Ahmed Khalifa Al Shamsi, Director of the Fujairah Depart-ment of Archaeology and Heritage, has said the country should produce UAE national archaeologists to unearth the historical wealth which reflects the history of Fujairah.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Al Shamsi urged educational institutions to teach heritage and archaeology to produce national archaeologists and experts who will preserve their own history and heritage.
Do you have enough experts on archaeology and archaeological assistants, renovators and excavators at your department?
No, we still suffer from a shortage of archaeologists and experts in historical relics maintenance, especially nationals.
I urge the authorities at the Ministry of Education and Youth to set up a college of archaeology to produce national experts who will draw a clear picture of the country's history.
Does Fujairah have the most important historical sites in the UAE?
Fujairah is one of the most important and biggest historical places in the UAE. The emirate is very unique in its wealth of historical and archaeological places, castles, forts, watch towers and places of worship.
Fujairah has the UAE's oldest place of worship which is the Ottoman Mosque in Al Bedya village. The mosque dates back to the sixteenth century. It is more than 550 years old.
How many local and foreign archaeological excavation teams have worked in Fujairah so far?
More than seven Arab and foreign excavation teams have worked in Fujairah to locate important historical places and relics.
The excavation teams came from Switzerland, Iraq, UK, France, Australia, Belgium and the U.S. Most of them have visited the emirate twice or more to carry out excavation works.
Most discoveries were unearthed in the area between Dibba and Al Bedya, Murbeh, Qidfa and Al Bithna village.
The discoveries in Al Bedya, which are similar to those that were unearthed in other sites like in Umm El-Nar, Al Haili and Muwaileh, date back to the Fourth Millennium B.C. The findings included human bones, fragments of clay and iron pottery, iron and bronze arrowheads, weapons, daggers, swords made of iron and bronze and artefacts made of metal and pieces of shell.
Are the forts, castles and other historical monuments well maintained?
We have erected strong mesh fences to surround more than 100 important archaeological sites in Fujairah. Other historical locations will be also fenced after renovation.
The Fujairah Department of Archaeology and Heritage is in the process of installing signboards in old forts, castles and other historical places to give visitors information.
More signboards will be installed at archaeological places through the Fujairah Municipality's project of naming and numbering the streets and major buildings.
How many tourists visit Fujairah Museum and other archaeological sites?
Over 900 tourists and visitors from in and outside the UAE visit the Fujairah Museum and the Old Fort of Fujairah every month, in addition to groups of university students and schoolchildren. Fujairah Museum receives four buses of schoolchildren every week, in addition to weekly visits by groups of tourists and visitors coming from other emirates to stay for a day on the East Coast.
Visiting the Fujairah Museum and the Ottoman Mosque in Al Bedya is a must for any visitor. More tourists are expected to visit Fujairah after the opening of the new Fujairah Le Meridien Hotel and Resort in Al Aqqah area.
What about the renovation of the old forts and houses, and what happened to the project of the New Fujairah Heritage Village?
The renovation project of the archaeological sites started in 1997 when we brought experts to restore the Old Fort of Fujairah. It was followed by the renovation of the old city of Fujairah, which was built around the old fort and contains old houses and palaces of Rulers and Sheikhs.
After restorating the Old Fort in mid 2000, the Fujairah Depart-ment of Archaeology and Heritage started renovating the old palaces of the Ruler's family and the houses. Work is still going on.
The department also started building a massive stone wall around the Old Fort to protect it and other historical remains. They will be a part of the heritage village.
The wall will surround the Fujairah Heritage Village which will include the Old Fort, Ruler's palaces and houses, a three-storeyed museum which will house all the discoveries unearthed in the emirate, a Romanian theatre to hold cultural festivals, a mosque, an old souq with an ancient design to display artefacts and handicrafts, a restaurant, a cafeteria, a children's park, a parking area and other facilities.
We expect to complete the Village in the next two years.
How many display halls does the Fujairah Museum have, and what was the latest section or division to be added?
The latest addition to the Fujairah Museum was the Marine Heritage Section where we display all old fishing equipment and nets, tools used to pick up pearls and diving suits, in addition to a large number of pictures depicting marine life in the past.
The Fujairah Museum consist of two main divisions – the heritage division and archaeology. The archaeology division includes old and recent discoveries and relics.
The heritage division consists of five major halls. Old weapons, traditional costumes, designs of old majlises and methods of irrigation are displayed. There is a section on herbal medicine.
A French archaeological team will come to Fujairah after Ramadan to continue their second phase of excavation in Al Bithna village. Over the last five years, the Fujairah Department of Archaeology and Heritage has gathered many relics and findings from several locations along the East Coast.
One of these sites is the great tomb at Al Muhallab in Dibba. It is a mass graveyard consisting of two long tombs in which many clay, stone and metal fragments of pottery were unearthed. It dates back to the period between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, which is the Hellenistic period between the first and second Millennia B.C.
The Sharm tomb is another discovery which includes another mass graveyard dating back to the Second Millennium B.C. and was discovered by an Australian team from Sydney University in 1997.
Al Bedya Fort dates back to the Islamic period. It consists of a massive Islamic castle measuring 80 metres by 50 metres which resembles the castles the Portuguese built in the region. The fort dates back to the seventh and eighth centuries.