There’s a lot to appreciate about the Sheikh Zayed Highway between Fujairah and Dubai that was opened in December 2011.
Many have written about the directness of the route, the speed at which one can travel and the reduced time that it takes to travel from one emirate to another.
The ease and speed is aided by the absence of heavy vehicles and quarry traffic and potentially the safety of travelers is enhanced, unless the express route is turned into a racetrack.
People have commented on the engineering marvels in carving out of the Hajar Mountains a dual carriageway, with three lanes in each direction, according to international standards. The new highway is bringing travelers closer to the beauty, the immensity and might of the mountains in ways that inspire awe.
Some, like Justin Thomas in The National, have delighted in the highway’s newness: “The surface, the markings and even the road signs are all deliciously fresh.”
‘No More of the Old Road’
Some of the many reporters trialing the new highway have dumped vitriol on the old Dhaid-Fujairah road. Mick O’Reilly of the Gulf News vented his spleen in this way:
“No more. No more running the gauntlet of over-eager fruit sellers hawking their mangoes at the Masafi Friday Market, waving slices at you from the end of paring knives, urging you to taste. No more stopping for roasted corn barbecued over charcoal grills, baskets of tomatoes and bags of limes.”
“And no more weaving across two lanes of traffic at the Souq Al Juma, as the market is locally known…. Thanks to the super fast new highway that officially opened on Saturday between Dubai and Fujairah, you hardly have time to peel a mango and eat it before you are on the east coast.”
In a dismissive flourish the Senior Associate Editor of the Gulf News concludes: “Who will miss that winding and dangerous road through the Souq Al Juma? Few, save for those in search of tomatoes, limes and mangoes.”
Treasures Old and New
Hopefully tourists and residents wanting to experience the treasures of the eastern emirate will decide to travel the old and new highways (and also other routes like the Kalba Mountain road that brings one to Fujairah via the amazing town of Wadi Helo).
Those who want to whiz to Fujairah and back only on the new Highway 84 will miss seeing the delights that the Dhaid-Fujairah road has offered to those who enjoy slow travel.
Why the Road Less Travelled Should be Taken
To take the old, slow Dhaid-Fujairah road no more is to miss out on an all-round experience of Fujairah.
Here are some of the highlights on this road that winds through the emirates of Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah:
Sharjah’s Desert Park, which includes the Wildlife Centre (the world’s largest collection of Arabian wildlife, all indoors so it is still pleasant to visit in the hotter weather), the Natural History Museum, the Botanical Museum and the Children’s Farm. The Sharjah Monument is on the other side of the Al Dhaid Road.
On the Dhaid road you can spot signs and centres that display key aspects of Emirati heritage including falconery, bee and honey shops, camel racetracks and date farms such as Al Hashmia where you can see a variety of dates sorted, washed and dried before you taste and buy.
At Thoban (the ‘craft capital of the Emirates’) you can watch traditional Arabic pottery being made at the Thoban Pottery Factory and visit the Al Nakheel Heritage and Craft Works where 85% of its stock is made from Al Nakheel—the common date palm.
Then there’s Masafi (the highest place in the UAE with its pure spring water and rich archaeological sites) and the much-loved Friday Market that offers a traditional bartering experience for such things as the cheapest carpets in the UAE, clay containers of every shape, an oud or some toy camels. This is so unlike anything shoppers might experience in a Dubai or Fujairah shopping mall and it is part of the authentic Arabic culture that most visitors to Fujairah appreciate.
The plant nurseries, the museum at Dhafta, the wadis, the chicken farms and the many roadside markets all contribute to an understanding of how people have survived in this region for hundreds of years.
Then there’s the historic fort at Al Bithna with its archaeological sites and some emerging tourist attractions such as a farm with camels, gazelles, birds and the finest Arabian horses to ride and admire.
So Full of Life
When the British novelist, Jeanette Winterson, wrote (in ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?) about her childhood in Manchester, she compared the old market with the modern malls and she observed that the traditional market was so ‘full of life’. The old Dubai—Fujairah road may be slow but it is so full of life.
With 80% of the traffic that used to flow along the old road now using the modern highway one wonders how the artisans, mango growers, nurseries, honey shops and date farms are surviving?
With 80% of the former Dhaid road traffic now taking the new highway, the old road will not be as slow as it used to be.
All Round Experience
Use and enjoy the delights of the new Sheikh Khalifa Highway but also travel the old Dhaid—Fujairah road to give yourself an all round experience.
Directions from Dubai to Fujairah (using the old Dhaid—Fujairah road), FIF, 12 September 2008.
Directions with Map from Dubai to Fujairah on the New Sheikh Khalifa Highway, FIF, 5 December 2011.
Image: Map depicting the new Sharjah-Kalba Road (mountain road) in red that branches off and becomes the Sheikh Khalifa Highway at Maleha and the Al Dhaid Road that wends its way through a number of villages. CLICK to enlarge the photo.
Keep in Touch With Fujairah
More Fujairah news, reports, resources and photos are posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page. LIKE it to keep in touch with the emerging emirate.