Update May 2021: Much has changed since this was written, but I have left it for now. You can see more recent photos of the White and Red forts in a separate post. The White Fort is not currently open to the public and the Red Fort has undergone quite a bit of change. You can find several new posts on Masfoot in the menu.
Ajman is the smallest of the seven emirates at just 260 km sq and has a population of nearly a quarter of a million. Imagine that in 1980, the population numbered only 36,000.
The town was first settled by the Nuaim tribe around 1775 and is still ruled by the al Nuaimi family. It became a British protectorate in 1820 until it attained independence and became part of the new federation of the UAE in 1971. The main part lies between Sharjah and Umm al Quwain, however, it also has two enclaves inland, al Manama and Masfoot.
Al Manama is in the central mountainous area of the north. It was gifted in the early 20th century to Ajman as dowry when a Sheikha from Ajman married the ruler of Fujairah, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad al Sharqi.
There are two forts, the Red Fort and the White Fort, in the main town of Manama which were royal residences. Further down the road in the village of Naseem, Hassa Castle, a watchtower built in 1976, stands upon a small hill.
The Red Fort, Manama
Manama played a major role in saving the people of Ajman after the sudden collapse of the pearling industry in 1928. It has rich agricultural land which was already farmed at the time but then Shaikh Rashid, the ruler at the time, supported the farmers enabling them to make full use of the land and provide both food for Ajmanis and an income for the shaikhdom. The main crops were papaya and citrus fruits such as qumqat and limes. The Rohida tree also provided an income with its bark being sold to make medicine, its leaves and fruits sold as fodder and the rest sold as timber. Moreover, the area was rich in naturally produced honey.
The Trucial Scouts had a base in Manama. It is still standing and is now a training camp for the UAE army. Many of the young men do the first three months of their national service there.
Although just a small town, it has its own police, civil defence, health centre, etc. It is growing steadily as apartment blocks are being built, and new businesses such as burger and pizza cafes, gyms are opening.
The village of Naseem is part of Manama but is on the other side of the road from the main town. Originally a handful of houses, there are lots of new houses there now. It is surrounded by plains.
The weather there is hotter than coastal towns in the summer, but dry and much colder in the winter.
The other enclave, Masfoot, is also in a mountainous and richly agricultural area not far from Hatta. It has a population of around 6000, 90% of whom are UAE nationals originally from Bedu tribes. The area includes two villages, Muzaira and Subaigha and originally belonged to the al Nuaim tribe of Buraimi, however, it was seized by the Nuaims of Ajman in 1948 and has belonged to them ever since.
The Ajman Government has plans to develop Masfoot as a tourist destination. Its location in the mountains makes it a great place for those who love walking and exploring the great outdoors. As in many inland locations, there are archaeological sites going back around 5000 years.
Two structures of interest there are Masfoot Fort, dating back to the 19th century and Masfoot Gate built in 1961.
Back in Ajman, Ajman Museum is found within an original 18th century fort and is well worth a visit. Take a look at some photos here. Look out for a separate blog coming up on Ajman Museum.