Khorfakkan has a long history of human settlement. There is evidence of the postholes from the wooden uprights of the traditional barasti huts known as arish, such as at Tell Abraq which dates from the 3rd to 1st millienium BC. Excavations by a team from the Sharjah Archaeological Museum have identified 34 graves and a settlement belonging to the early-mid 2nd millennium BC. These are clustered on rock outcrops overlooking the harbour.
Around 1500, Duarte Barbosa described it as a village “around which are gardens and farms in plenty”. In 1580 the Venetian jeweler Gasparo Balbi noted "Chorf" in a list of places on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, which is considered by historians to indicate Khorfakkan. The Portuguese built a fort at Khorfakkan that was a ruin by 1666. The log book of the Dutch vessel the Meerkat mentions this fort and another one, describing "Gorfacan" as a place on a small bay, with about 200 small houses built from date branches, near the beach. It refers to a triangular Portuguese fortress on the northern side, in ruins, and a fortress on a hill on the southern side, also in ruins, without garrison or artillery. As well as date palms, the Meerkat's log also mentions fig trees, melons, watermelons and myrrh. It notes several wells with "good and fresh water" used for irrigation.
One reason suggested for the ruinous state of the forts is an invasion in 1623 of the Persian navy under the control of Omani Sheikh Muhammad Suhari. Suhari, facing a Portuguese counter-attack, withdrew to the Portuguese forts, including that of Khorfakkan. When the Persians were expelled, the Portuguese commander Rui Freire urged the people of Khorfakkan to remain loyal to the Portuguese crown and established a Portuguese customs office as well.
In 1737, long after the Portuguese had been expelled from Arabia, the Persians again invaded Khorfakkan, with some 5,000 men and 1,580 horses, with the help of the Dutch, during their intervention in the Omani civil war. In 1765 Khorfakkan belonged to a sheikh of the Al Qasimi, Sharjah's ruling family, according to the German traveler Carsten Niebuhr. There is a map by the French cartographer Rigobert Bonne dating to about 1770 that shows the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf and includes Khorfakkan.
From 1903 to 1952 Khorfakkan was part of the cleaved emirate of Sharjah Kalba. German submarine U-533 sunk about 25 miles (40 km) off the coast on 16 October 1943 during World War II. Divers found the wreck at a depth of 108 metres (354 ft) in 2009. From 1965 to 1969, the enclave formed a separate post area and gave out stamps bearing the inscription Sharjah & Dependencies / Khorfakkan.
The modern Khorfakkan Container Terminal was inaugurated in 1979, and is the only natural deep-sea port in the region, and one of the top ports in the Emirates for containers. The Dh 300 million ($81.75 million) project involved reclaiming some 150,000 square metres (1,600,000 sq ft) to increase the storage capacity and to facilitate large cranes, and 16 metres (52 ft) deep quays to accommodate for major vessels over 400 metres (1,300 ft) in length. As of 2004 it handled 1.6 million TEU's.
Khorfakkan lies on the east coast of the UAE, between the Arabian Sea and the Shumayliyah Mountains, rising to 1,023 metres (3,356 ft) at Jebel al Hilqah. The bay of Khorfakkan is north-east facing and is protected from prevailing winds by a jetty serving terminal for container ships. Tourism, despite the total ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol by the emirate of Sharjah, is well developed thanks to white sand beaches and coral reefs that attract many divers. Khorfakkan Beach lies to the north of the centre of the town.
From November to April Khorfakkan is sunny and warm during the day; the evenings are cool and humidity low. Daytime temperatures range from 18 °C to 30 °C. One may expect rain and tropical storms between January and March. The climate warms from May to September with the high temperature at noon in July and August reaching 40 °C. The nights too are warm, with the temperature reaching 36 °C, with high humidity.
Khorfakkan has one 4 star holiday beach resort, the Oceanic Hotel. The fish, fruit and vegetable souq is located at the southern end of the corniche and near the main highway. Al Wurrayah Falls is reachable by four-wheel-drive around 4.5 km north of the Oceanic hotel.
One site of interest is the Rifaisa Dam, in the mountains of Khorfakkan. This is believed to have been built over a village, and when the water is very still, the tops of the old houses are still visible. The town is served by Khorfakkan Hospital.
Another landmark is the Jabal Javi.
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