Where the Fak is Khor Fakkan??!

Published: June 20th 2020
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Later that evening…our first theatre show. The whole ship seemed a little subdued. We arrived only five minutes before the curtain raised and we were still spoilt for choice as to where to sit. What a difference a cruise makes. On our last trip, people were turning up an hour before the show to ensure they got a seat and now it’s a case of:

‘What time does the show start?’

‘It depends. What time can you make it!!’

Khor Fakkan – the city time forgot…or at least the city Chris forgot as I was ready to move on to Muscat until I read my notes!!

A day at sea, our first of five during this trip. MSC is not as prolific as some cruise companies in holding trivia sessions. It depends where the ship is – in the Med, for example, you are unlikely to encounter any quizzes. However, in the Arabian Gulf, we have never been disappointed. We headed down to Le Cabaret, a midships lounge on deck 6. As we entered the room, we both heard another familiar voice, coincidentally also talking to our English hostess (who was German!!) Anne-Karine. This time, though, it didn’t have an East Lancashire twang. In fact, the twang wasn’t British sounding at all but carried a distinctive Antipodean inflection, raising a tone at the end of each sentence!!

‘Hello Anne’, I said as we approached her. ‘Fancy meeting you here’.

‘You know each other?’ asked Anne-Karine in her near perfect English accent.

Unlike the meeting with Beryl and Brian several days ago, this was totally coincidental. We met Anne two years ago on a cruise together around South-East Asia. She is from Adelaide and is a solo traveller. Then, she asked if she could join our team. Now it was our turn to repay the compliment.

It was just like old times. We won this trivia by netting a perfect score – 15/15. The next highest score was eight. There were only seven or eight team playing and we received a pleasant round of applause for our, what was to become, a routine victory. Would they still be clapping in a few days’ time?? I wonder!!

Khor Fakkan is a city in the United Arab Emirates that lies on the Red Sea, approximately 30 miles from the Omani border. The unusual thing is that it is an enclave within the UAE. There are seven Emirates in the UAE including Sharjah and Fujairah. Khor Fakkan remains part of Sharjah but completely surrounded by the Emirate of Fujairah. It’s like saying if Yorkshire won the War of the Roses: ‘We’re taking Wigan, as well but you can keep the rest of Lancashire!!’

Khor Fakkan, despite being a city, is, by UK standards no more than a small town and by US standards nothing more than a sleepy hamlet!! From the sun deck, on board the MSC Lirica, you could see the main Mosque towering above the rest of the buildings in the city/town/hamlet*. Despite its reputation as a dusty commercial port, Khor Fakkan is not without its own charm. This was obviously written by someone from Khor Fakkan!! Its name translates to: ‘Creek of the Two Jaws’ reflecting its setting in a picturesque bay flanked on either side by two headlands.

On leaving the ship we followed a marked path several hundred yards to the port gate. A few taxis were waiting but did not seem that bothered in touting for business. As we passed one of the taxis, I felt like saying to the driver, who was more interested in devouring some sort of fruit-cum-vegetable hybrid thing, than a potential fare, Go on then. Ask me??! Immediately outside the port gate overlooking the harbour is what could only be described as 30 metre slag heap. That is until I googled it. This was Al Adwani Tower. It used to act as a lighthouse for ships. The original tower, which was built in the 15th century, was located on a mountain (I think they mean mound!!) overlooking the historical Khor Fakkan Port. It remained standing until 1985, when it was destroyed along with the mountain! Sheikh Sultan ordered the reconstruction of the tower, and the major challenge of the reconstruction project was to find its original location. If it was only destroyed in 1985, people must have very short memories or else a terrible sense of direction!! The Local Government of Khor Fakkan aimed to accurately locate the mountain, by looking at old maps of the region and demolished buildings in the area, to find the tower’s unique location. Now despite the teachings of Mohammed, the locals couldn’t actually move a mountain so they recreated one by using bits of an old quarry!! The result stood before me now (see photo)

At a small roundabout we turned right to follow the shoreline around the bay. We cut through a small boat yard where the catch of the day, a modest haul of fish, already salted, had been laid out to dry in the sun. This led out on to the broad promenade, or as its known in the Middle East, the Corniche. Things have changed a lot. Whilst walking along the promenade, the focal point used to be run down and derelict buildings on the opposite side of the road. They were still there but no longer the eyesore due to the development and expansion of the Corniche. The promenade, wide and roomy, has a park-like quality with bushes and palm trees interspersed with plenty of seating. The highly patterned block paving using traditional Arabic patterns and designs added to the charm. As for the crumbling ruins across the road; nothing a Starbucks and Pizza Express can’t solve. These retail units along with other lesser known brands stands between you and 1970s Beirut!! A Thai restaurant is also ‘coming soon’!! The icing on the cake, though was proper toilets!! The cleanest public toilets we have experienced thus far. Clean AND western. Result!!

Just over a mile from port, we arrived at a small parade of shops which we remembered from our previous visit. Walking through an arcade we arrived in a back street with a department store across the road. And that’s about as good as it got. We did look for an official ship’s excursion prior to our arrival in Khor Fakkan. There were only four. When two are trips to beaches, one is a 4 x 4 off road experience and the fourth is a visit to a local’s house, it sums up the many sights and attractions that Khor Fakkan has to offer!!! The walk was pleasant enough though…

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