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Jazirat Al Hamra: Visions from the past

Jazirat Al Hamra, an abandoned village, is a landmark of tradition

  • Text and photos By Oliver Clarke, Staff Photographer
  • Published: 00:00 November 20, 2010
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Jazirat Al Hamra
  • Image Credit: Oliver Clarke,Staff Photographer
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Jazirat Al Hamra (Red Island) is the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the UAE. It was once a small island but is now a long and narrow peninsula that backs on to the port and further along, with new developments. Its inhabitants subsisted on maritime and pearl trades. The town was occupied since the 16th century and was abandoned nearly 40 years ago, before the discovery of oil and gas in the region — that's when the rush to modernise started. This abandoned village is of great interest to archaeologists, tourists and photographers.

Silent sight

An undisturbed picture of life is left behind, although some of the older buildings are crumbling and in a poor state of repair.

This whole area is unique for Ras Al Khaimah and for the UAE. It shows all the elements of a traditional town, including a fortress, several mosques and a variety of houses. Many of the houses are constructed of coral stone, once commonly used along the coast of the Arabian Gulf.

Mud-and-brick wind towers designed to funnel even the slightest breeze off the Gulf into the homes can also be seen.

At the end of the coastal street, around 250 metres from the wind-tower house (complete with bright blue painted wooden doors), is a charming mosque. The uniqueness of this mosque is attributed to its minaret. It is a stumpy coral block construction in a conical shape, with a spiral staircase leading to windows in the roof from where call to prayer would have been sung — which is very different from the tall, slender concrete minarets of other mosques.

The area between the wind-tower house and the mosque played host to the town souq, full of stores and stands. Some of them can still be seen today.

Where is it?

About 18 kilometres southwest from Ras Al Khaimah.

Drive towards the Emirates Road R/A. Once at the roundabout, do not turn towards Dubai but go straight and continue along the coast. After about five kilometres, when you pass the modern village of Jazirat Al Hamra, turn to the right; there is also a sign that reads "Al Jazirat Al Hamra". After 900 metres, when you see the Al Jazeera Port sign, turn to the right and then take the first turn to the left. After 400 metres, enter the old village by turning left on to the dirt road and explore the village.

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