Destination Desert - Dubai, Al Ain and Fujairah

santanu

Active Member
Day trip to Al Ain (continued)

When we reached Green Mubazzarah, dusk has arrived.

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The Green Mubazzarah is at the base of Jabel Hafeet mountain. There is a hot spring which helped the area to create a green cover through irrigation. It was developed as a park by Sheikh Zayed and opened to public in 2004. It seems to be a favourite destination to the residents of Al Ain to hang out.

After spending 10-15 minutes there, we went to Green Mubazzarah lake. It’s quite big with a fountain in the middle.

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Since it was getting dark, we started for Al Ain town after spending 5-10 minutes there.

Till that time of the day, we did not have a proper meal since breakfast and therefore, we were feeling hungry. From Al Ain to Dubai, it was 2 hours bus journey. So we decided to have our dinner at Al Ain. Accordingly, we requested to our driver to take us to a family restaurant. He asked whether we want to go an Indian restaurant or a Pakistani restaurant. We opted for Pakistani. So, he took us to New Quetta Restaurant.

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The restaurant is divided in two parts. One part is exclusively for families. That part has two levels. We sat at the lower level. There was no other family there at that point of time. We ordered for one plate of mutton kebab, one plate chicken kebab, one chicken biriyani and one mutton biriyani. The waiter was a jolly young man from Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

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The food was sumptuous especially the mutton kebab. It just melted inside the mouth. It was a very satisfying meal after the day long travel.

In this regard, I would like to mention that in the entire trip, we met a number of Pakistani people. All of them were vary courteous to us. There was not an iota animosity. Many of them were inquisitive about India especially about Modi. Many of them also opined about the state of affairs in Pakistan and about Imran Khan as prime minister. It really wonder me why this mutual friendly feeling to each other evaporates when we come back to our native land.

We released our cab fellow after reaching the restaurant. After dinner, we took another cab and reached the Al Ain bus stand. It was a short drive.

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Our bus for Dubai started at 7.45. We reached Dubai around 10 pm and thus our day trip to Al Ain came to the end.
 

santanu

Active Member
Day trip to Fujairah

Our other day trip was trip to Fujairah.

Fujairah is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. It is he only emirate with a coastline solely on the Gulf of Oman and none on the Persian Gulf, its capital is Fujairah city.

Like, Al Ain day trip, for Fujairah also we planned to go by public transport instead of availing a door to door conducted tour option. RTA bus E700 plies between Dubai and Fujairah. It starts from Union Square bus station of Dubai. It takes around 2.30 hrs to reach Fujairah city. The fare is 25 AED per person.

Union Square Bus Station is at the Deira side of Dubai. So, from the place where we were staying, we took a taxi for the Bus Station. This time the taxi driver was from Bangladesh.

We reached bus station at 9.55 am and boarded the bus. Seats are classified into two categories – one for ladies and families and another category for men travelling without being accompanied by women. All seats got occupied but no one was standing. The bus started at 10 am.

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The bus takes a bit longer route compared to cars. It goes to Fujairah via Dubai airport, Al Dhaid and Masafi. Till the construction of Sharjah to Kalba road, this road was the only route from the interior to the East Coast of the UAE. Sharjah-Kalba route is shorter and used by the taxis, private cars and tourist vehicles.

After around 45 minutes of drive, we entered the emirate of Sharjah. It was desert all around.

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We reached Al Dahid town around 11 am. It is the capital of the Central Region of the Emirate of Sharjah. An oasis town, it has extensive irrigated date palm plantations with water channelled from the nearby Hajar mountains at least in part through ancient tunnels dug for that purpose, known as aflaj in Arabic Few passengers were scheduled to disembark there. So, the bus stopped there briefly. Eventually, it was the only stoppage between Dubai and Fujairah.

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Immediately after starting from Al Dahid, we encountered Al Hajar mountain range. Al Hajar mountain range, in northeastern Oman and eastern UAE is the highest mountain range in eastern Arabian peninsula. It begins in the Musanadam Peninsula of Oman in the north, and extend about 440 km to Ras AL-Hadd in the east, measuring up to 50 km wide. It separates the coastal planes on Gulf of Oman from the high desert plate at the interior of UAE. For reaching Fujairah Al-Hajar mountain range is required to be crossed from west to east.

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The road no more remained dead straight. It became somewhat serpentine. But it was still quite wide and very well maintained.

The next big locality on the route was Masafi.

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It is a small town located at the edge of Hajar mountain. It sits at the inland entrance of Wadi Ham which runs down to Fujairah city. The border between the emirates of Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah runs through the Masafi town.

Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some instances, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only when heavy rain occurs. Wadi Ham is the longest wadi in UAE, runs for around 30 km between Masafi towards Fujairah city, until it reaches the Wadi Ham Dam. It remains dry for most of the year.

Masafi is a popular brand in UAE which produces bottled water, juices and consumer goods. The bottling plant is in Masafi town.

Masafi is also known for it flee market which is on this road. It remains open throughout the week and consists of a number of permanent and semi-permanent stalls selling toys, souvenirs, plants, carpets and rugs, pots and fruit and vegetables.

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Since there was no one to disembark at Masafi and there was no one to board from there, the bus did not stop at Masafi and continued towards Fujairah town.

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We reached Fujairah town at 12.30 pm.

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santanu

Active Member
Day trip to Fujairah (continued)

There were few taxis at the bus stand only. They were waiting for the bus to arrive so that they got passengers for onward journey. We hire one of them. The understanding was that it will take us to all the places at Fujairah where we want to go. Then it will drop us again at the bus stop and will charge us as per the meter reading.

The driver was a nice Pakistani gentleman.

Our first destination was Al Bidya mosque. It was almost 40 km from Fujairah town towards north on the road connecting Fujairah town and Dibba Al Fujairah town. The road runs parallel to Gulf of Oman.

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Immediately after coming out from Fujairah town, we enter into Khor Fakkan. Khor Fakkan is a part of Sharjah emirate. Essentially, it bisects Fujairah emirate in two parts.

After sometimes, we reached Khor Fakkan town which was small but beautiful. It has a nice beach too where we went while returning from Al Bidya mosque.

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We did not stop at Khor Fakkan town and continued our driving towards Al Bidya mosque. The road was as smooth as it could be.

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On the way we crossed a gigantic mosque. On enquiry, the driver could not tell the name of that specific mosque. As per him, many such mosques have been built in recent past across the entire UAE with the funding from the ruling families.

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We reached Al Bidya mosque around 1.30 pm.

Al Bidya mosque is the oldest extant mosque of UAE. It is also known as Ottoman mosque. It is built of stone and mud bricks. It has many layers of whitewashed plasters. Architecturally, it is somewhat unique compared to other mosques in Emirates. Its distinctive structure and specially its roof, consisting four pointed domes and supported by an internal pillar is unusual for religious structure in the region. The prayer hall has small Mihrab and a simple Minbar. According to the radio carbon analysis, the date of the mosque can be as early as 1446 AD.

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At the backside of the mosque, there was a tiny hillock with ruins of some old structures on top of it. So, after visiting the mosque and offering a prayer, we started climbing up that tiny hillock.

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While climbing up, we saw ruins of few more structures and walls. The structure on the top, as per historical evidences was tower of a fort built by Portuguese 200 years ago.

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After reaching the top of the hillock, we gave a good look at the surrounding. The landscape of Fujairah was distinctively different from that of Dubai or Sharjah. The plain sand desert gave away to brown mountain range with patch of greens everywhere. Fujairah is essentially a narrow stretch of land Hajar mountain range at west and Gulf of Oman at east with lots of green compared to other parts of Emirates.

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From there, we could see the sea and the road going towards Dibba Al Fujairah.

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Dibba Al Fujairah is the largest town in the Northern part of the Emirate and the upper part of the Gulf of Oman. Since it lies on coastal plain, nestled in the mountains, surrounded by sea, green fields and ancient relics, it is emerging as hot tourist destination. Many expansive resorts have come up in and around Dibba Al Fujairah. It is also a popular day trip destination from Dubai for dhow cruise, snorkeling, fishing etc.

From Dibba Al Fujairah, Musandam peninsula starts which juts into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entry into Persian Gulf from Gulf Oman. It is a part of Oman but separated from rest of Oman by UAE.

Since Dibba-Al-Fujairah was not a part of our plan, we started our return journey for Khor Fakkan beach around 1.45 pm. Though at the hindsight I think, it would have been better if we did the circular trip of Fujairah-Khor Fakkan – Al Bidya Mosque – Dibba – Masafi – Fujairah.

After coming down from the hillock, we found that our driver has bought and kept four bottles of chilled water rightly assuming that we would be feeling thirsty. When we offered payment for the same, he refused to take any money. Because, we were his guest – a soul touching gesture.

We reached Khor Fakkan beach around 2 pm and the driver parked the vehicle at the side of the beautiful tree lined promenade.

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The beach is separated from the promenade by a beautiful garden. There were few restaurants there. There were ample seating places in the tree covered garden. We sat there for some time to take rest and to have food being carried with us. We saw many local families chilling out there. It seems they had come for family picnic.

Khor Fakkan beach sets on picturesque picturesque bay of Khor Fakkan, which means "Creek of Two Jaws". It was decently crowded. Kids were playing football, making sand castles and also enjoying the waves. Parasailing was going on.There were boatmen who were trying to get customers for sea ride and dolphin watch. We were not interested in that. We just went for a small walk, got our feet washed by the gentle waves and soaked the beauty of the surroundings.

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santanu

Active Member
Day trip to Fujairah (continued)

Our next destination was Wadi Ham.

Traditionally, Wadi, in Arabic, refers to a valley. But in the context of Fujairah, it means dry (ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only when heavy rain occurs. Fujairah has multiple wadis around it. Wadi Saham, Wadi Siji, Wadi Mai, Wadi Ham, Wadi Al Tawain, Wadi Al Wuarayah, Wadi Al Helo. Wadi Ham is the longest one and Wadi Al Wuarayah is most scenic.

Wadi Ham is the longest wadi in UAE. It is 30 km long. It runs from Masafi towards Fujairah city until it reaches Wadi Ham dam. We saw its glimpses while coming to Fujairah by bus. Still we decided to go there for seeing it closer and to spend some time there. Another objective was to see Al Bithnah fort enroute.

We started from Khor Fakkan around 2.30 pm. From there, we first came back to Fujairah. We did not stop there and continued our journey towards Al Bithnah fort which was approximately 13 km away from Fujairah.

After 15-20 minutes’ drive, I asked the driver how long it would take to reach Al Bithnah fort. And from his answer we realised that a confusion took place.

Al Bithnah fort is on Fujairah-Masafi road. But we had not taken that road. From Fujairah town, the diver had brought us to Kalba region, which is a part of Sharjah emirate and shares its border with Oman. We were heading towards Kalba-Sharjah road. Instead of taking us to Wadi Ham, the driver was taking us to Wadi Al Helo which was around 37 km from Fujairah town and was in Sharjah emirate. The confusion happened either on account of language issue or the driver’s ignorance. It was unintentional.

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From there, we could have course-corrected, back peddled and gone to Al Bithnah fort and Wadi Ham. But we decided to go by the driver’s discretion and continued our journey towards Wadi Al Helo. By that time around 40 minutes had passed.

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Hajar mountain range started immediately after taking Kalba-Sharjah road. The first access point for Wadi Al Helo came after crossing a small tunnel. It is on the right-hand side of the road when you are going towards Sharjah. A downward gravel road took us to Wadi Al Helo from the main road.

Essentially, it is a dry valley/river bed surrounded by Hajar mountain range. The surface was uneven and full of gravels. The green shrubs on the valley, with rugged brown as the backdrop, were creating a contrasting colouring effect.

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There was a cemented parking lot. Few other cars were there. The place seemS to be a popular day-trip destination for the residents of Sharjah and Fujairah.

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After spending some time there, we came back to the Kalba-Sharjah road and continued our journey towards Sharjah.

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We reached famous Wadi Al Helo tunnel around 3.30 pm. The tunnel is 1.2 km long and is the longest tunnel of UAE.

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My wife and daughter were keen to return from there. Because we were around 30 km away from Fujairah. We had to go there first and then Dubai from there. While driving, our drive narrated some not so worldly experience of some of fellow drivers driving on this road at night. That made my wife and daughter keener to take about turn. However, I kept on persisting to move ahead a little bit more and for a change, my wish prevailed.

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After crossing the tunnel, we took one more stop for some photography. Wadi Al Helo was running parallel to the road.

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After moving further towards Sharjah, we got another access point for Wadi Al Helo. It seems that this is the main access point for the wadi.

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Wadi Al Helo means sweet valley in English. Apparently, free flowing underground is available here and that made Al Mazroui tribe to make Wadi Al Helo their home for last 80 years.

There was a dirt track going inside the wadi and we took that though wife and daughter was not quite happy with that. By that time, the valley was getting engulfed in the shadow of Hajar mountain range.

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After going few hundred meters, we saw a structure on our left-hand side over a rocky hill. That was a restored 19th century Islamic fort.

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I was quite keen to go there. But this time wife and daughter put their feet down. As per them, enough was enough. We had to start return journey.

There was no one around. Barren valley, rugged mountain and long afternoon shadow were giving an eerie feeling. So this time, I nodded for return journey and we started for Fujairah around 3.45 pm.

Apparently, Wadi Al Helo site dates back to Bronze age in 3rd millennium BC. We left those ruins unexplored. Those ruins may bring me back here in future.
 
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