Ajman may be the smallest of the seven Emirates, but with its dry sunny climate, and fabulous beaches the country may well be an ideal winter holiday. Snuggled between Shajah and flashy Dubai, Ajman harbours ancient practises, showcasing the heritage of its civilisation and offering a true experience of Arabia today.
Ajman – The Smallest Emirate
Ajman covers 260sq kilometres of the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula. The emirate is known for its beaches, historical sites and the city of Ajman which is home to a gold souk, markets and restaurants with palm trees lining the natural, white-sand beaches and where 500 mosques shape the skyline with their distinctive minarets. A path runs along the Corniche connecting five-star hotels overlooking the Arabian Gulf.
Authentic markets sell souvenirs, coins and fashion in vibrant sparkly textures.
Where to eat in Ajman
Marsa is a modern promenade area dotted with various restaurants and coffee shops, skirting the waterfront where families enjoy the cooler evenings. Food stores add to the bustle of local life and restaurants see local men sitting outside contemplating life over pots of Arabian coffee.
Families share meals in local Emirati restaurants such as Liwarah, located in the heart of the heritage area. Here, try the Ragag (bread), and dip into honey and cheese and accompany it with Arabic coffee, which is made with cardamom, and Luqemat balls coated in date syrup, which is similar to donuts.
Ajman has a plentiful daily supply and a reputation for its fresh fish. Seascape at the Wyndam Garden serves the best platters and the for memorable Indian food book a table at Bukhara at the Ajman Hotel.
Ajman Equestrian Club
We stared at each other. His eyes expressive and fiery, body statuesque, noble and elegant in his mottled grey coat. Prized by the nomadic Bedouin people, the revered Arabian horse is just one of many symbolic features of Ajman.
If like me you have a love for horses, then visit Ajman Equestrian Club. The Club is dedicated to stabling over 120 championship horses as well as operating a riding school. The significance of Arabian horses and their historic reputation is embroidered into the fabric of this spacious well-kept facility. As authentic as the emirate itself, each horse has a name which no doubt dates back to the Ajman of old.
The Heritage and Museum District, Old Ajman
Old Ajman developed from the shores of Ajman Creek as a trading port of Arabia. Before oil, it was known for its pearl diving and fishing trade. The Heritage and Museum District in the centre of Ajman showcases its inherited traditions borne from its austere natural environment and trade links with foreign civilizations such as Mesopotamia, India and China.
Housed in an 18th-century fort, the Ajman Museum provides a fascinating insight into the emirate’s history and culture. Here history and trades come to life in an appealing contemporary representation.
Galleries show tailors, rope makers, herb sellers, barbers (who doubled as dentists), as well as the traditional healing methods of medicinal herbs, cupping and massage passed down through generations.
Smart screens detail the British Campaign in the Gulf in 1819 while official documents of the exploration agreement between the Ajman Government and British Petroleum Company in 1951 and records of the Maritime Treaty of 1820 are displayed. In the courtyard, under the shade is a replica model of the 1960’s Land Rover Series 111, the first off-road vehicle used in the desert owned by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi who ruled Ajman from 1928-1981.
Also, in the district is the humble dwelling, now a museum, of a well-known poet, Rashid Al-Khadar, who wrote a poem praising King George.
Follow your nose to the Perfume Gallery
A perfume gallery (La Rose Gallery Perfumes) sits in the heritage area reflecting the traditional significance of fragrances in the emirate. Here rows of perfumes line shelves misted with scented air, tried and tested with a side room for mixing exclusive recipes for personal requests, an art in itself. Oud is traditionally known as black gold in the Middle East, a prized ingredient from rare wood. It remains part of the Muslim culture as incense in homes and places of worship.
High in the Hajar mountains, an hour and a half through a desert dotted with camels and acacia trees is Masfoot an historical town with developments in place to increase tourism. It sits close to the border of Oman, 600 m above sea level, scattered with farms and fields of palms, mango, dates, figs, banana and citrus trees.
With a well-presented museum, watch tower and a mosque dating back to 1815, it is here where the President of UAE and Ruler of Ajman have their residences.
The Al Zorah Nature Reserve
The Al Zorah Nature Reserve is a hidden gem in Ajman, a large protected area of over one million square-metres of wetlands and mangroves which is included in the government’s pledge to increase the number of trees by 100 million by 2030 throughout the UAE.
Serene and peaceful, there are guided kayak tours for small groups which take around 2 hours. Expect to witness jumping fish along your trip through narrow channels with heavy overhangs of foliage, spot egrets and herons accompanied by a chorus of birdsong. In the winter, you may be fortunate to see the pink vision of flamingos on their stick-thin legs, elegant in pink.
Where to stay for a Health & Wellness break
Overlooking this oasis of tranquillity and the Al Zoyah golf course is Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort, the first of its kind in the UAE, heralding a new era in integrated wellness experiences based on holistic mind and body rejuvenation.
This contemporary, low-rise resort opened in 2022 with spacious rooms and suites in a gentle design of neutral calming colours. Ranging from physiotherapy and rehabilitation, fitness, yoga and spiritual healing, Zoya Health & Wellbeing Resort offers a range of retreat packages for detox and weight management as well as customised programmes benefiting from state-of-the-art diagnostic medical equipment and enviable spa facilities and fitness room.
Where to stay:
The Ajman Hotel is well located on the Corniche, dressed in elegantly designed wood furniture in an Arabic style with views over the Arabian Gulf. It sits within landscaped gardens and spills onto a white sandy private beach. It also offers a bowling alley and Bakhara, one of the best Indian restaurants in the country.
In the Al Zorah area sits The Oberoi, an elegant ultra-modern structure with stylish rooms, suites and villas set in 37 acres of landscaped gardens. Designed by Peiro Lissoni, this resort has splashes of an art gallery and the largest swimming pool I have seen at 85m long.
Ajman does not have its own airport. So you fly into Sharjah airport or Dubai Airport and then its just a 30 minute drive. Flight time is around 7 hours.