Several archaeological sites, some dating back 4000 years, provide evidence of this coastal region's long and turbulent history. The legacy of the Portuguese, who swarmed the area in the 16th century to control the spice trade, survives in a handful of forts.

South of Khor Fakkan, industry replaces idyll thanks to massive container ports and an oil-export terminal just outside Fujairah. Nearly two million barrels of oil from fields in the UAE's western desert arrive here daily via a 370km-long pipeline.