In addition to developing its major attractions so they are tourist-friendly, Fujairah would do well to establish ‘fast tourism’ for the majority of visitors whose stay in the emirate is only for a weekend, a day or a few hours.
Six Hour Tourists
In recent days we have seen the rise of the cruise ship tourist in which between October and May, two cruise ships (each with approximately 2,500-2,800 passengers) a week dock in Fujairah for the best part of a day. What a great business this could be but the underdeveloped state of tourism in the emirate means that only 5% of the passengers on each cruise bother to get off their ship at the Fujairah Port.
While cruises in this region are on the rise, the accumulation of Cruise Ship tour commentaries, such as the Cruise Critic who calls Fujairah ‘Foo-what?’ and an ‘uninspiring city with little to do’, has led passengers to stick around the ship’s swimming pool rather than explore the emirate. Those who take a tour appear to spend most of their short stay visiting the Fujairah markets and renewing their supplies at the Lulu Hypermarket.
The One or Two Day Tourist in Fujairah
If tourists have got one or two weeks to spend in the UAE they are not likely to devote more than one or two days to each of the seven emirates, especially the lesser known emirates.
Dubai has marketed itself to such an extent that many around the world recognise the ‘Dubai’ brand more than the name ‘UAE’. More recently Abu Dhabi is developing several sparkling tourism attractions that will urge tourists to devote the bulk of their time to exploring the western side of the UAE.
According to the opinions on expat forums, many residents in Dubai and Abu Dhabi think that one or two days are enough time for ‘doing Fujairah’.
Marketing Fujairah as a stopping off point on the way between Oman and Dubai may be a good strategy for the increasing number on this route but how can the eastern emirate pitch itself to cater for the one day tourists?
A Taste of Fujairah
Toward the end of last year I received a letter that went like this:
“My husband and I are touring the UAE from the USA. We will be in Fujairah for one day on Saturday 11 December 2010. We have read about the bull butting and the sword competition in Fujairah. Will these events be scheduled on this day?”
Unfortunately, I had to respond in the negative but the enquiry started this line of thought about developing tourism for the one day tourist.
The Al Saif Traditional Sword competition which had its inaugural showing from October to December 2010, gave a valuable example of what might be achieved at the Fujairah Fort. The sword competition was central but it was accompanied by entertainment, a host of cultural activities and the opportunity for thousands of people to visit a heritage village.
Extending this idea further one could envisage at the Fujairah Fort a heritage tourism extravaganza. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
A large Marhaba (Welcome) Centre with sufficient services (refreshment shops, souvenirs, toilets etc) to accommodate hundreds of people at any one time who might come from cruise ships or by tourist buses from Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
A 90 minute programme, each morning, afternoon and evening on every day of the week, presented on the arena where the sword competition was played out, in which visitors can get a taste of Fujairah.
The programme could include:
+ Bull butting
+ Falcon flying
+ Al Saif Traditional Sword throwing and dancing
+ Arabian horse parade
+ Entertainers singing traditional and contemporary Emirati songs
+ Yollah Dancing
+ Poetry reading
+ Camel parade and camel racing
+ Video presentation highlighting Fujairah heritage sites (Bitha, Bidyah, Wurayah etc), heritage sports (traditional rowing, shasha) as well as contemporary tourism delights (fishing, jet skis, dhow cruises, diving etc).
Before and after the programme there could be a range of activities for people to experience Fujairah viz. traditional coffee drinking and eating dates, henna painting, shisha imbibing, Arabic food, have a go at palm crafts, horse riding, watch the shasha being made, camel riding, pottery making exhibition etc.
Lots of good quality shops, galleries and restaurants might round out the area.
When good signage is posted and information made available, people will be able to take an interesting guided tour of the fort, the surrounding historic homes and the museum.
‘Fast tourism’ isn’t everybody’s preference but if tourists to Fujairah get a taste of the emirate they might just be tempted to make a long, lingering return visit during which they tour the main sites.
This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.
Image: Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing…camel parade, camel rides, photos with camels…”