The UAE is a delightful country to explore with a diverse topography encompassing deserts, beaches, mountains and futuristic cities, and one of the best ways to do so is by jumping in the car and heading out on a road trip to explore its various lesser-trodden towns and cities. One of these is Khorfakkan, Sharjah, a former industrial town in the midst of a renaissance, undergoing impressive development to become a culture and tourism hub. What became a popular stop-off on road trips to Fujairah and other popular diving and holiday spots is now a destination in its own right. So much so, the city was named the best Arab city for 2023 at the travel trade show ITB Berlin.
Khorfakkan lies on the east coast of the UAE, sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Shumayliyah Mountains, which rise as high as 1,023 metres. Part of the emirate of Sharjah though nearer to Fujairah city, Khorfakkan is removed from the hustle and bustle of the busy UAE emirate: a peaceful beach town with cultural sites like a heritage village, souq, incongruous Romanesque amphitheatre and a thriving artisan coffee shop scene.
Things to do in Khorfakkan, Sharjah
The Khorfakkan Ampitheatre
The opening of Khorfakkan Amphitheatre in 2020 cemented the town as an entertainment and cultural destination – the largest development project in the town, allowing artists to perform and attract visitors from across the country. The sprawling 1,700 sqm construction sits at the base of the Al Sayed Mountain and faces the ocean, made from gleaming white limestone and takes inspiration from the grand amphitheatres of antiquity – with elegant doric columns and cascading seating. Up to 3,500 people can be seated for its calendar of events which includes live music concerts, film shows and theatrical performances. Even when there’s no event scheduled at the amphitheatre, it’s an experience to walk around the grand seats and stage and soak up the imposing atmosphere.
The Khorfakkan Waterfall
An equally as mesmerising, and unexpected, sight in the Sharjah beach town is its manmade waterfall towers, soaring 45 metres high and thundering down a natural cliff on the corniche. The waterfall lies next to the Khorfakkan amphitheatre, so it’s easy to tick off both on a lovely corniche stroll. Visit at night to see the cascading water illuminated by under lights, creating a magical ambience.
Showcasing how the locals lived before industrialisation is Souq Sharq, a popular heritage and cultural sight and one of the most interesting attractions in Korfakkhan. The souq is designed to emulate a traditional Emirati village, with narrow lanes lined with local shops selling handicrafts, spices, oud, incense, dates and much more, plus a handful of restored buildings with more modern wares. Amongst the ships are traditional crafts museums, such as a replica of traditional stores that would’ve been found in old Khorfakkan, a homestead, a weaving display and a school. Entrance is free, and it’s one of the best ways to understand the Khorfakkan, and UAE, of yesteryear.
Experience its upscale, artisan coffee culture
For a small Sharjah town, Khorfakkan has a vibrant coffee culture with plenty of excellent coffee shops and cafes selling freshly baked goodies and artisan coffee. The most impressive is V Cafe, housed inside Kohorfakkan’s Resistance Monument – commemorating the Sharjah people’s fight against the Portuguese invasion of 1507. Sitting atop a mountain, the cafe has 360-degree views of the mountains through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, reaching out into the desert, sea and town of Khorfakkan. The all-day cafe serves everything from burgers and sales to pizza and pasta and has beans from Kenya, Colombia and Brazil. In the town, Drowsy Coffee is beachy and laid back with greenery and rattan chairs with ocean views, while Cove Coffee is modern and minimalist with V60 coffee, Acai bowls, fresh shakes and creative frappes. A short drive from the centre in the suburb of Hayawa is Como Cafe – housed in the stylish Nafs Fitness Center and Salon with a leafy outdoor terrace and industrial-chic, minimalist interior.
Najd Al Maqsar Heritage Village
Khorfakkan’s 300-year-old Najd Al Maqsar fortress has recently been transformed into a tourism destination – comprising 13 mud and stone houses built into the slopes of the Hajar Mountains. The heritage village is just another of Khorfakkan’s fascinating historical and cultural sights offering an insight into another era – and visitors can tour the site and wander its narrow maze of lanes, explore the 300-year-old fortress and take in breathtaking views across the surrounding valley. Restoration is ongoing, and there are also plans for a heritage hotel.
The corniche and Khorfakkan beach
Arguably the most beautiful spot in Khorfakkan is its three-kilometre crescent-shaped beach, with golden sands and palm trees and offering plenty of opportunities for swimming, diving, fishing, parasailing and kayaking. Children and families can make use of the swing sets and football goalposts, and there are both boat and jet ski rentals. Thanks to its breezy, cooler climate, outdoor pursuits are popular in Khorfakkan with locals and visitors, and the beach is a hub for relaxation and activity in the town. Khorfakkan’s beachfront is lined by the corniche and dotted with food stands and cool coffee shops. A boat to nearby Shark Island also departs from the beachfront. A small rocky island steeped in natural beauty, Shark Island is a popular spot for diving and swimming – its waters teeming with moray eels, rays and Arabian angelfish.
Where to stay in Khorfakkan, Sharjah
A golden beach, ample cultural and historical sights and beautiful mountainous scenery, it makes sense to stay overnight or enjoy a relaxing vacation in the town. Nearby in the neighbouring of emirate Fujairah are two five-star resorts from Emaar Hospitality, the Dubai-based hotel brand known for their shiny Address and Palace properties. Address Beach Resort Fujairah (doubles from AED654) is a shiny ultra-modern beachfront property with modern rooms, private beach, swimming pools and fantastic restaurants, while Palace Beach Resort Fujairah (doubles from AED567) marries Arabian grandeur with five-star facilities. Both can be found in Fujairah, just a 20-minute drive from the town. Other best-rated and popular hotels near Khorfakkan include Intercontinental Fujairah (doubles from AED488), the authentic and rustically luxurious The Retreat Camp (tents from AED1,400) and Royal M Al Aqah Beach Hotel and Resort (doubles from AED275).