Fujairah is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, on the Gulf of Oman in the country's east.
The Emirate of Fujairah covers , or about 1.5% of the area of the U.A.E. Its population is around 130,000 inhabitants. Only the Emirate of Umm al-Quwain has fewer occupants.
Fujairah is the only Emirate of the U.A.E. that is almost totally mountainous. All the other Emirates, like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are located on the west coast, and are largely covered by desert. Therefore, Fujairah boasts a higher than average yearly rainfall, allowing farmers in the region to produce one meaningful crop every year.
The weather is seasonal, although it is warm for most of the year. The months of October to March are generally regarded as the coolest, with daytime temperatures averaging around and rarely venturing above with temperatures climbing to over degrees in the summer. The winter period also coincides with the rainy season and although by no means guaranteed, this is when Fujairah experiences the bulk of its precipitation. Rainfall is higher than the rest of the U.A.E. partly because of the effect of the mountains that encircle the Emirate, and partly because the prevailing winds are westerly bringing with them water-laden clouds off the warm Indian Ocean.
The variability of the east coast climate is partly due to the presence of the Hajjar mountain range. As with other mountainous areas, precipitation is higher, and this allows for a more varied micro-environment in the area. Tourists may thus be drawn to the uniqueness of Fujairah, with visitor numbers peaking just before the school summer months.
Power is ultimately held by the ruler of Fujairah, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, who has been in power since the death of his father in 1974. The Sheikh supposedly makes his own money by doing business, and the government funds are used for social housing development and beautifying the city, though there is little distinction between the state and his personal wealth. Any decisions regarding any aspect of law can be made by the ruler, although Federal laws are never repealed. But, it must be stressed that the ruler of the Emirate can choose to operate in a completely autonomous fashion.
The Cabinet of Fujairah is headed by the Sheikh and his immediate family, with a few members of respected local families making up the advisory committees. Any Cabinet decisions must be ratified by the Sheikh himself, after which they may be enacted into law as Emiri Decrees. Emiri Decrees are usually effective immediately, and without proper public consultation processes, can sometimes be confusing, causing not inconsiderable consternation amongst the inhabitants of the city.
Foreigners or visitors are not allowed to buy land. Emirati nationals can purchase land from the government, after proving their nationality. If there is no suitable land available via the official government offices, private purchases can also be made, with the eventual price being determined by the market and the individuals themselves.
Fujairah's economy is based around subsidies and federal government grants, distributed by the government of Abu Dhabi (the seat of power in the U.A.E.). Local industry consists of cement, stone crushing and mining. These industries have witnessed a resurgence due to the frenzied construction activity taking place the commercial powerhouses of the country. Notably, there is a flourishing free trade zone, mimicking the success of the Dubai Free Zone Authority which was established around Jebel Ali Port, the busiest port in the region since the 1980s. It has witnessed an exponential growth from 2003 onwards, leading to an expansion project that would double its capacity.
Federal government departments employ the majority of the native (local) workforce, with few opening businesses of their own, and many of the local citizens (also referred to as locals) work within the service sector. The Fujairah government imposes strict commercial laws which prohibit foreigners from owning more than 49% of any business or enterprise. Some of the reason why the free zone authorities have flourished to such an extent, is due to the relaxation of this rule within their boundaries, allowing full foreign ownership. Shaikh Saleh Al Sharqi, younger brother to the ruler, is widely recognised as the driving force behind the commercialisation of the economy.
Unemployment, however, remains a grave concern for the government. Conservative figures put the unemployment rate at around 50% - 60%, which is amongst the highest in the world. There is a fear that without affirmative and decisive action, there is a real danger that apathy and discontent could spread amongst the youth, which could prove to be an extremely volatile situation for future administrations.
Poor wages are also a problem in Fujairah, with construction workers at the bottom of the pyramid. On average a 12 hour working day, starting at 7 am and ending at 8 pm, will only provide about US$5 - US$10, out of which the workers pay for meals, transport and entertainment. Some companies pay the workers per day and some of them per month. It depends on the company that they work for and on the workers themselves (if they work for all the time they were assigned).
Companies seldom pay for workers healthcare, and these are hence responsible for financing their hospital visits, whenever the government doesn't subsidize it.
The present ruler is planning to make changes that will affect Fujairah in the future. Among other tourism projects in the pipeline is an $817m resort, Al Fujairah Paradise, near Dibba, on the northern Omani border, next to Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. There will be around 1,000 five-star villas as well as hotels, and it is expected that all the construction work will be finished within two years.
The Sheikh is trying to improve opportunities for the local workforce, by trying to entice businesses to locate in Fujairah and diverting Federal funds to local companies in the form of development projects.
Health care is delivered via a mixed public and private system. Locals are treated free within the federal government hospitals, whilst foreigners have to pay for this service. The Federal hospitals are funded by the national government, which leverages its vast income of petrodollars to subsidise medical care for its own citizens. However, there are problems arising with the new system, with some being concerned that the government is not providing enough healthcare for the lower strata of society, who have to pay for life saving treatment.
The Fujairah government has built many clinics, known locally as "medical houses", for example, Madena Medical House (in Madab), Moresheed Medical House (in Moresheed). These clinics lighten the load on the main Fujairah Hospital by allowing walk-in appointments and providing important ancillary medical services. These clinics have proved to be a success, with the local populace embracing them.
The Chief of Surgery and Emergency Medicine, Dr. S. C. Gautam, is recognised as the protagonist behind the modernisation of healthcare provision within Fujairah, and with lifting the standards of surgical and emergency medical care within the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Gautam is the director of the Advanced Trauma Life Support programme in the U.A.E, having introduced it as a measure to improve emergency treatment and survival rates amongst the thousands of trauma patients admitted across the country every year.
GMC Hospital is a private health care provider in Fujairah. It contains an emergency department, operating theater, pharmacy and outpatients clinics of different categories. It is located near the Ahli Club.
There are many Government schools in Fujairah, which are mainly for Emirati people, beside some numbers of Arab residents. Aside from government schools, there are also many private schools, and due to the majority of the population of the Emirate hailing from the Indian subcontinent, most of the private schools follow the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E.) syllabus, accredited by the Central Education Board of India.
Indian School Fujairah
Our Own English High School
St. Mary's Catholic High School
Three schools also provide the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) syllabus. These schools are aimed at students of the expatriate community who wish to study in overseas countries.
Fujairah Private Academy, also provides International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), A level, AS Level
Our Own English High School
St. Mary's Catholic High School, also provides General Certificate of Education (GCE) A levels
A few other schools, serving other expatriate communities also exist, such as Iranian and Pakistani schools, educating a minority of the student population.
Our Own English High School, Fujairah, caters to the needs of expatriates from many countries including those from the subcontinent. The school follows the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi, India and the IGCSE from Kindergarten to Grade 11/12. It is part of the larger Varkey Group, which owns and runs numerous schools around the U.A.E.
Pakistan Islamia School Fujairah (PISF) U.A.E. was established in 1982 with less than 35 students and classes in wooden cabins. The school has since then grown substantially and is now, with over 402 students and its own school purpose built-building, one of the leading Pakistani Community Schools in the UAE.
Fujairah Academy is a fee paying school for boys and girls from 3.5 - 18 years of age. There are currently approximately 400 pupils, with 120 in the Senior Section. Entry is by interview with parents and children.
Fujairah Montessori Nursery is the only pre-school in Fujairah. Admits children from the age of 2Yrs, open from 8 AM to 1 PM and has flexible drop off and pick up timings. The Montessori is located at building number 14 in the "16 Buildings".
Travel in and around Fujairah and the surrounding towns of Khor Kalba, Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Masafi has been made easy by the development of modern highways over the last 30 years, since gaining independence in 1971. Highways are funded by the federal government directly, and contracts are tendered centrally. This is meant to safeguard the quality and delivery of the contracts and prevent corruption from damaging the construction. Highways are vital due to the unavailability of any other means of transport. There are some buses in Fujairah but not for travel; they are for schools, colleges and some companies or they come from other cities. There are no railways in Fujairah. The car and the truck are the main mode of transport. Most daily activities can become impractical, if not impossible, without a private vehicle.
Newcomers and tourists therefore must take advantage of the local taxi system. There are numerous taxis plying the streets at any given time, day and night. There is no central booking system for private companies, but the government is planning to apply one. The only way to hail a taxi is to stand by the roadside and flag one down. There isn't normally a problem and there will be at least one taxi, if not more, immediately available for hire. Fares within the city are fixed at AED 4 per journey, which equates to approximately 80 cents (USD) or 50 pence (GBP). Destinations which are slightly outside the main city, such as the Beach Motel, Fujairah Hospital and the Jail attract a higher fare of AED 6. It is wise to negotiate the fare before boarding the taxi, as the drivers have a tendency to inflate the prices randomly. However, it must be stressed that most taxis are relatively clean and offer good value for money.
Meter Taxi's have been recently introduced to Fujairah roads. The meter starting from a minimum of AED 2 and climbing quickly as the meter runs. A ride in the new, neat, well maintained taxi now will cost you an average of AED 6.
The Fujairah International Airport is nearby the city, with an impressive falcon statue at the airport roundabout.
Living in Fujairah
It is ruled by a well educated Emir. Common sense normally prevails, but as with anywhere, it is advisable to keep on the right side of the law. On some Fridays, one can still witness lashes meted out for minor offences, such as being drunk in public, with the unfortunate victims usually from the poorer segments of society. Punishments such as these are delivered outside the main court, located next to Fujairah Tower, in the centre of the city.
Drinking alcohol is allowed in designated hotels and, as of 2000, a few bars. Until 1998, gambling in the form of slot machines (one arm bandits) was allowed in certain hotels, but personal petitions by locals to the Shaikh outlawed the activity. It transpired that some players were losing their entire monthly wages on the slots, leaving nothing for the upkeep of their families. The petition was taken to the Shaikh's wife, who then influenced her husband.
At night, there is quite a lot to keep one amused. Fujairah is one of the safest cities in the UAE. Cinemas are generally open till late and de-sexualised versions of the Hollywood blockbusters are normally being shown. It may be amusing to watch movies, which after editing can run for a little over an hour. However, the Hindi cinemas are not constrained by the censors because they are not as raunchy as some Hollywood productions. It is noticeable that most of the cinema-goers are male youths.
Groups of local (Emirati) youths tend to socialise together on the streets and cafes or outside games arcades, cinemas and mini malls. It will be unusual to see females in these groups as Emirati society is quite segregated. Large groups tend to be boisterous and will play up if given the chance. As with groups of youngsters anywhere, it is best to steer clear to avoid trouble, although serious incidents are rare.
On the weekends, many Fujairah residents travel to Dubai to shop, and into the wadis surrounding the emirate on camping and hiking trips. There is also a weekly invasion of west coast residents trying to get away from the stifling heat of the desert. Watersports are very popular amongst the youth - jet skiing, windsurfing and water skiing being the top three.
The Flag of Fujairah
From 1902 until 1952, the flag of Fujairah was plain red. In 1952, the Emir included the name of the emirate, in white, on the red flag. This continued to be the official flag until Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed al Sharqi abolished the red flag and adopted, instead, the Federal flag for Fujairah.
List of rulers of separate Emirates of the United Arab Emirates