Fujairah weekend break guide
We round up the fun to be had on the UAE's east coast Discuss this article
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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.
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 (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.
Time Out Doha,