Bullfighting and steep mountains
The largest settlement on the United Arab Emirates’ east coast, Fujairah (or “Fujairah city” – where your MSC cruise ship awaits your return – as it’s often described to distinguish it from the eponymous emirate) has recently enjoyed something of a minor boom, mainly on the back of economic developments in neighbouring emirates, especially Dubai.
The focus of much of this is the city’s massive oil-refuelling port – the world’s third largest after Singapore and Rotterdam – at the southern end of town, which is where most of the UAE’s oil is exported from, as its east coast location saves shipping from making a two-day dog-leg around the tip of the Arabian peninsula. MSC Dubai, Abu Dhabi & Sir Bani Yas cruises also offer excursions to the main sight in town: the photogenic Fujairah Fort (not currently open to the public), off Madhab Road on the northern edge of the city centre.
Dating back to the sixteenth century, this is the most picture-perfect of the UAE’s many forts, set atop a large plinth and with high, bare walls rising to a pretty cluster of towers and battlements, dramatically framed by an outcrop of the Hajar Mountains. Immediately south of the fort, the rather pedestrian Fujairah Museum houses a run-of-the-mill collection of local weaponry, jewellery and archaeological displays. A Fujairah peculiarity is the town’s traditional bull-butting contests (mnattah in Arabic).
This sport is said to have been introduced to the Gulf by the Portuguese sometime during the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries; unlike Spanish bullfighting, the bulls fight one another, rather than a matador. And although there’s plenty of bovine testosterone floating around, no blood is spilled – although spectators occasionally have to dash for cover if one of the bulls decides to make a run for it.