Khor Fakkan (sometimes written as ‘Khawr Fakkan’) is geographically situated within the Emirate of Fujairah on the East coast of the United Arab Emirates on the Gulf of Oman, but is actually an isolated enclave belonging to the Emirate of Sharjah. It is the site of a shallow draught port and oil refining facilities.
In 1580 the Venetian jeweller Gasparo Balbi noted “Chorf” in a list of places on the east coast of the UAE, which is considered by historians to indicate Khor Fakkan. The Portuguese built a fort at Khor Fakkan, which was a ruin by 1666.
This fort and another one is mentioned in the log book of the Dutch vessel the Meerkat, which describes “Gorfacan” as place on a small bay, with about 200 small houses built from date branches, near the beach. It refers to a triangular Portuguese fortress on the northern side, in ruins, and a fortress on a hill on the southern side, also in ruins, without garrison or artillery. As well as date palms, the Meerkat’s log also mentions fig trees, melons, watermelons and myrrh. It notes several wells with “good and fresh water” used for irrigation.
One reason suggested for the ruinous state of the forts is an invasion by the Persian navy, under the control of Omani Sheikh Muhammad Suhari, in 1623. Suhari, facing a Portuguese counter-attack, withdrew to the Portuguese forts, including that of Khor Fakkan. When the Persians were expelled, the Portuguese commander Ruy Freire urged the people of Khor Fakkan to remain loyal to the Portuguese crown, and established a Portuguese customs office as well.
In 1737, long after the Portuguese had been expelled from Arabia, the Persians again invaded Khor Fakkan, with the help of the Dutch, during their intervention in the Omani civil war. In 1765 Khor Fakkan belonged to a sheikh of the Qawasim, according to the German traveller Carsten Niebuhr, just as it does to this day.
Khor Fakkan has a long history of human settlement. Excavations by a team from the Sharjah Archaeological Museum have identified 34 graves and a settlement belonging to the early-mid second millennium BC. These are clustered on rock outcrops overlooking the harbour.
One site of interest is the Rifaisa Dam, in the mountains of Khor Fakkan. This is believed to have been built over a village, and when the water is very still, the tops of the old houses are still visible.
Khor Fakkan is a popular tourism spot, surrounded with huge mountains and attractive beaches. Its most famous hotel is the Oceanic. It also features coral outcrops suitable for diving and snorkelling. Tourism is somewhat held back by Sharjah’s ban on alcohol.
The fish, fruit and vegetable souq is located at the southern end of the corniche.
Al Wurrayah Falls is reachable by four-wheel-drive around 4.5km north of the Oceanic hotel.
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