Ajman is the smallest of the United Arab Emirates and has so far been spared from mass tourism. If you are looking for a cheap place to stay as a base for excursions in the Emirates, you are absolutely right here.
Ajman is with an area of about 250km2 about as big as the Thai vacation island Koh Samui and the smallest of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Ajman is one of the former Trucial States and has been independent from Great Britain since December 2, 1971.
The largest and busiest part of Ajman stretches along a 16km long and 10km wide coastal strip, forming the capital Ajman City about 20km northeast of Dubai. In addition to Ajman City, the two tiny enclaves of Manama and Masfut near Hatta belong to Ajman, which are 60 and 110km from Ajman City, respectively, and apart from a bizarre desert landscape have little worth seeing.
Ajman city can hardly be compared with the oriental splendor of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, the former fishing village seems rather unkempt. Ajman has been spared from mass tourism until now and the luxury hotels are much cheaper than those in the neighboring emirates.
Ajman’s main attraction is its fort, built in 1775 by the Portuguese to defend the port.
Since 1991, the fort has housed a museum where visitors can understand the way of life in the United Arab Emirates before the oil boom. The air-conditioned rooms tell of pearl divers, fishermen, dhow masters, medicine men, and school and play in Ajman over the past centuries. Around the fort, Ajman’s historic center spreads out with stores and eateries, above which the fortress shines as a luminous eye-catcher at night. In the old town, the wind towers, which once housed the chambers of the sheikhs and their harem, and the fantastically beautiful Sheikh Zayed Mosque are particularly worth seeing.
The beach, which stretches from Ajman to the neighboring emirate of Sharjah, consists of soft, light-colored sand and is the second attraction for tourists besides the fortress. However, sanitary facilities and deck chairs are only available at the hotels and beach clubs. The beach and the corniche are less inviting for swimming and more for walking.
Shopping in Ajman
Ajman’s new souq, in the city’s unique neo-Arabic building, is more like a modern shopping mall than a traditional Oriental market. Here you can find sporting goods, clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, toys and food, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes. At the spacious gold souq, you can easily outfit an entire Indian family with glittering jewelry, and at the Iranian souq by the harbor, mainly plastic household items are sold in the mornings and evenings.
Those who want to go on large-scale shopping excursions are probably better off in the Ajman City Centre on Wasit Street, which has about 70 stores and boutiques. And if this is too small for you, you can take a detour to the famous Dubai Mall.
Ajman’s famous dhow shipyard is located just outside the city center and shows the creation of traditional wooden boats in the manner of an open-air museum. The construction process can be traced here from bare skeleton to finished dhow, and many workers are happy to give tourists a short tour of the new vessels that have been created.
Economy of Ajman
In the 1930s, it made a modest prosperity from pearl trading, fishing and dhow building. Today, Ajman is still home to the UAE’s largest shipyard, which is also one of the nation’s largest producers of steel. However, Ajman has neither oil nor natural gas deposits of its own and therefore cannot compete with the other United Arab Emirates in terms of wealth. Ajman receives income from trade and tourism, as well as from subsidies from its wealthy neighbors.
Following the example of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, large-scale construction projects on the coast of the Persian Gulf are also intended to boost tourism in Ajman. Unlike Dubai, where the coastline is being extended by artificial land acquisition, Ajman is relying on lagoons and canals dug into the mainland. And so, in the meantime, a huge ypsilon of seawater protrudes into the sea of houses in Ajman.
New office, residential and entertainment centers are to be built on this artificial coastline, which will be about a third cheaper than their counterparts in Dubai. However, since the 2008 financial crisis, which hit the UAE hard, many projects in Ajman have also been put on hold with uncertain outcomes.