Tuesday 31st May 2016
All of the seven Emirates have their own distinctive identities: the majesty of Abu Dhabi. The glitz and glamour of Dubai, contrasted with the traditional culture of Sharjah. The unique natural landscapes of Ras Al Khaimah, Umm al Quwain and Ajman.
But amongst the Emirates, they all lack the archaeological heritage possessed by Fujairah. It is undoubtedly the richest in antiquities; a veritable treasure trove of forts, settlements and mosques older than the country itself.
We at the Fujairah Observer in this final summer issue have chosen a few sites in the area and invite readers to (safely) brave this summers heat, and take a chance exploring the Emirate with family and friends.
Some of the sites around the Emirate of Fujairah date back as far as five centuries and include castles, forts, towers and mosques.
In the city, just three kilometers from the beach, the unmistakable Fujairah Fort sits on a built up hill 20 meters above sea level. Chemical analysis of the structure has meant historians estimate the structure to have been built in the period 1500 to 1550 AD.
Al Bithnah Fort
Overlooking the Wadi Hamm in Siji, about 15 kilometers from the city, is Al Bithnah Fort. Set amongst picturesque mountains and palm orchards, the construction of this fort is said to date back to 1735.
Al Hayl Fort
Built in the village of Al Hayl as a strategic stronghold on the west bank of the valley, this fort is also within 20 km driving of Fujairah City. It is supposed to have been built later in 1800s and rises 40 meters above from the surface of the valley ground.
Awhala Fort is approximately 30 minutes out of Fujairah city and features some of the more modern construction techniques that were inspired by the cities of Northern Iraq. This Islamic fort was built above the iron age foundations which were built between 1000 to 1500 BC.
Recently restored from absolute ruins, the Sakamkam Fort and its surrounding village is located less than 10 kms from the city, and restored to high standards. On the Sakamkam road, look out for the brown signs and be prepared to go off the beaten path.
The location of this fort is in the area of Dibba Gurfa also known as Dibba Murabbah among the local people. This fort should not be confused with Dibba-Hisn. The fort is in the process of investigations to discover its history.
The historical town Dibba is politically into three segments: Dibba Al-Fujairah, Dibba Al-Hisn, ruled by the Emirate of Sharjah and Dibba Al-Baya ruled by the Governorate of Musandam, Oman.
Hidden behind the bustling main road after the Masafi roundabout heading towards Dubai this fort gives a real insight into a previous way of life.
There are sign posts for the fort, otherwise you would might struggle to find it. Free to visit, the custodian will gives a guided tour, and provides some details about the history and the restoration.
The views of the surrounding area are excellent from the roof.
Al Bidya Mosque
About 35 kilometers along the scenic ocean road that takes you from Fujairah to Dibba sits Al Bidya Mosque, an unmistakable structure. It is estimated that the construction of this dates back to the 15th century. Renowned for its unique architectural design, the roof of the mosque has four squat, helical domes that are supported by only one centrally placed pillar that also forms the ceiling. Entrance to the mosque is through double-winged wooden doors.
Fujairah Heritage Village
Heritage Village near Madhab park, next to a cricket playground. Several rooms depict traditional activities with models. You'll find also a majlis (guest room), falaj (irrigation well) and shasha (fishing boat) made from palm fronds, providing an interesting backdrop to its living reconstruction of traditional life on the east coast.
The Masafi Friday Market or Souq al Juma, as it is known locally is open seven days a week, not just Friday. This is a traditional street market found on the old Fujairah-Al Dhaid road. The main items to bargain for are rugs, earthenware, antiques and souvenirs.
Located just next to Fujairah Fort, the museum houses an excellent collection of artifacts. These artifacts date back to the early Bronze Age which were excavated during the archeological digs at Bithnah and Qidfa. Exhibits include painted pottery, pre-Islamic silver coins, carved soapstone vessels along with Iron and Bronze Age weaponry. One of the most prized pieces of Fujairah Museum was discovered at Qidfa. It is a bowl made from a 2,200 year old ostrich egg. The museum also has a nice ethnography section which you can visit to experience a flavour of the traditional Emirati life.
Opening times Sat-Thur 8:00am - 6:30 pm, Fridays 2:30pm to 6:30 pm
Over the summer months, Fujairah Observer will be talking exclusively and in great depth to Amrik Singh Plaha, who for 19 years has managed the largest historical restoration project in the UAE. Working with archaeologists, historians, and the ruling family, Amrik and a crew of 70 men have overseen the manual restoration of some of these archaeological treasures across the East Coast, some of which had been reduced to near rubble.
With limited photographic archives available, he has encouraged and seen local residents come forward to give their own anecdotal evidence, photographs and stories to help steer the team’s vision. By being careful and historically accurate in his projects, he helps preserve some of the limited historical resources.
Be sure to check in following the summer break to hear about his fascinating time here, along with vintage photos and more about Fujairah and its past.
Normally all the forts are open from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm Saturday to Thursday but during Ramadan 9.00 am to 2.00 pm all days except Friday.
In Fujairah Fort there are contact numbers on 09 2239201 and for Bidya Mosque 09 2343363.