Fujairah Collage

Fujairah Collage
Some distinctive landmarks in Fujairah

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Too Many Fujairah Tourist Sites Closed to Visitors

Several bus loads of Asian tourists called in to tour the Fujairah Museum this morning but many more buses with cruise ship passengers skipped the museum and went straight to the Fujairah fort for a fifteen minute visit.

Fujairah Fort Closed
It was heartening that fifteen bus loads of tourists left their cruise ship to tour the emirate of Fujairah but it was disappointing that the iconic fort was closed as usual.

One tour guide said she thought it was closed because the fort was too dangerous for people to go inside.

Another Dubai-based guide said she believed the reason was that Fujairah was too poor and did not have the money for tourist guides and safety officers needed on such a site.

The large number of international tourists this morning had to be content with a gentle climb to the fort and a photo opportunity outside the front door. What a pity that tourists don’t get to see inside, hear the story of one of the oldest buildings in Fujairah and enjoy the sensational views of the city and sea from its towers!

A group of young Emirati men ventured to the level ground outside the fort and were an immediate hit with the crowd. Two women from Texas handed me their camera and asked if I would take a photo of them in the midst of these men who looked stunning in their national dress. One of the Emiratis said to anyone who wanted to hear, “Did you know that this fort was bombed by a British ship?” Two women from Sydney expressed their interest and wanted to hear more. I said to the young man, “You should be a tour guide here at the fort,” to which he replied, “I have a higher job, working as an officer at the Ras Al Khaimah airport!” I said, “Showing tourists the cultural treasures of your country could be one of the most important things you ever do.”

While there are guides at the museum and the Al Bidyah mosque it is a shame that tourists don’t get a guided tour from Emiratis at the most visited site in the emirate.

Bithna Fort Closed
From the Fujairah Fort, one tour guide said, that the next stop would be at Bithna. “Do your passengers get to go down and into the fort I asked?” “No,” she replied, “The bus stops on the side of the highway for people to take a photo.”

It would be bumpy for buses and cars to get down to the wadi and up to the terrace where the fort is located but creating a smooth road with access for buses would not be difficult.

The fort is usually locked but not to enter, explore the fascinating building and marvel at the wonderful 360 degree views of Wadi Ham, is nothing short of a tragedy.

Its importance in modern times is recognized by the way that Bithna Fort was chosen as the representative image for the emirate of Fujairah on the inaugural five dirham note, when it was printed in 1973. What’s more, the fort is only one of the many treasures for tourists to explore in this beautiful valley.

From Bithna the tour buses go to the Friday market at Masafi (which thankfully is always open for tourists to enjoy) before traipsing on to Dibba and returning to the ship via the coastal road.

Bidyah Mosque Closed
The tour guide said that the buses stop at Al Bidyah Mosque but the tourists cannot enter the mosque because it is only open between 9am and midday. Obviously no one has told the tour operators that the mosque hours have recently been extended to 5pm or even later.

Fujairah Tourists Shortchanged
While there will be times in any city when tourist sites are closed for renovations, it is inexcusable when three of the most important tourist sites are closed or open for a limited time.

The sooner these places are open, properly developed and serviced with trained Emirati guides, the better it will be for tourists as well as the wellbeing of Fujairah.

Geoff Pound

This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.

Image: From top to bottom: Fujairah Fort (2), Bithna Fort, Bidyah Mosque.

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