Al Manama, enclave of Ajman

Manama Ajman UAE, view over farm area from Red Fort

Al Manama, Ajman, UAE

Let me take you on a journey to the enclave of Al Manama surrounded by desert, mountains and plains and home to farms, forts, parks and serenity. It’s also a place I’ve visited regularly since 2004 and home to my in-laws since for several decades.

View over Al Manama Ajman UAE

This post was first published in 2021 and fully updated and republished on 25 December 2023.

Many people are surprised to know that the Emirate of Ajman has two inland enclaves. While Manama which sits at the foot of the Hajar Mountains, the other, Masfout, lies further south on the Oman border.

History of Al Manama

Despite Manama not being as well known now, it played a major role in saving the people of Ajman after the sudden collapse of the pearling industry in the 1920s. It has rich agricultural land which was already farmed at the time but then Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Alnuaimi, who became the ruler in 1928, supported the farmers enabling them to make full use of the land and provide both food for Ajmanis and an income for the sheikhdom.

palm grove manama ajman

Until then, the main purpose of farming was to feed the family and maybe make a little extra selling at the local souq. Tobacco was also grown for their own use. However, Sheikh Rashid saw that Al Manama was crucial to Ajman’s economy at that time and paid for fruit trees to be planted on empty spaces on the farms. He also paid for the falaj system to be repaired and upgraded and appointed a new wali to oversee it all. This all lead to a massive increase in fresh produce in Al Manama.

falaj manama ajman
Falaj at Al Manama

One of the main crops was papayas, but other crops were grown too, especially citrus fruits and dates. Wild sidr and samar honey was harvested but for those doing so it was often a dangerous job. Sheikh Rashid explored overseas markets for this and also for wood to be sold to increase the income of Ajman. Hundreds of Rohida trees were planted for the bark and wood to be sold overseas.

papaya tree uae

Manama was also an important military location and still is. In 1951, the paramilitary force of the Trucial Oman Levies was established by the British and in 1956, they became the Trucial Oman Scouts. Their headquarters were in Mirgab, Sharjah but a training camp for Arabs was opened in Manama in 1961. It is here that my father-in-law worked as a paramedic. (The Desert Regiment and Mortar Troop were based just a few miles aways at Adhen.)

Trucial Oman Scots at Al Manama Camp Ajman 1960s

Here is an old video of TOS marching and a pipe band playing, possibly before a football match.

In 1971, when the United Arab Emirates was formed, the camp was handed over to the Union Defence Force and became the training school for the Ajman military. It is now one of the training camps for National Service (mandatory for UAE males since 2014.)

Al Hessa Tower and Al Naseem

Hessa Baweid is a watchtower standing on a rock near the border with the Emirate of Sharjah. It was built in 1976 in the area called Al Naseem. Around the same time the first houses in Al Naseem were built by Sheikh Rashid for those residents in Manama who previously lived in areesh houses (made of palms.)

hessa tower manama Ajman

Just a few minutes walk from here, Sheikh Rashid Al Nuaimi, the previous ruler of Ajman had a majlis and he would regularly come and spend a few days there. Sheikh Rashid was a humble man who helped his people and the majlis was always open to anyone. My father-in-law who was one of those who would go and sit with him back in the old days.

house gate al naseem manama

Al Naseem Nature Reserve is under development and already home to rare wildlife as well as flora, including many samar trees. The reserve covers a small area of 0.4 square km and over 3000 trees have already been planted. The Emirates Environmental Group recently had a planting day for volunteers.

al naseem reserve ajman

On Al Naseem St is a Ladies Park. It’s nice to sit with a picnic while children play. There is a walking track round the park. There is also a concrete walking path alongside Naseem Nature Reserve.

Tip: The speed limit on Al Naseem Rd is 60kph (with a buffer of 19kph). I got two fines of AED 600 within 30 minutes when they first installed the cameras. Also, note that if your car registration has expired, you’ll get a fine of AED 500 in the Emirate of Ajman.

plains of manama ajman
Plains at Al Naseem Manama

The White Fort Al Manama

There are two forts near the mountains, the White Fort and the Red Fort. They and the surrounding area still belongs to the Ruler of Ajman but parts have been opened up and landscaped for local residents and visitors to enjoy.

The White Fort was that later of the two to be built after 1928 and during the rule of Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Alnuaimi, one of the Founding Fathers of the UAE.

I visited the White Fort back in 2013 before it was closed off for further development. It still doesn’t seem to be open although you can sometimes just wander in. These photos are from 2013 but it hasn’t changed much outside.

Al Manama Museum Park Ajman

Next to the White Fort is a heritage village and Manama Museum Park. It is open after 4 pm. The park is landscaped with a play area and a few gazebos for picnics. Events are often held here, such as the Spring Festival and National Day events.

You can enter the park either through the museum gate or the small gate on the village side. If you’re driving up to the White Fort, go right off-road before the parking area and the gate is further up.

(Please note neither barbeques nor dogs are allowed in the park.)

The Red Fort Al Manama Ajman

The Red Fort is surrounded by farmlands belonging to the ruling family. As you drive up from the White Fort to the Red Fort, you pass lush green fields on one side and palm groves on the other.

It was built some time between 1910 and 1928 during the rule of Sheikh Humaid bin Abdulaziz Alnuaimi and was restored in 1986 with a third tower being added. It has since changed with a layer being added on top of the original building and architectural changes made too.

The photos above were taken between 2021 and 2023. Further down, you can see photos of how the fort looked before.

In front of the fort, you can see oryx, gazelles, zebras and white donkeys in separate enclosures.

The fort itself is set in beautiful gardens and if you climb up to the higher floors, you can enjoy a view over the mountains, farms and plains.

View over Al Manama Ajman UAE

Avoid taking photos or videos behind the fort as this is the military camp. There are no signs in the fort regarding this, but common sense should prevail!

Manama Ajman entrance to Red Fort
Entrance to the Red Fort

(Update: May 2021 – it has been reported that the Red Fort is not currently open to the public. Sometimes it’s open, sometimes it’s not!, December 2023 – from multiple visits from 2021 to present, it still seems sometimes open and sometimes not.)

The photos below were taken in February 2013 before the last changes were made.

Location on Glimpses of the UAE map – here.  All are in the same area.

Al Bayyah Dam, Manama

Al Bayyah Dam is an excellent spot for watching migratory birds during the winter months. Of course, the water level is dependent on how much rainfall there has been in preceding months and it can often be almost completely dry.

Al Bayyah Dam, Manama Ajman

I like to park and take a walk around it. You can access it by going right before the paved parking area before the dam itself and following the road round. Go left when you see a gap to drive through. There is more greenery at the top and on the other side so that can be a better sport for birdwatching, especially when the water level is low.

green rocky area at the near Al Bayyah Dam, Manama Ajman

Rest Areas around Al Manama

There are some rest areas popping up around the area with the development of Masfout 2030. I wouldn’t say they’re particularly scenic yet but they were quiet and made a nice spot to stop off to have my karak (tea) and paratha. (I recommend the cafeteria next to the gate of the White Fort for this!)

Rivaloo Farm

If you’d like to stay overnight in the area, Rivaloo Farm is a great choice for a gathering of family and friends. They have both an indoor and outdoor pool, a bbq area, outdoor seating, children’ play area. The rental is is for the entire unit.

Weather in Al Manama

In summer the weather is around 5°C hotter than the west coast but it is usually dry. From personal experience, September tends to be the month that sees some humidity. In winter, it’s around 5°C cooler than the coast and sometimes more, especially at night.

Rain is more frequent than at the coast but still only occasional. Rain or hail in summer is not unusual and is often accompanied by high winds.

Interesting facts about Al Manama Ajman

  • The enclave is sandwiched between the Emirates of Sharjah and Fujairah.
  • In 2007, plans were announced to build an international airport and the Princess Resort in Al Manama. The resort was to have a lake, woods, and even a beach and one of the investors was Patrick Swayzee. An area was fenced off and flags with “Princess Resort’ on them flew along the fence. The plans were cancelled in 2008. (We had built our home and retreat on a farm close to Manama in 2006. Imagine how distraught I was at the news of the airport!)
  • Around 2012/3, plans were announced again for the airport. There is no sign of recent development (phew!)
  • Dozens (or hundreds?) of stamps were issued with ‘Manama, Dependency of Ajman’ on them along with many more from the ‘State of Ajman’ between 1966 and 1972. Very few of the pictures had anything to do with Ajman or even the Middle East! You can do a google image search of Manama dependency of Ajman stamps to see. They started off as collectors’ items but soon the market was flooded and they lost value.
  • In 2012, there was a reunion event for Trucial Oman Scouts with many attending from the UK.
  • It covers an area of 25.73 sq km (9.9 sq mi), has an elevation of 233m (765 ft) and in the census of 2017, had a population of 5,823.

Wrap-up on Al Manama

To wrap up, there are a few interesting places to visit in Al Manama Ajman and you may wish to add something else nearby into your day trip, or at least have a plan B in case you spend less time than you expect there. Unless you want to spend time relaxing in the park, a couple of hours is probably enough time to look around. You can see what else is nearby further down.

If you liked this post, you might also like my posts on Masfoot, Kalba, Khorfakkan and 19 Best Things to do in Ajman.

What else to visit near Al Manama Ajman?

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