All posts by glimpsesofuae

Wadi Shees

Wadi Shees nestles between the Hajar Mountains and a drive down can lead you in different directions, but all to the Omani enclave of Madha.

The wadi is now much more accessible from the new Khor Fakkan road. Coming from the west, look out for the large sign at the side of the road marking the entrance to the Khor Fakkan area of Sharjah emirate (Welcome to Khor Fakkan – you can’t miss it.) Take the next exit to Shees and drive carefully as it has lots of steep slopes, bends, blind peaks and corners and it turns into one track. If you are coming from Khor Fakkan, the exit is straight after Al Ghezeer Tunnel.

On your left, you can stop at Shees pools. The first small pool is drinking water but further down there are pools where you can paddle or swim or even dive when the water is deep enough. You can go through the pool to the back where there is a narrow entrance to the next pools, but you cannot see them from the road. You can picnic at the same area although that spot gets busy at the weekend and on holidays.

Further down still is the old residential area of Shees, which is well worth a visit if you can manage the climb up a hundred or so steps. Walk through the village and notice the intricate underground falaj system for irrigating the farms and the mosque that was earlier the house where Sheikh Sultan used to stay when he visited. Continue through the farms, enjoy the view over the mountains, learn about farming and the biodiversity in the area from the information signs along the way and look out for trees with interesting shapes and wonderful roots growing down rock faces. The path will eventually take you back down to the road where you can walk back up to your car.

Further down the road, pass Shees Health Centre and Sharjah Co-op (preferably on the tourist bypass road) and then you can only be in awe at the deep wadi you’re driving through and the huge rocks jutting out that look like they might fall on you at any moment!

Look out for goats higher up climbing over precarious edges with the greatest of ease. Can you spot the baby goat in the photo below?

When you receive a text message from Ooredoo, you know you’ve crossed into Omani territory. When you reach the fork, you can turn left up the single track road up the hill or right through the farms. There’s also an option to go straight. All roads, especially straight, need a four wheel drive to go down and come out at the other end but you can go left or right a bit further without one. If you turn left, the road will take you to Al Nahwa, an exclave of Sharjah inside the Omani enclave. The road takes you through mountains, open plains and lush oases. Carrying on further still, you will come out in Mirbah, Fujairah, which is just south of Khor Fakkan.

You will lose signal as you get deeper whichever road you take so make sure you’re prepared for any emergencies and then sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

(Note: Don’t confuse Wadi Shees with Wadi Shie which is further into Khor Fakkan. You will also see it written Chees on the Oman side. There is no border point as it is surrounded by the UAE. )

Al Rabi Tower, Khor Fakkan

Al Rabi Tower was an important part of the defence network in Khor Fakkan, located between Al Adwani Tower and the watchtower at Al Miqsar. The various lookout posts across the town would send warnings to each other by gunshot. It was first constructed by in 1915 during the reign of Sheikh Said bin Hamad Al Qassimi and has since been restored.

The view from the park where the tower stands stretches over the whole valley and out to sea.

For an even better view, take the hiking trail to the top of Khor Fakkan’s highest mountain, but be sure to be well-prepared before setting off. (See the photo with yellow arrows in the gallery showing starting and end points.)

Ajman Museum

Ajman Museum is often overlooked but it is well worth a visit. The fort which is home to the museum was built in the 18th century and was the sheikh’s residence for most of that time and for some time the police station before taking on its current role.

The fort was built in the traditional courtyard style and so most of the exhibits are in individual rooms with different themes such as traditional medicine, weapons, farming, Ajman Police, Ajman’s first radio station, traditional games, documents and manuscripts and even pottery and funerary jewellery found at the archeological site in Moweihat which dates back to 3000 BC (see also the cemetery at the fort entrance). At the back of the fort is the souq depicting traders and artisans at work.

Be sure to go into the barjeel, the windtower, and feel the effect of the natural conditioning. You can also take time to relax sitting in the courtyard imagining what took place there many years ago or sit in the gardens in front of the fort. Look out for the parrots around the fort too.

Opening times: Sat-Thurs 8am-8pm, Fri 2:30pm-8pm

Entrance fee: 5dhs

(At the time of writing, the front entrance was closed. Go round the back, the entrance is next to Shk Humaid Hall, there is no sign.)

Al Miqsar Village

The villages also has houses, stores, and a mosque all built of rock and clay. The rocks used were very large and some of the buildings, such as the mosque, are built into larger rocks. As the rocks used were from the mountain area itself, it’s hard to see the village from a distance and you can easily drive past it without noticing it other than the fort.

Al Miqsar Village was built around 300 years ago and is located atop a small mountain in Wadi Shie. The small fort at the top is known as Wadi Shie Castle and has high slits through which to aim a rifle and also to provide ventilation. It is also part of the defence network of Khor Fakkan City which includes Al Adwani Tower, Al Rabi Tower and al Hisn Fort in the city itself. The lookouts would warn each other by gunfire.

The village is currently being restored by Sharjah Planning and Survey Department along with several other historical areas of Khor Fakkan.

It can currently be reached by following the road to Wadi Shie from Khor Fakkan, after going through the underpass, keep to right at all forks. Or take the walkway under the Khor Fakkan Rd by taking The Walk on the dry side of Rafisa Dam (although the underpass is not yet very accessible to all). To take this route, park at Rafisa Dam, follow signs for The Walk and follow the path all the way under the highway. There is later to be a parking area for visitors there.

RAK Natures Treasures

RAK Natures Treasures is housed on a farm right in the middle of the farming area of Ras al Khaimah. Once you turn off the main road, the drive there is a treat in itself, especially if you’ve come from the city. Drive slowly and watch out for cows, goats, sheep and camels roaming around on the roads. If you enjoy bird-watching, take a drive around the plains near the farm and you’ll spot a few species. It’s a nice spot for a picnic too with a view of the mountains.

It started essentially a hobby of the owner, Tariq Al Salman, that he wishes to share with everyone. He has collections of gemstones, fossils, coral, herbs and natural medicine, stamps, weapons… So as he says, its a museum.

There are various animals on the farm including tortoises, flamingos, snakes, donkeys, horses and oryx. The goats have their own climbing frame and there is an elevated walkway to view the animals from above.

You can wander around the farm area and greenhouses and pick vegetables and you might like to visit the cactus house. Some produce is also for sale such as honey.

Mr Tariq also holds events with speakers on various topics which are open to the public. For more info, you can check their Instagram account.

Entrance fees: Adult 20dhs, child 10dhs.

Location: https://goo.gl/maps/DZj3sNafqfJhfucm9

Al Hayl Fort and Square

Nestled in the Hajar mountains, al Hayl is often missed by tourists and residents alike. The fortified courtyard house was originally built in the time of Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah al Sharqi, who ruled Fujairah from 1876 to 1936. Chemical analysis shows it was built around 1930. It was renovated by Fujairah Department of Heritage and Archaeology in 2006-2008.

The buildings on al Hayl Square were built for Shaikh Abdullah bin Hamdan al Sharqi. The main building has two floors, with bedrooms, bathrooms, sitting rooms, a kitchen and stores.

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One separate room in the corner of the courtyard (see photo above) was used as a shop and it sold items such as rice, sugar, sorghum, coffee, clothes, perfumes, rose water and jasmine oil. (Ziolowski and al Sharqi). It also contained a madbasa, a place for pressing dates to collect the syrup.

The madbasa (see below) was where dates where piled up and stones placed on top of them so that the syrup would be pressed out. It would trickle into the hole from where it would be collected. Date syrup is called dhibs.

Madbasa - date press
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Outside there was a mosque (still in use) and a majlis. The external watchtower on the hill was built at the same time as the main house. The watchtower was used as a residence for some time by the sheikh’s younger brother. It contains a fireplace, washing area and a madbasa (which was added later.)

There were other stores, houses and animal pens, tobacco drying rooms, and a yanoor, a room for drying henna and threshing sorghum completing the village (Ziolowski and al Sharqi). Most of these, but not all, are still standing and there has been some restoration. On the other side, you will see a walled graveyard.

Further down the road stand the remains of an abandoned village and hillfort, which has been carbon-dated to a time between 1470 and 1705 AD. Remnants of pottery have also been discovered in this area dated back to the first and second millennia BC and the Bronze and Iron Ages. The hillfort dates back to somewhere between 1470 and 1705 AD (Ziolowski and al Sharqi). Notice the walled terraces in the second photo.

Wadi al Hayl is also home to many petroglyphs which you might be lucky enough to see. Here you can see an example.

(Credit: uaeinteract.com)

Read more about the petroglyphs here. Race Against Time to Save Rock Art (The National)

Although the last villager left in the late 1970s, there are still many working farms in the area and old stone fences can still be seen in the terraces down in the valley.

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To get there, take either the Kalba or Fujairah (Sheikh Khalifa Highway) from the west or drive down the east coast from the north-east and look at for signs once you near Fujairah. Once you come off the main road, there is a paved road most of the way although some parts have been destroyed by rainfall. It does turn to a narrow road further up at the edge of the mountain but only the very faint-hearted  might need to look the other way.  On the way up, you’ll pass through a small village and then al Hayl Dam which is also a great picnic spot and a farming area. Watch out for the donkeys on the way.

You don’t really need a 4WD to get to the fort but if you have one, you can venture further into the valleys but make sure you’re prepared as there will be no phone signal further down. (The road to Al Hayl is paved but it has been damaged in a couple of short stretches and is just very small rocks.)

Al Hayl is definitely a place not to be missed for those interested in the history of the region.

References:

Umm al Quwain Mangrove Forest

If you are like me and enjoy walking on a natural surface surrounded by nature, or if you enjoy bird-watching, this is a place for you. You can walk, cycle or drive the full length of the mangrove forest (approx. 9 km) And if you go on a weekday morning, you’re unlikely to meet anyone on your way. (Well, you might meet me!)

At either end of the forest, there are small beaches to sit and admire the view, watch out for local or migrating birds or just enjoy the peace away from city life. It’s a stop off point for many migrating birds and birds found living there include Western Reef Heron, Greater Flamingo, Crab Plover, Socotra Cormorant along with sandpipers, plovers, shrikes and many more. You might even be lucky enough to spot a Greater Spotted Eagle or a Kingfisher.

You can also enjoy the mangroves from the other side by renting a kayak or taking a kayak tour. There are tours of different lengths and at different times of day including sunset. You might see crabbers out and you can also join nighttime crabbing tours from the Flamingo Hotel.

Please note that swimming and fishing are strictly prohibited here.

The Governor’s Palace, Masafi

A little known treasure in Masafi is the Governor’s Palace not far from the fort. It lies within the Fujairah territory of Masafi and was home to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad al Sharqi although it was more of a stopover when travelling to other parts and, like the fort, was of strategic importance.

It has been restored and is open to the public. Its setting amongst the mountains makes it a beautiful place to stop off en route to the cities, beaches or desert and the gardens at the front provide a perfect place to just sit on one of the benches and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Location: 25.3040719, 56.1625868

Entrance: free

An enclave in an exclave

If you have driven around the northern parts of the UAE, you will no doubt have noticed that you pass from one emirate into another and then suddenly back again or you may find yourself in an emirate you thought you were nowhere near.

UAE geography is clearly not straightforward. This goes back to territories owned by different ruling families before the birth of the UAE as well as gifts of land between the families and change of allegiance to rulers. And as in so many countries, there was also a British political officer involved in drafting territorial maps.

Ras al Khaimah has a northern and a southern region separated by a strip of Fujairah. Fujairah itself is separated by Sharjah. The emirate of Ajman has two enclaves, one inland, Manama, and one in the east, Masfoot, whilst Dubai has the enclave of Hatta in the east. To add to this, Oman has a few enclaves within the UAE.

Sharjah is probably the most interesting and most scattered emirate. The main part stretches from the city of Sharjah into the central region which includes Dhaid, Madam, Maleha and many other small towns and villages.

On the east coast, the small enclave of Dibba al Hisn is sandwiched between Dibba Fujairah and Dibba Oman. As you continue your journey down the east coast you chop and change between territories, starting in Oman (the enclave of Musandam) then passing through Sharjah (Dibba al Hisn) then Fujairah, then Sharjah again (Khor Fakkan) then Fujairah, then back to Sharjah ( Kalba) before finally going back to Oman. Dibba, Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Wadi al Helou (a mountainous region to the west of Kalba) are known as the Eastern Region.

The most fascinating of these must surely be the tiny enclave of Nahwa which is situated inside the Omani exclave of Madha. Madha is bordered by Sharjah (Khor Fakkan), Fujairah and Ras al Khaimah and has a population of around 3000. Apart from the area of new Madha, it is mountainous territory with numerous beautiful oases scattered through it.

Madha became part of Oman around 80 years ago when its people chose to align themselves with the Omani Sultan rather than the leaders of RAK, Fujairah or Sharjah as they believed at that time that Oman could help them more.

Nahwa covers an area of just 75km² and contains a tiny village made up of new Nahwa and old Nahwa. It consists of fewer than a hundred houses, a police station with a fire and ambulance service, a health centre, a primary school, a sports centre, a small play park, a grocery and several farms. It is governed and serviced by the municipality of Khor Fakkan.

If you haven’t visited any of these places yet, it’s time to get your map out and start exploring!

And a few photos from Madha.

Sharjah Light Festival at University City

There are four locations for the Light Festival at University City. Drive down the main avenue through the City where the palms are all lit up and stop to watch the Sound and Light Show at Sharjah Police College. Next head down to al Dr Sultan al Qasimi Centre for Gulf Studies and finally drive or walk up to City Hall to watch another show. Then you can enjoy something to eat or drink from the food trucks opposite.

Have fun!

#SharjahLightFestival