Here’s Why You Should Visit Fujairah
Another weekend, another emirate. But why do we all think Fujairah is so far away? Is it because it is on the Indian Ocean side of the UAE? It actually is just about an hour and a half’s drive from Dubai! And the added bonus is that you feel like you are in a completely different country, with the jagged Hajjar mountains, the farms and the greenery around you. But it is actually very much the UAE. It is also home to quite a few of the country’s historical buildings and archaeological sites, such as the tiny Al Badiyah Mosque, the UAE’s oldest mosque built 500 years ago built in stone and mudbricks, which has been restored and still holds daily prayers today, as well as a number of forts and castles.
Besides history, Fujairah it is all about the sea, the beautiful Indian Ocean and its gorgeous colours! Here is our proposal for a quick weekend, but you could also extend your visit and explore the fascinating historical sites.
Family Time: First snorkel for the littlies!
If your youngest is at least between 4 and 5 years old and is comfortable in the water, you cannot miss this introduction to snorkeling for all the young-er members of the family! Al Boom Marine organises snorkeling trips from Le Meridien Al Aqah to Snoopy Island (yes, as in Snoopy and Charlie Brown) daily between 8am and 4pm. The water is quite shallow and with the life vests provided, your kiddies will be safe and will be thrilled to discover all the turtles and colourful fish in their natural habitat. To say that it matches snorkeling in the Maldives might be a bit of a stretch, but it is very good and with it being just a 5 to 7 minute boat ride from the resort, it is oh-so worth it!
‘Me time’ for mummy
Now: who does not love a bargain? And part of the process of getting one is also haggling, an ‘art’ very proper of the Middle East but that seems to be getting lost in the big metropolis. For many of us coming from Western cultures, it is also something that feels somewhat uncomfortable, but it actually is a lot of fun and makes a purchase all the more personal. It is an opportunity to chat to the man at the stall and find out more about them – when is the last time you did that? If you can leave daddy and the children playing happily in the water, head off to the Souq al Juma or Masafi Friday Market, a 45 minute drive through Dibba, which actually happens every day. Take in the sights and sounds of market life in the Northern Emirates and hunt for that rug or piece of ceramic that your living room just ‘needs’. Oh, and remember to take cash with you!
‘Me Time’ for the boys
Scuba diving is quite a common skill amongst UAE residents, but not everybody is a qualified PADI diver. Here it’s not essential to be one – the Al Boom Marine offers a number of options:
If hubby is a qualified diver, treat him to the best diving in the UAE and let him go for the better part of the day. Leaving at 10:30am and returning and 2:30pm, they usually do 2 dives, first at the Dibba rocks and then at the closer Sharm rocks. There is quite a diversity of marine life in the Gulf of Oman and the usual suspects in these type of dives are turtles, sting rays, reef black tip sharks, puffer fish, lion fish, eels and schools of snappers.
Advanced Open Water certified divers can do to the Deep & Wreck dives which take place in quite deeper sites (as far as 24 and 30 metres deep!). Or if he likes the excitement of diving at night, the dive centre at the resort also organises midnight dives in the weekends.
But if your big boy has no PADI certification, no dramas: he can still do a little dive expedition with the Discover Scuba programme which is a one-day introduction with classroom theory, pool dive to ensure he is comfortable under water (no claustrophobics allowed!) and finally the trip into the sea to experience some of that wonderful underwater sea life at the Sharm rocks.
Added bonus!!! With your hotel room keycard, you can borrow an underwater camera from the resort that you can use either to take photos of your family posing underwater in the pool, or take it with you on the snorkel or scuba trip and capture the gorgeousness of marine life in Fujairah.
Where to Stay: Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort
By now you may have realised that we like hotels where no matter what room you book, you have a sea view guaranteed. And Le Meridien Al Aqah is no exception. The modern architecture looks rather striking against the dramatic backdrop of the Hajjar mountains, and the resort exudes the tranquility one deserves when escaping the big smoke, when nothing but the views and the calm of the sea is what the doctor ordered.
There are tons of activities to do and it would be rather inappropriate that mum and dad should not be able to explore some of this wondrousness by themselves (selfish? Err … surely not!). The Penguin Kids Club is a bit of an institution at Le Meridien hotels and resorts, and the littlies are a department that Al Aqah just knows how to do! We like how the different age groups have been split, so that the activities are age-appropriate. Cool stuff like Mini Golf, pizza-making competitions, pirates’ day, t-shirt painting, the gaming arcade and the cinema has made this kids club a real hit amongst the resort’s mini guests.
More often than not, resorts tend to overlook that age group that is caught in between being a child and being an adult. Not here though! The resort also has The Teens Club Al Aqah, a fun centre where young guests aged between 13 and 16 can meet and socialise between 10am and 10pm. Both indoor (pool tables, DVD library, weekly shows, Internet, video games, Wii) and outdoor activities (camping, a selection of watersports, themed activities and pool games) keep them busy and stimulated while mummy and daddy sneak out for a cheeky mid-morning glass of something.
If you are a Thai cuisine lover like me, you will not be able to ignore Taste, the resort’s authentic Thai restaurant. After a day out at sea, there is nothing like the subtle and exotic fragrance of Thai food to add to the holiday feel. And if you choose the mild version of the spicy dishes, a great opportunity to initiate the kids!
But if you are an al-fresco diner, Gonu Beachside Bar & Grill is the place to go, with the stunning blue of the sea as the main entertainment, and plenty of fish and seafood on the menu.
Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Dibba Road, Fujairah
www.lemeridien-alaqah.com, (+971) (0)9 244 9000