Last week I decided I deserved a break; an escape of sorts where I could unwind, and forget about all the clutter that is work and societal duty. So, wanting to make a weekend out of it, I packed up two days worth of bare essentials and headed eastwards towards the idyllic Emirate of Fujairah; I couldn’t think of any better place.

Just an hour and a half’s drive from Sharjah / Dubai (or more if you take the scenic route), Fujairah is the one Emirate that UAE residents are starting to see as the perfect weekend getaway. It’s not too flashy, nor too rustic. Quiet enough to get you that well-deserved bout of R&R, but not too disconnected for you to get thoroughly bored.

So whether you’ve planned for a bout of relaxation or a boost of adrenaline, here’s a checklist I’ve prepared for every tourist/visitor headed that way:

Visit the Friday Market – Technically it’s only the Friday Market by name, having started out as such. But now as a result of its ever-growing popularity, the stalls of this little bazaar en route to Fujairah are now open daily to the public. Known more for it’s inexpensive yet durable selection of carpets and rugs, you’ll also find seemingly endless stalls of fresh fruit, pottery and plant nurseries. Take your haggling skills with you though; and you might want to pick up a cob of roasted corn to last you through the stopover.

A drive through the city – This won’t take very long at all, but what’s interesting to note is that the roundabouts of Fujairah tell a story. Take the straight road in and you’ll notice that the traditional Arabic perfume bottle, the Bukhoor, and the coffee pot set, are all in reality exposing the visitor to the 3-steps of Khaleeji hospitality. Also if you’re driving about, it wouldn’t hurt to head towards Khorfakkan for a lunchtime picnic on the corniche, or in the direction of Kalba for a quick visit to the mangroves.

Swim with the fishes – Fujairah is a coastal Emirate, so you won’t have to travel very far for a dip into the Indian Ocean. In addition to a leisurely face-off with the waves, many of the hotels offer scuba-diving lessons/sessions which entitle you to a fabulous view of the underwater world.

Head for the hills – If you don’t already own one, rent or even or borrow (this author will not take responsibility for any mishap that entails as a result of this suggestion) a friend’s four-wheel-drive, and head for the hills. Literally. The Fujairah Mountains might seem intimidating, but there are popular routes that are trek-friendly. And towards the end of the year, the many Wadis located snug amongst the mounts serve for quite a popular haunt for a little mid-climb dip.

Check out the Bullfight – Yes, I said bullfight. This age-old tradition has much to my relief stood the test of time. Never having been advertised or commercialized, enthusiasts and participants of this weekly bovine face-off gather every Friday afternoon at a sandy lot opposite the Fujairah corniche. From the waving of the first flag it’s one round after another of pairs of these four-legged champs fighting it in tune to the excited egging-on from the sidelines. It’s a thrilling spectacle from start to finish, and a highly-recommended must-see for a taste of classic Arabian tradition.

Get a feel of the heritage – On the way out, make it a point to visit the many forts of Fujairah. Also the Bidyah mosque (reportedly the oldest mosque in the Emirates at a buff 580 yrs old) is the perfect stop for your heritage fix. Now a registered heritage sight however, you might have to stand in line with a bunch of snap-happy tourists. You’ll come to realize though, that the wait was worth it after all.

Since the decade and a half I moved out of the place, progress seems to have caught up pretty quickly with Fujairah. The one sole traffic light that used to be required of the city has now spawned what seems to be half a dozen more. What used to be a city with a maximum of 6-story buildings is now a potential metropolis with towers aimed at the sky.

What’s comforting however, is that this little township’s still got soul. For from a high enough vantage from pretty much anywhere in the city you can still catch a glimpse of the mountains in the distance – sending out a message that appears to be aimed to reassure.

In my opinion Fujairah still is (and I have a strong feeling it always will be) the ideal reprieve from the madness that’s taken over us city slickers. Just don’t get too comfortable; there’s real life to get back to after all.

-Shaahima Fahim

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