Today, life in the Emirates moves in the fast lane. In a new regular series to mark the 50th anniversary of the UAE we take a little trip back in time and see just how much the country has changed.
This image shows a way of life about to be swept away forever. Khor Fakkan, which loosely translates as Creek of Two Jaws, is an enclave of Sharjah surrounded by Fujairah and set against the backdrop of the Hajjar Mountains.
The first photograph, taken in 1973 by French photographer Alain Saint-Hilaire, shows a cluster of simple stone buildings around several mosques – a world far removed from the rest of the fledgling UAE.
For centuries life was unchanged. Families survived thanks to date cultivation and fishing sustained by plentiful fresh water wells. But just a few years after this photograph was taken work began on a deepwater port with access to the Indian Ocean. The Oceanic Hotel, seen at the far right of the second photograph taken recently by The National's Antonie Robertson, was part of the building boom.
The hotel is a time capsule, redolent of an era in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a wave of modernist buildings were constructed across the country. Known as the Holiday Inn when it opened in 1979, the hotel was designed by Indian architect Ashok Mody, who was also behind Sharjah’s landmark Al Zahra Hospital.
The pace of change has only increased since. The Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, has led efforts to restore Khor Fakkan’s heritage buildings and unlock its potential as a tourism destination. The Salem Al Mutawa mosque – featured on the Dh5 note – has been restored, a new heritage area encompassing a canal, hotel and traditional souq has opened, as did the open-air Roman-inspired theatre last year.
Despite these changes, Khor Fakkan remains an area of historical and cultural interest. And, thanks to road improvements, is now only a short drive from Sharjah itself, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.