Impressions of the Northern UAE Emirates
Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujeirah are the five 'Northern Emirates', to different degrees living in the shadow of the two 'bigshot' Principalities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It be so, but this should not eclipse their fascinating diversity of mountainous nature and the authenticity which reflects their history of dynasties and alliances, of wars and turbulences one would not expect behind the smooth and orderly ways of Emirati societies and cities of today. In this area indeed, 18th century mudbrick fortresses strategically commanding the wadis and trade passages through the Hajar mountains are more numerous than the mosques erected before the country's 'petroleum era'.
Tribal clans jockeying for local power in the 18th and 19th centuries survived well the British 'Protectorate' grip on these lands and eventually established princely dynasties, each moulding their Emirate into a distinct identity and way forward. Sharjah for instance, the largest of the five Northern Emirates, thus committed itself to a reputation as a heaven of culture, museums and higher education. The fascinating fact, moreover, is that also the other Northern Emirates reveal themselves in the modern present as a respectful mirror of their origins and traditions, set against the backdrop of unequalled and spectacular mountain and desert landscapes.
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