Can you believe it has been 5 years since I joined Emirates and made the big move from Sydney to Dubai! I am embarrassed to admit that over the course of living here all these years I have only actually been to two of the seven emirates – Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Considering how close they all are compared to the distance between states in Australia I knew I had to get out there and explore.
Having been on numerous desert safaris before with Arabian Adventures I was pleasantly surprised when browsing their website that they actually offered a tour of the East Coast of the UAE. This couldn’t have been more perfect for us! We were picked up in a spacious Arabian Adventures vehicle where we met Alex our guide for the day.
Our itinerary for the day included 6 stops along the East Coast and we would be passing through 4 different emirates! After driving through Sharjah and discovering how dates are farmed we arrived at our first stop – the Friday Market in Masafi. This name might sound familiar to you especially if you have lived in the UAE for a while – the well known Masafi bottled water comes from the natural springs here.
Interestingly even though the name suggests that this market only operates on a Friday they’re actually open daily. That was good news for us as we were not visiting on a Friday, phew! Operating for 30 years, here you will find a myriad of items ranging from rugs, pottery, crafts and fruits. The mangoes particularly caught my eye as I adore them. We learnt that these were locally grown and were sweeter than usual mangoes, we couldn’t leave without them – yum!! Don’t forget to bargain though so you can pick up these beauties at a fraction of the price you would pay in Dubai.
The village of Masafi actually sits on the edge of the Hajar mountains and the next stop was only a short drive away from the Friday Market. We arrived at this amazing spot where we were able to explore a dramatic canyon and the rocky valleys of the Hajar mountains. This is actually the highest mountain range in the UAE and a wonderful sight to be seen!
It was approaching lunch time and Eddy and I were getting quite peckish. It was very fitting that our next stop would include lunch! We arrived at the Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort and headed straight to the seafood restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. I would highly recommend the kingfish and the amazing fresh watermelon juice.
The Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort in Fujairah is set against the beautiful backdrop of the Hajar mountains and has stunning views across the Indian Ocean. It is unique for one very special reason – it is the only resort in the area with direct access to Snoopy Island. That means you can swim, scuba, kayak or SUP board over to it very easily!! Over the years I had seen numerous pictures on Instagram of people enjoying a day out at Snoopy Island and I desperately wanted to visit. I was so happy to have finally made it and am able to tick it off my bucket list!
This one of a kind island received its name because it looks exactly like Snoopy laying on his back floating in the water. Can you make Snoopy out?! Eddy and I opted to swim over as from the shore the island itself looks relatively close. Don’t let appearances deceive you, it was quite the strenuous swim to and from the island – I considered it my workout for the day!
On returning back to the beach we relaxed and dried off under the shade of one of the many umbrellas available. We noticed that the water seemed so much cooler here than it did in Dubai and our wonderful guide Alex later confirmed that this was indeed true. Fujairah is actually the only emirate that doesn’t have its coastline sitting on the Arabian Gulf, instead the beaches sit on the Gulf of Oman where the water temperatures are significantly lower. So for a truly refreshing, cooler swim make the drive out here and escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai.
Driving through the Al Aqah region in Fujairah, we stopped at the historic Al Bidya Mosque. Built out of mud and brick it is estimated to date back to the 15th century and it is the oldest and smallest mosque in the entire UAE. You are able to take a look inside but remember to be modestly dressed. There are also two Portuguese watchtowers which you can climb for views of the mosque and the surrounding area.
We made our way towards Fujairah city centre and arrived at the iconic Fujairah Fort which is 350 years old. Originally constructed around a well it has been used as a home for the ruling family, a defensive building, housed a prison and was even used at one stage to ferment date syrup! As it is situated on a hill you have the opportunity for great views overlooking the modern buildings of Fujairah.
It was time to head back to Dubai as we had completed the amazing East Coast tour! Before we embarked on the journey back Alex surprised us with one more stop – the Sheikh Zayed Mosque of Fujairah. This mosque may look familiar as it draws on design elements from Istanbul’s Blue Mosque with six minarets that are 100 meters high. It is the second largest mosque in the UAE and can hold 32,000 worshippers at one time.
We arrived back in Dubai after our wonderful day spent exploring the treasures of the East coast. A big thank you to our amazing tour guide Alex who was very informative and entertaining. He has actually been doing this for 25 years and speaks 6 languages – how incredible!! We were in awe of his extensive knowledge and were so grateful that he shared so many interesting facts of the place we now call home!
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