped isle. For some reason, I can’t seem to get the Jaws theme tune out of my head.

In reality, you’d be tremendously lucky to spot even a small reef shark during a snorkelling trip – anything more dangerous would have taken a serious wrong turn. The reef that surrounds the island is an occasional visiting spot for rays and turtles, too, though it’s a while before I can make out any sea life thanks to poor visibility due to an oil slick covering the surface of the water – an occasional hazard caused by the nearby port.

Yet as soon as the sandy sea bed beneath me is replaced by reef, I’m encircled by dozens of colourful, fearless fish bouncing around in waters that can get quite choppy. During my hour-long swim I also spot spiny urchins, which I’m careful not to step on, and even a large cuttlefish, but my finned friends prove elusive.

Keen snorkellers (guests and non-guests) can hire equipment from Sandy Beach for Dhs60 per day, while those who don’t fancy swimming out to the island can hire a two-person kayak (Dhs70 for 45 minutes) and paddle out to the beachside of the island, before taking turns to hop on and off for a peek into the blue.


Need to know

Getting there
From Dubai, take the E11 through Sharjah and follow it to Dhaid. Continue through Dhaid until you reach Masafi, then turn right onto the E89, which will take you all the way into the centre of Fujairah town.

Five to try in Fujairah

Kayaking the Kalba
Fujairah’s south coast is fringed by a network of waterways surrounded by mangroves that can be explored by canoe. A peaceful and serene environment, it’s the perfect spot to reconnect with the natural world and catch a glimpse of crabs clinging to trees, rare white-collared kingfishers, herons and turtles. With the ancient rainforest canopy protecting you from the blaze of the sun, it’s a great relaxing excursion. And if you tire of the paddling, you can always run aground on one of the secluded beaches and go for a rejuvenating dip in the sea. Desert Rangers can supply guides and all the equipment you’ll need.
www.desertrangers.com (04 357 2233).

Break out the irons
If you’re one of those people who like hitting small balls across vast landscaped lawns, you’ll be pleased to know that Hatta Fort Hotel has a fantastic driving range. It’s set against the backdrop of the magnificent Hajar Mountains, so you’ll even have a nice vista when you’re teeing off.
www.jebelali-international.com (04 809 9333).

Shoot the fort
Thought to have been built in 1640, the mud-brick Fujairah Fort sits on the hill above the city, surrounded by date orchards and the remains of old buildings. Although the British damaged the fort in the early 1900s, it has now been restored and is definitely worth visiting to experience an original UAE landmark. If you want to step inside for a closer look, entry is free.

Head to Hatta Heritage Village
With a settlement on the site between 20 and 30 centuries old, Hatta Heritage Village is considered one of the oldest sites of human habitation in the UAE. Around 30 mud and barasti-roofed buildings have been carefully restored: you’ll get to see a majlis, a kitchen and bedrooms, offering a glimpse into the social routines of the Bedouin. There’s even an opportunity for you to don traditional clothing and sample authentic food at the café.
Open Sat-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 2pm-8pm. Right at the Hatta Fort roundabout (04 852 1374).

Visit the friday market
With high-quality Iranian silk carpets on offer for anything up to three times cheaper than the equivalent Dubai offering, this is a great opportunity to save some pennies. Located on the Dubai side of Masafi on the road to Fujairah, it’s a good idea to haggle, as prices are often inflated for tourists. Located between the Hajar Mountains and a nearby wadi, it’s a welcome contrast to the clinical, air-conditioned malls. Other goods on offer include fruit and vegetables, cheap souvenirs and locally crafted pottery and earthenware.

04 832 9900 Dubai Land

Nestled into a tiny corner of a desert conservation area which spans five per cent of the entire UAE, Al Maha is a luxurious bolthole. Tented, private Arabian villas are perched on a hill overlooking the soft, rolling sand dunes. Lounging next to your own infinity pool, you’ll see gazelles come to graze nearby. The hotel can arrange a number of outdoor activities, such as wildlife safari walks (and drives), falconry and camel riding. But most enchanting of all is the hotel’s innate sense of peace and quiet; it is a world away from the city down the road. No matter how long you plan on staying, make sure you arrive in time for the complimentary sunset champagne atop a soft sand dune to take in the beauty of this unique landscape. It's unforgettable.

The essentials
• Al Maha’s Timeless Spa offers a range of treatments as well as early morning yoga.

• The hotel only has one restaurant, Al Diwaan, which offers breakfast, lunch and a five-course dinner, included in the room rate. It has a huge, al fresco terrace from which you can drink in the majestic vistas.

• The hotel also offers ‘Dune Dining’ where you can picnic among the sand hills.

• Al Maha is located around 45 minutes from Dubai on the Al Ain road, past the Outlet Mall.

• Don’t worry if you’re not in the know about desert flora and fauna, the 24/7 on-site conservationists will happily fill you in on anything you want to know about the area.

Designed by resort specialists Per AQUUM, the remote Desert Palm (45 minutes from the city centre) offers chic luxury in the midst of perfectly manicured polo fields. The 28 suites are complemented by private pool villas, each with a unique view of the outlying stark desert that collides with fantastic lush fields. Polo lessons are provided for the expert and novice alike (for an extra fee), plus you can indulge in nature walks, cookery classes and even wine tasting. And for the ultra-recluse for whom being out of town isn’t enough, you can hide away in a pool villa with its own infinity pool and walled garden. Admittedly, for those looking to sample Dubai’s legendary nightlife there are better locations (even the nearest beach is over an hour away). But for a little slice of old-school, pampered Dubai living, the Desert Palm has it all.

The essentials
• Lime Spa offers spa rituals, facials, massages and more across six spa suites. There’s also a menu of treatments for kids and even an eyebrow designer on hand for every cosmetic whim you might have.

• A communal infinity pool overlooks one of the polo fields, where you can simply let yourself relax. There’s also a fitness centre on site.

• If you fancy a little nibble without a full meal, all-day dining restaurant Epicure also has a posh deli where you can take away bits.

• The nearest mall just happens to be the world’s largest Dubai Mall, complete with ice rink, waterfall and the world’s highest fountains.

Newsletters

Follow us