Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Colours of Fujairah by Christopher Hurndall and Blanka Rössler (photographs)

At first glance this book appears as just another coffee table edition but a sustained reading reveals that this volume has substance as well as colour.

When information in English on Fujairah is scarce and largely promotional, this book offers a good survey of the history of the region as it was visited by Mesopotamian seafarers, Babylonian armies (modern day Iraq), the messengers of Islam, the Portuguese invaders in the sixteenth century and the British occupants of these ‘Trucial States’. Furthermore the author tells of the discovery of Greek and Roman coins, the importance of the trade route that intersects the Wadi Dam (controlled by the fort at Bithna) and connects Dubai and Sharjah with Fujairah and the East Coast.

Residents will find new details about familiar city locations and monuments and they will learn information about archaeological sites and the fauna and flora of Fujairah that visitors rarely see. The cultural attractions of the area are recorded (racing dhow, bull butting and football) and the book focuses pleasingly on the smaller villages and suburbs of the emirate including Dibba, Al Aqqah, Masafi, Ghurfah, Sharm, Bidiya and Bithna.

This comprehensive, yet uncluttered book is largely attributed to the knowledge of the author, Christopher Hurndall, who visited the UAE first as an airline pilot (he has seen the colours of Fujairah from the best vantage points) and then as a resident where he has lived in Fujairah during his retirement and witnessed the east coast and its sensational waters from his classic schooner, the ‘Charlotte Anne’.

This book is one of a series (The Colours of Dubai etc.) so the title alerts readers to beauty and colour as its governing themes. To the casual visitor, Fujairah sometimes appears as a dusty little city and colour is not always the most lasting memory that people take with them. Like the contributor to the UAE chapters of the popular Lonely Planet Guide to the Arabian Peninsula, who while noting the beauty of the eastern region, said: “Fujairah itself is a rather characterless small city without much tourism infrastructure…. Our recommendation is to bypass Fujairah, as its beaches are polluted and unattractive and the Port of Fujairah just north of the city is a major blot on the landscape. You’re much better off going north.” (p348)

In contrast, the resident author of The Colours of Fujairah finds beauty in the streets, the markets, the beaches, the wadis, the ‘picturesque villages’, the streams, the colourful flora and even in the port! This book has a lot of information on the distinctive and rare animals of the region, including Blandford’s fox, the Bonelli’s eagle, the Arabian gazelles, the Arabian leopard, donkeys, goats, dolphins and the Caracal lynx. The colour of the region is also apparent in the sky (over 300 different species have been recorded in this key bird watching area) and in the colourful shells on the beaches.

Blanka Rössler, who hails from Prague and more recently has been living and exhibiting in Germany, has conveyed the beauty and the colour of the region through her photographs in this book. With her artist’s eye, Rössler has captured the glow of dawn over the Arabian Sea, the colours of the Hajars from the air, the reflections of the sea waters, the bright night lights of the roundabouts and even in the multi-coloured containers at the port.

The Colours of Fujairah was published in 2002 and while it contains some wonderful photographs of Fujairah from out of the archive, some of the pictures depicting modern day Fujairah looked dated. This is only natural when one considers the rate of change that this emirate and country has experienced even since this book was launched. Rössler supplies some technical information about the pictures (especially satellite photographs) to do with exposure and resolution but many of the colours are so vivid and scenes are presented with such clarity and definition, they look too good to be true! Have camera filters enhanced the Fujairah scenes beyond recognition, or is there more dust and sea fog in the air today that makes Fujairah appear pale and veiled?

Readers will stumble across some purple patches in this book whose production has been financed by many sponsors (see the last page) but The Colours of Fujairah rightly possess a positive feel and sound a note of hope about the future of this eastern region. This book is an important acquisition for anyone interested in Fujairah, past, present and future.

Christopher Hurndall with photographs by Blanka Rössler, The Colours of Fujairah (Lake City, Florida: Zodiac Publishing, 2002).

This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 135.00.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of The Colours of Fujairah.