Khor al Fakkan cruise

An ultra-conservative emirate 
A superb and lovely bay
The Fujairah Fort

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Khor al Fakkan/Al Fujayrah

Rigour and elegance under starry skies

From an MSC ship on the Gulf of Oman, you can see the sizeable town of Khor Fakkan (or Khawr Fakkan) sprawling round a superb bay, one of the loveliest in the United Arab Emirates. The port where your cruise ship lies at anchor is part of the booze-free and ultra-conservative Sharjah emirate, and hasn’t enjoyed the tourist boom its location would otherwise suggest.
It’s a pleasant spot for a brief cruise excursion though, with a fine seafront corniche complete with fish market, a tempting stretch of beach (although, this being Sharjah, modest beachwear is advised) and views of a popular diving spot, Sharq Island, sometimes mistranslated as the rather alarming “Shark Island”, although sharq is in fact simply the Arabic for “east”.

When you are in Khor Fakkan consider an excursion to Fujairah, which has recently enjoyed something of a minor boom, mainly on the back of economic developments in neighbouring emirates, especially Dubai. The focus of much of this is the city’s massive oil-refuelling port – the world’s third largest after Singapore and Rotterdam – at the southern end of town, which is where most of the United Arab Emirates’ oil is exported from, as its east coast location saves shipping from making a two-day dog-leg around the tip of the Arabian peninsula.

 There’s usually a line of tankers several kilometres long offshore waiting for their turn at the pumps. The main sight in town is the photogenic Fujairah Fort, off Madhab Road on the northern edge of the city centre. Dating back to the sixteenth century, this is the most picture-perfect of the United Arab Emirates’s many forts, set atop a large plinth and with high, bare walls rising to a pretty cluster of towers and battlements, dramatically framed by an outcrop of the Hajar Mountains.

Must see places in Khor al Fakkan

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    United Arab Emirates

    Diamonds shining in the desert
    Diamonds shining in the desert

    Dubai is actually just one of the seven statelets which collectively form the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, a loose confederation founded in 1971 following the departure of the British from the Gulf.

    Technically the seven emirates are considered equal, and preserve a considerable measure of legislative autonomy, rather like the various states of the USA – which explains, for instance, why local laws in Dubai are so different from those in neighbouring Sharjah.

    In practice, however, as a cruise to the Emirates can show you, a clear pecking order applies. Abu Dhabi, easily the largest and wealthiest of the emirates, serves as the capital (even if Abu Dhabi city is barely half the size of Dubai) and wields the greatest influence over national policy, as well as providing the UAE with its president.

    Dubai ranks second, followed by Sharjah and then the other emirates of Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah, which remain relatively undeveloped and even surprisingly impoverished in places.

    The fact that the union has survived despite the sometimes considerable differences of opinion between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a glowing tribute to local diplomacy, even though it is has also created the anomaly whereby Dubai, with its headline international standing, isn’t even the capital of its own low-key country.