Friday, December 2, 2011

Fujairah for Diving and Hiking

A couple of weeks ago we made the drive from Abu Dhabi to Al Bidiya in Fujairah two weekends in a row. We went once, and loved the trip so much, we knew we had to go again before the weather got too cool for swimming. What a wonderful place! It reminds me of other laid-back coastal areas we've visited. What is it about living close to the ocean that just changes the way people are?

We stayed in a perfect little place- a scuba shop with a guest house. Scuba 2000 is locally-owned, but run by a lovely Philipino lady named Vangie and the skipper, Romy. There are three rooms, but we were the only overnighters both weekends, which meant that we had the beach entirely to ourselves each evening. The beach is not your everyday bit of sand and waves, but a fascinating collection of rocks, shells, and tidal pools. Abby spent hours just observing the life in those pools, and Mark and I watched some peaceful, vivid sunsets while she played. Idyllic.

During the days, Mark and Abby went diving with Romy and various others who showed up for a day trip. They reported that the diving was great, not too crowded, but full of sea life and excellent visibility. I don't do all that well on boats, so I opted to explore the area instead.

I first visited the oldest mosque in the UAE, Al Bidiya Mosque. It was small and well-situated, on a hill overlooking the sea. I didn't mind at all being there by myself. I said hi to the other visitors, but was free to look around and take pictures as I liked. After looking at the mosque and two towers, I climbed the larger hill next to them. I got a gorgeous view of the valley and the village situated between the mountains and the ocean. Then I drove back to the dive shop and met Mark and Abby coming off the boat. We had a wonderful lunch cooked by Vangie, and spent the evening playing on the beach and eating out in town.

This is the trail- right over the edge!
My next exploration took me to Wadi Wurrayah, a canyon just a few minutes away from Al Bidiya. I had wanted to hike with a group, but the trip was expensive and there were no others signed up for the weekend, so the cost would be even higher. We had bought a map on our way to Fujairah, and the wadi was clearly marked, so I decided to just set out on my own. What freedom!!

I drove over some small mountains and into a national park. The signage was very helpful. Eventually, the pavement ended- in a rocky area that was buzzing with flies because of the horrendous amount of garbage strewn around. The previous weekend had been a big holiday, and apparently the many picnickers didn't clean up after themselves. My car was the only one around. I locked up and headed over to the trail that just went right over the edge of the cliff into the canyon.

It turned out the trail continued in a way, steep and twisty. For some of it I sat on my bottom and slid a bit, trying not to imagine how long I would lie there if I fell and broke my leg. The bottom was very rocky, a dry river bed. I followed it just a few hundred feet to the oasis: a waterfall and pool. There were some Emiratis, two women and a man, who had driven in with their 4x4 along the wadi's bottom. They were amazed when a lone woman, a foreigner, just walked up. "Where did you come from?" They couldn't believe I would hike down from the top of the canyon on my own. We chatted while I walked around on the rocks and put my feet in the cool water. The place was only spoiled by the graffiti thick on the rocks near the pool.
The family climbing down the canyon.

After I had enjoyed the oasis, I faced the climb back up the cliff. To my surprise, there was a family coming down. A bunch of kids of various ages, their mom and dad, and a grandmother and grandfather. It really bolstered my conidence to see them making the climb, the women wearing their abayas! Most of the way up was fine, using my hands and feet, but on a bit near the top I was struggling to pull myself up. Some young Emiratis just happened to be on their way down, and one of them offered me a hand up. Much appreciated. They were also surprised to see a foreign woman alone, and we talked for a few minutes about the similarities between Texas and Fujairah. Then I headed back to the dive shop again.

It was so good to get out into the countryside. We loved the people, the scenery, just everything about the trip. Now it's too cold for enjoying the beach, but we'll head back as soon as we can!

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