Information about Al Fujayrah

Fujairah is an Emirate located on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E).

Geography of the Fujairah

In terms of area the Emirate (State) of Fujairah is the fifth largest covering 1150 square kilometres, or about 1.5% of the area of the U.A.E. But with a population of only around 130,000 inhabitants, it languishes second from the bottom, with only the Emirate of Umm Al Quwain hosting 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 a 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 25 and rarely venturing above 30 Celsius but during the summer months it can reach 40+ degrees. This period also coincides with the rainy season and although by no means guaranteed, this is when Fujairah experiences the bulk of it's 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.

Government of the Fujairah

Power is ultimately held by the ruler (Shaikh) of Fujairah, Shaikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, who has been in power since the death of his father in 1974. All land in the Emirate is owned by the Shaikh personally, as there is no distinction between state and 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 Any decisions regarding any aspect of law can be made by the ruler, although Federal laws are never repealed.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 Shaikh and his immediate family, with a few members of respected local families and sycophants making up the advisory committees. When a cabinet ruling is passed, this has to be ratified by the Shaikh himself, after which it becomes an Emiri Decree and is enforced immediately. It is not uncommon for decrees to be passed overnight and enacted into law the following day, much to the consternation of the local population.

Economy of the Fujairah

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 in Dubai, the commercial powerhouse of the country. Notably, there is a flourishing free trade zone, mimicking the success of the Dubai Free Zone Authority which was established around Port Rashid, the busiest seaport in the region, in the eighties and nineties.

Federal Government departments employ the majority of the native (local) workforce, with few opening businesses of their own. Local citizens (also referred to as locals) prefer to work within the service sectors and benefit from the generous 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 Shaikh, is widely recognised as the driving force behind the commercialisation of the economy.

Unemployment, however, remains a grave concern for the Government, and it is on this agenda that the present incumbents will be judged. Conservative figures put the unemployment rate at around 50% - 60%, which is amongst the highest in the world. 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 source of embarrassment for the authorities, 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$8 - US$10, out of which the workers pay for meals, transport and entertainment!

Healthcare of the Fujairah

Healthcare 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 Govt. of Abu Dhabi, which leverages its vast income of petro-dollars to subsidise medical care for its own citizens. However, there are considerable problems arising with the new system, and the Government should be criticised for not providing for the lower strata of society, who have to pay for life saving treatment, which is a significant burden on their meagre incomes. It is hoped that the Government will eventually reverse their decision, for the benefit of the foreign labour workforce which has been indipensable to the economy of the country.

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 ATLS 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.

Education of the Fujairah

There are many schools in Fujairah, some better than others. Due to the majority of the population of the Emirate hailing from the Subcontinent, most of the schools follow the Indian C.B.S.E. (Central Board of Secondary Education) syllabus, accredited by the Central Education Board of India.

Indian School Fujairah
Our Own English High School
St. Mary's Catholic High School

There is also three schools following the U.K. G.C.S.E. (General Certificate of Secondary Education) syllabus. This school is aimed at students of the expatriate community who wish to study in Britain or the United States.

Fujairah Private Academy [also provides G.C.E A levels]
Our Own English High School
St. Mary's Catholic High School [also provides G.C.E 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.

Travel

Travel in and around Fujairah and the surrounding towns of Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Masafi has been made easy by the development of modern highways over the last 30 years. Highways are funded by the Federal Government directly, and contracts are tendered centrally. This safeguards the quality and delivery of the contracts and prevents any corruption from damaging the construction. Highways are vital due to the inavailability of any other means of transport. There are no buses and railways do not exist. As in America, the car is king and most daily activities can become impractical, if not impossible, without one.

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 and 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 3 per journey, which equates to approximately 80 cents or 50 pence. Destinations which are slightly outside the main city, such as the Beach Motel, Fujairah Hospital and the Jail attract a higher fare of AED 5. 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, when compared to their western counterparts.

Living in Fujairah

Life in this Emirate is quite simple. It is ruled by a well educated Shaikh and therefore is not lumbered with archaic interpretations of the Shariah. Common sense normally prevails, but as with anywhere, it is advisable to keep on the right side of the law. On many 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, more recently, a few bars. Until a few years ago, 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 unlucky players were losing their entire monthly wages on the slots, leaving nothing for the upkeep of their families, this is entirely from their own stupidity. 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 and also one has to be careful at late nights. Cinemas are generally open till late and they show watered down, de-sexualised versions of the Hollywood blockbusters. It is very amusing to watch movies, which after editing can run for a little over an hour. It is interesting to note that the Hindi cinemas are not constrained by the censors, even though the Bollywood productions have become increasingly raunchy. It is wise to enter the cinemas, with an open mind as there is plenty of cat-calling, whistling and general chatter. It is not uncommon hear wolf whistles and to see the screen crawling with laser pens, whenever the lead actress turns up in a semi-skimpy outfit! and these people then take out their frustrations on guys.....

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 - jetskiing, windsurfing and waterskiing being the top three.