Weekend in Fujairah

Back in August, Beth and I took a short weekend vacation with several work colleagues to the nearby emirate of Fujairah. Located on the eastern side of the of UAE, Fujairah faces the open ocean rather than the Persian Gulf and is considerably cooler and less humid than Abu Dhabi. The trip was a final moment of relaxation before the plane-loads full of students began arriving for the opening of NYU Abu Dhabi.

Despite the various Ramadan eating/drinking restrictions still being in effect, we had a fabulous time seeing the diverse desert landscapes of the UAE as well as laying on the beach, and exploring the oceans off the coast of Oman.

The next time you visit Fujairah, we suggest you stay at the Rotana Hotel. The hotel is very nice and features a large pool in addition to lots of well manicured beach. We only experienced the main buffet-style restaurant as other places were closed for Ramadan, but the food was tasty and plentiful.

Fujairah Rotana Beach Resort

Fujairah Rotana Beach Resort

Fujairah is only a quick 3-hour drive from Abu Dhabi, though we did manage to take the “scenic route” on our way there due to missing a couple of turns. Thanks to a trusty atlas and my iPhone GPS, however, we stayed on track while getting to detour through some unexpected towns and terrain.

For those of you who have never lived in or visited a desert before, you’d be surprised at how different the landscape can be and how quickly in changes. Near Abu Dhabi, the land is mostly flat with a relatively thin layer of sand on top of the ground. Outside of the city, you get some low scrub vegetation and it feels quite similar to something you might find in Arizona or New Mexico back home.

As you move west, however, the sand gets deeper, redder, and much finer. This reminded me more the classic “desert” we all imagine and the photos you see of the Sahara in Africa. There are lots of large sand dunes that take on these beautiful patterns from where the wind blows them around. There’s also very little visible life, except for the stray camel you see hanging out near the road.

”]Desert CamelThe final type of terrain we passed through was the incredibly mountainous region just east of the Fuhairah coastline. You can get a sense of their scale in the hotel picture above, but the mountains raise suddenly out of nowhere and then quickly disappear in front of the ocean. It makes for very stunning scenery as you’re hanging out poolside to look over and see such imposing mountains along the horizon.

The next morning we got up and took another short drive north into Oman. The hotel where we stayed didn’t have their own scuba/snorkeling center, so we linked up with another shop that operated tours just across the border in Oman. There must have been about 20 people in our group and we loaded up into two boats and took off.

To say that our boats “took off” or that we enjoyed a “bumpy ride” to our dive side would both be serious understatements. We were doing almost full throttle the whole time through some of serious waves. The snorkel boat was carrying close to 15 people and so had enough way to plow its way through the waves. Based on other’s experiences, it was sort of like riding in a bulldozer as it rammed its way through walls. In the scuba boat, however, we only had about 5 people on board. That meant that instead of going through waves, we went over them. It was a like half roller coaster and half airplane ride. We’d ride up one wave, go briefly airborne and then slam back down in time to ride up the next wave. On our way out to the dive site I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. On the way home, however, I developed a serious case of whiplash and got to enjoy a splitting headache on the ride back to Abu Dhabi.

The scuba diving in Oman was excellent. The diver center guide didn’t actually get in the water with us, so we got to explore on our own. The sea floor was at about 25 meters, but all the cool stuff was up higher at around 12-15 meters. This was because there was no coral on the bottom, it was all attached to the top of rocky outcroppings. I was really pleased with my air consumption, and finished all of my dives with more air than anyone else in the group. As I’m normally the one sucking air like it’s going out of style, it was a bit boost to my dive confidence.

Not sure when exactly we’ll get back to Fujairah again, but it was a great weekend away from the city and the stresses of a busy work week.

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