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Middle East » United Arab Emirates » Dubai
April 21st 2000
Published: March 4th 2022
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Mosque in Ras al Khaimah Mosque in Ras al Khaimah Mosque in Ras al Khaimah

Elegant style and colour
Our starting intention was to visit the Strait of Hormuz off the tip of Oman. We had the back-up plan of visiting Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman.

We set off at 7:30 and drove along the route I am now familiar with through Sharjah. Leaving the city behind, we travelled past ordinary concrete, single-storey buildings interspersed with sand held (for the most part) by low bushes and clumped grasses. There hasn’t been any rain since Peggy and John arrived many months ago, except for a brief shower in Sharjah City. What astonished me was that the whole highway was furnished with street lights down the divider (4 lanes).

After at time, we came to Ajman , a small city with the multitudes of shops for small equipment and car parts. There was a large aluminum plant (run and developed by Canadians), thus cast aluminum that looks like wrought iron was everywhere. I particularly liked the grill-like extensions to raise the height of the boxes of small pickups by about a foot.

Shortly after that, mountains loomed startlingly from the haze. Their sudden size made me realize how much dust and haze is ever-present. You cannot ever see far. The mountains look very crumbly and are obviously “pressed” out of the earth by movement of the plates. The curves of their striations are fluid compared to the ripped-out character of the Rockies.

This was Ras al Kaimah . We drove along and around the mountains. A few miles beyond a gigantic cement plant – which added immeasurably to the dusty haze, we came to Sha'am . The border was just beyond but wasn’t marked, and we got lost in a residential area for a bit. Here and in most places, the walls around the houses were what one could see from the outside and were quite well kept. The first sign of increasing well-being was a decorated, but solid gate. Then the whole wall would be decorated. The ground along the wall was rarely groomed except for the more modern villas.

The border with Oman was a very small feature - a guard by a box and a small window-fronted building for discussing passports and visas. The windows were mirrored. Peggy had to put her face down to the moon-shaped hole for passing through documents. In seeing her passport and John’s, the official pushed through two pink exit cards to be “completed”.
Camel near Adh Dharbaniyah, near OmanCamel near Adh Dharbaniyah, near OmanCamel near Adh Dharbaniyah, near Oman

not skittish in face of traffic
When Peggy pushed through my passport and visa, the official cheerfully took the UAE visa and said he would cancel it for us! “No No!”, says Peggy! We needed a visa for Oman. After a few fruitless repetitions of this, which nearly left me stateless on the border line, Peggy got across to him that we had decided not go to Oman but would “go home”. “Yes, go home”, he politely and cheerfully advised. The transaction was without any malice or officiousness. An Australian couple dealing at the next window sympathized and assured us we were still a mile from the actual border.

We reasoned that these were Emirati officials who just worried about UAE visas. When John and Peggy had taken their son to Muscat in Oman a month ago, the officials were Omani – happy to sell a visa and leave the UAE visa untouched. (Peggy and John may try again on their own next weekend.)

Fortunately, we were happy with plan B, crossing the peninsula to Fujairah. John was interested to see the mangrove swamp there, described in the Natural History Museum.

We retraced our way to Ras al Khaimah. It was quite apparent
Mountains near Sha'am Mountains near Sha'am Mountains near Sha'am

Rocky but not high
that RAK city, as it is known, is in a fertile area. (They don’t seem to use the term oasis.) Having ground water, palms grow profusely. Drip irrigation enables lush market gardens, very intensively planted and shaded with green houses - tunnels of fabric spread over metal (aluminum?) hoops.

Further on, the land returned to sand, pock-marked with clumps of grass and isolated acacias, until we came again to the mountains, which followed the coast line. This time we drove through the mountains in valleys that sometimes supported palms and clumps of grass. There were few villages, although occasional signs pointed to more along side roads.

Perhaps more than halfway through the mountains we came to the “Friday Market”. When my brother had mentioned it once, I thought he meant “a Friday market”. But it was called “Friday Market” and was well known by that name. It had an extensive array of vegetables, with a variety of other goods. All were arranged along both sides of the road, although the northerly side seemed to have more brass vessels than vegetables. A couple of dozen four-by-fours were parked in front and people were buying, presumably coming from some distance for this. John remarked that the goods on offer struck a balance between the wealth of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the relative poorness of the other cities.

From Friday Market the mountains rose again and then opened to the fertile area at the sea coast, which is Fujairah. Fujairah was a wholly modern city with most of its buildings very recently “unpacked”. If possible, it was a newer version of Dubai, with possibly more high-rises. They were pale shades of orange, pink and cream, often with coffee-colour decoration or ornamentation. The decoration is not as baroque as in Sharjah.

We headed southerly to find the unmarked mangrove swamp. (Peggy’s guide book said it was planted to preserve reclaimed land.) All along the sea coast were large new beautiful villas, which were set back several hundred feet from the beach. John speculated that this distance and road together act as a sea wall during rough weather.

Suddenly the new villas and well-constructed road dissolved into ordinary houses and road conditions, punctuated with an abandoned fish processing plant. Small fishing boats dotted a shallow harbour. Because this was Friday, all gear was stowed.

Not too far along,
PicnickersPicnickersPicnickers

Mangrove Swamp, Khor Kaiba
the road disintegrated into a somewhat alarming tarmacked “path” that did indeed lead to the mangroves. The scene was pretty with dark green groves and deep blue waters. The mangroves were short – perhaps young or maybe unsuited to the climate.

Depressingly, where the cars park, there was a completely barren “park” - a tamped-down hump of gravel, with a dozen brightly coloured children’s playground toys – swings and “ride-a-horsey”. No caring parent would let any child play there in the heat!

Peggy wandered a ways to consult with some picnickers – her view was that Indian women usually speak English. They were picnicking from their truck, because the sand was too hot, even in the shade of a tree – at least I surmise so. She came back with the information that there was a gravel road around the swamp and that we were very close to Oman. John didn’t feel like risking the underside of his car, so we all agreed our was curiosity was sufficiently satisfied.

The turn off that led to the mangroves was part of a loop, which we now followed. The north-easterly part followed the sea coast, which in most of
Wadis near MasafiWadis near MasafiWadis near Masafi

A few hardy plants mean no rain in a long time.
the towns and small cities (maybe half a dozen) was completed by a “corniche” or board walk. In Khor Fakkan there was also a comfortable long park in which people were whiling away the hot Friday afternoon under trees. A few Indians were sea bathing, but I didn’t notice any locals in the water. This was also the town harbour; the water looked clean.

About where the mountains angled into the sea, the road turns back on itself in a lazy oval to complete the loop. This road went through an area of severe “wadis”, that is, deep cuts made by heavy mountain runoff when there is rain. Absolutely no vegetation grows on the rubble-looking mountains, and of course there is precious little even in the ground to hold back water. In the deepest wadis, palm trees do take root and a small ecosystem starts up. We saw only about three of these sites.

On the way back through Friday Market we stopped to get fruit. I bought two bunches of tiny bananas and a beautifully heavy watermelon. Silly - we left the bananas in the plastic bag, although we kept them in the front of the car (air-conditioned). They were so warm from being in the air at the market that they were fermented by the time we got home!

View map of our tour.


Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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Camels near Adh DharbaniyahCamels near Adh Dharbaniyah
Camels near Adh Dharbaniyah

Wandering around but belonging to someone
Suited to its environmentSuited to its environment
Suited to its environment

Camel near Ab Dharbaniya
Feeling of desolationFeeling of desolation
Feeling of desolation

Mountains near Sha'am
Near Oman border Near Oman border
Near Oman border

Where there is water there is growth.
Near Oman border Near Oman border
Near Oman border

More mountainous, sand in the air
Friday Market Friday Market
Friday Market

Love the rugs!
ConnectedConnected
Connected

Friday Market
Garden plantsGarden plants
Garden plants

Friday Market
Clay vesselsClay vessels
Clay vessels

Friday Market
Mangrove Swamp at Khor Kalba Mangrove Swamp at Khor Kalba
Mangrove Swamp at Khor Kalba

Welcome sight of softness in the harsh environment
Peggy asking directionsPeggy asking directions
Peggy asking directions

Mangrove Swamp, Khor Kaiba
Mangrove Swamp, Khor KaibaMangrove Swamp, Khor Kaiba
Mangrove Swamp, Khor Kaiba

Large expanse of water slowly developing natural vegetation
Khor Fakkan beach park Khor Fakkan beach park
Khor Fakkan beach park

Very hot at mid-day
Wadis near Masafi Wadis near Masafi
Wadis near Masafi

Deep channels cut through stony earth


21st March 2022

Field Trip
That dust/sand-in-the-air atmosphere occurs in the Phoenix area, too; also the growth mostly in the "washes" - the local wadis. Lots of differences between the two deserts, but some interesting similarities. How lucky to have knowledgeable guides who live in the area, and know at least some of the ins and outs (like that Indian women are a likely source of English speakers - who knew?).

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