A love affair with Sharjah had already commenced and there was too much to see, marvel at and be awed of in this Emirate. In the days that followed, daily excursions near Sharjah to Al Hajar , Mleiha and Khorfakkan ensued and led to startlingly surprising discoveries. While the architecture of the city mystifies, the bustle of the souks enthralls and the skyline excites, the areas around the emirate reek of natural beauty.
You might want to see both these contrasts in the video below:
On one end are endless sand dunes, with desert winds blowing creating ripples, on the other are the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman, with the sea breeze blowing creating ripples.
So when you have time in hand, while in Sharjah, here are some day excursions you can take, absolutely doable with a little bit of the hills, a little bit of the sand and a little bit of the shores!
Al Hajar mountains: Distance from Sharjah : 100 kms
Raw, rugged and rocky. The drive to the Al Hajar mountains via the East coast, welcomes you with panoramic views of deep ravines and layers of mountains as if they are stacked one behind the other.
Curvy roads lead the way and the mountain breeze keeps company as you venture deeper into the mountains, standing tall with gravel and devoid of vegetation.
It’s a different kind of a mountain range, sparse trees, mostly shrubs, minimal greenery, yet majestic in their own way. The Al Hajar mountains are one of the tallest in the Arabian plateau.
Drive from Sharjah to Fujairah via the East coast road and watch the landscapes change from cityscapes to dry deserts to rugged terrains
. The Al Hajar mountains stretch all the way to Oman and for that stretch you’d need an Omani visa and a 4×4. For the Fujairah stretch, you can drive straight past with the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman giving you company.
Somewhere at a pit stop, I came across a group of locals, camping at a spot overlooking the valley, cooking their own food, lighting a small fire and celebrating their weekend.
Stop at the Friday market on the East coast road to interact with the local tribes selling traditional carpets, fresh fruits and vegetables and clay pots.
There is an array of colours at the market with fruits imported from various countries on display. Hop in a shop where carpets from Afghanistan and Iran are exhibited and marvel at the grandeur of the handwork.
Khorfakkan beach: Distance from Sharjah: 134 km
Drive straight to Khorfakkan for a tete a tete with the gorgeous blue waters of the Gulf of Oman. The drive is as mesmerising as the destination. With Oman just 2 km away, you are tempted to head straight to Musandam, but wait. I strongly recommend a visit to Khorfakkan first. As your eyes meet the magical blue, you wonder if you are in UAE in the first place.
Khorfakkan means the creek of two jaws and it belongs to Sharjah even though it is geographically bordered with the emirate of Fujairah.
There are island trips offered by boatmen and you can kayak as well. But if you would like an entire stretch of the beach to yourself, hop into the Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort and Spa, a luxury resort just 1 km away from the main town, with picturesque views of the sea from their rooms.
Even if you do not stay, you can dine at their sea facing restaurant or indulge in a spa with a view.
The hotel offers kayaking packages as well.
You can see the Khorfakkan port at a distance, with container ships bobbling in the sea.
Khorfakkan is easily one of the most beautiful areas along the east coast of UAE, with its laid back charm and raw natural beauty.
Al Bidiyah archaeological mosque:
Enroute Khorfakkan, you will come across a yellow structure situated on a small hillock. Masjid Al Bidiyah is built of mud bricks and stone and has a unique structure, quite unusual for a religious building in the emirates.
The mosque has a roof with four pointed domes and supported with an internal pillar and is known to be as old as 1400 AD.
The mosque is bordered with shrubs and cacti, giving the place an Arabic desert feel. A stop at the mosque on your way to Khorfakkan is recommended if you are a history buff and like all things ancient.
Besides, it is right alongside the highway with no detours.
Mleiha Archaeological centre : Distance from Sharjah: 62 kms
Nestled in the desert dunes of Sharjah, is an ancient , well preserved archaeological site called Mleiha.
Ancient Mleiha is a treasure trove for lovers of archaeology. The place has an intriguing history and a guided tour of the museum provides breathtaking insights to the history of Mleiha and the role it played in the evolution of the human community.
The exhibition centre has classic interactive displays where one can browse through various areas: geology, hydrology, natural resources across basins, gravel, mountains and springs. Walk through the different periods of human civilisation: The Iron Age, the Bronze Age, Neolithic and Palaeolithic.
After the guided tour, one can step out and witness the fossil rocks and the dunes by means of a desert safari.
It is an adrenaline rush as you enter 4x4s and gear up for dune bashing. The drivers follow a trail and take you around these ethereal natural structures which make you wonder in awe.
This desert safari stresses on the natural exploration bit rather than the cultural bit and is far less commercialised than the ones in Dubai. (So do not expect any belly dancing here!)
Watching the sunset over the dunes was a calming and gorgeous experience and what’s better, it wasn’t even crowded!
A definite must do if you love to don the explorer hat and dig into ancient history of a place. Do not skip the museum tour as it helps to understand the geology of the place.
UAE offers a plethora of options for every kind of traveler: the adventure seeker can head to Ras Al Khaimah. The architecture lover can head to Abu Dhabi for visiting the Grand Mosque, the shopper can head to Dubai for mall hopping or indulging in a laid back luxury stay at JW Marriott in Dubai, one of the many Dubai hotels and the beach lover can head to Ajman for a quiet, low key break.
If you thought Sharjah was boring, well you clearly haven’t explored it enough. Head out away from the usual attractions and discover dunes, rocky mountains and blue waters that reek of the natural beauty of this emirate.