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Digging into the past in Ras Al Khaimah

As part of our work for the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, we recently found ourselves on-site at an extraordinary heritage village amongst a team of archaeologists.

Jazirat Al Hamra, or the Red Island as it directly translates from Arabic, is the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the United Arab Emirates.

The landscape has changed dramatically in a matter of just 40 years following the oil boom of the 1970s. The Emiratis, once a simple people subsisting on pearl fishing and agriculture, living in either ‘arish’ palm frond huts or modest coral stone buildings, were rapidly transported into the 20th century by the discovery of oil, which changed their fortunes and their way of living.

If you’ve witnessed the glittering towers of Dubai and you’ll be surprised to discover the abandoned village of Jazirat Al Hamra, which provides stark evidence of a previous way of life that had lasted for centuries. The tumbledown houses and mosques, the empty souk and school house remain as testament to the past and provides a fascinating insight into Emirati life, and serve to remind how rapidly life can change.

We arrived to see the sight of archaeological work in progress uncovering layers of the past, buried beneath the sand. Each marked-out area of work is painstakingly photographed, sketched and documented to build a picture of different centuries of existence, of generations of families.

Our work will be to help create a means for visitors to come to the village and understand and experience this traditional way of life, to see building techniques, the village set up, fishing boats, wells and the paraphernalia of everyday life of a people.

During our visit we took many photographs including drone footage which will allow us to create a visitor map and to develop a plan for a visitor centre, signage and literature to support this remarkable heritage site, planned for delivery over the course of the next few years.

We will be documenting future visits as work progresses, so check the blog for updates.

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