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Khor Fakkan, with about 40,000 inhabitants, is Sharjah's largest exclave city on the East Coast of the Emirates. It is located on the coastal plain bordering the Gulf of Oman, halfway between Kalba and Dibba Al Hisn. The name Khor Fakkan translates as 'Creek of the Two Jaws' reflecting its setting in a crescent-shaped bay flanked by two headlands.
Khor Fakkan has a long history of human habitation. Excavations conducted by the Department of Antiquities of Sharjah, have unearthed a large settlement occupying the slopes of three adjacent mountains near the sea. The settlement has been dated to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE.
Khor Fakkan was described as "a large town with very good houses in which lived wealthy Gujarati merchants" by the Portuguese commander Alfonso de Albuqerque, who arrived in the area in 1507, building an eastern empire for Portugal. Citizens of Khor Fakkan refused to submit to the Portuguese voluntarily, but paraded on the beach and on the town walls against them. Albuquerque attacked, killing hundreds of men, taking women and children as slaves.
By the early 17th century, the Portuguese power was in decline - under threat from the British, Persians and Omanis. To reinforce Hormuz, the Portuguese built new or expanded Arab forts along the coast. In Khor Fakkan, a new fort of traditional triangular shape was constructed, whose remains can still be seen close to the port. Persians seized Khor Fakkan in 1622 but were ejected in 1623 by Ruy Freire de Andrade, Portuguese commander of forts in Muscat. Shortly after, the Portuguese were displaced by Arab forces under Nasir ibn Murshid, Imam of Oman. Around 1850, wresting it from the rule of the Omani Sultan, Khor Fakkan was brought within Qasimi territory by Sheikh Sultan Saqr I.
By the Mid-20th century, Khor Fakkan bay contained a number of villages. As the city grew around them and towards the South, with the focal point of the economy centered on the expanding container port since the end of the 1970s, parts of the historic heart of Khor Fakkan decayed after the houses were abandoned by the original families.
In 2011, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah, instructed to restore the historic heart of Khor Fakkan, a major task being undertaken since then, which will make Khor Fakkan one of the cultural treasures of the UAE.
(Summary from various sources, including: "Sharjah: Development of a Gulf Coastal Settlement." Lecture by Peter Jackson, RIBA HH Ruler’s Office, Sharjah. Updated May 2013.)
Main institution for contemporary arts, organizer of the Biennial and other world class events.
March - June 2022. Curators: Okwui Enwezor, Hoor Al Qasimi. Theme: Thinking Historically in the Present, conceived by late Enwezor.