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15th October. Hijri New Year. Unexpected holiday. Moon and the Emirs have been kind this time. So we are out driving. Sharjah-Dhaid-Masafi-Dibba-Khorfakkan-Fujairah-Sharjah. The drive is over in 4 hours.

45 min out of Sharjah, just past Dhaid, the red dust of desert gives way to mud coloured mountains, triangular, treeless, attractive despite being hideous. Being used to the plains of Sharjah city, the mountains are thrilling.

The Friday market near Masafi is bustling. Masafi itself has the ambiance of a mountain town. We drive past the Masafi bottling plant into the winding roads leading to Dibba. It’s close to four in the afternoon and the shadows are lengthening in the mountains. Far away, valleys shrouded in haze are visible through gorges. Occasionally the road drops steeply in a roller coaster dip and the car is dragged down despite braking. Sheer delight.

Dibba is quiet, not much traffic. Along the Corniche road flashes of deep blue sea are intermittently visible beyond massive facades of tourist resorts. There is a family beach, a tunnel and we veer off the coast. We stop at the old Bidiya mosque for a quick look and tea (Rasal, the tea shop guy is from Wayanad and we exchange the usual pleasantries).Al Bidya MosqueThe mosque is small, functional and strictly utilitarian. There are few embellishments; the dome shaped like Tower of Hanoi disks is a novelty. I clamber up the embankment just below the crenelated tower behind the mosque for a wide angle view. Below me the four domes of the mosque is surmounted by the road and a cemetery of decapitated palm trees, a slit of the blue see can be seen far beyond merging into pale grey sky.  A pale crimson is spreading across the sky from the west as we drive off.

Khorfakkan is busy, traffic police waving people and cars through, the road site cafes are crowded, parks are packed with families in a large entourage of women and children and babies in strollers.

It’s dark when we pass beyond the citadel of storage tanks at Fujairah Oil Industry Zone. At the Fujairah Beach Hotel round about I take a right turn and we head towards Masafi and then suddenly we realize that is better to return to Sharjah via Maliha road. So we get lost a bit, then with the aid of Google maps grope our way back to the winding mountain highway. Driving at 120 kmph on this roads is fun. A necklace of street lights festoon the valley as we descend.

Near Sharjah, we take a wrong exit and get on a road to nowhere, turn back and finally get back on E611 with a sigh of relief.

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