Abu Dhabi: The volcanic island of Delma is counted among the eight 'Desert Islands' which include Sir Bani Yas Island and the previously unexplored Discovery Islands.
Approximately 6,000 Emiratis and expatriates live on Delma, which is known for its pearl diving and fishing traditions, besides the cultivation of date palms and a bountiful supply of water.
The name Delma in Arabic means "a bucket of water" and signifies its former standing among neighbouring cities thanks to a famous well.
Now the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has envisioned a role for Delma as a heritage destination that will showcase the strength and simplicity of its fishing and boat-building traditions.
An archaeological museum, an agricultural research centre and a hospitality and tourism school, besides holiday homes, are to be ring in this makeover shortly.
The newly built Delma Airport facilitates flights twice a week from Abu Dhabi to Delma and back. Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) is operating two eight-seater water planes and one 50-seater plane free of charge. However, Emiratis are accorded priority for seats on a strictly first-come-first-served basis.
It takes approximately two-and-a-half hours to reach Jabal Dhana, a transit point to the island (250 km from Abu Dhabi City), by car. Once in Jabal Dhana, one can take a ferry to Delma; the journey takes approximately one hour and 25 minutes, depending on the weather conditions and costs Dh25 per passenger.
While driving down, the landscape starts to take on a different hue once one has crossed the 162-km mark, with the sand ranging from shades of orange to yellow and interspersed with shrubbery. To the right of the highway, the Jabal Dhana, made up of salt and minerals, stands out from a distance.
The Delma museum, despite its modest size, boasts one of the oldest archeological displays in the UAE. The first thing that catches the eye as one enters the place is a picture of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan holding pearls from Delma.
Shaikh Zayed's hand-written description of the island reads: "Delma is a national treasure as an income from pearl diving and fishing was distributed among neighbouring cities such as Al Ain."
A map of the archeological sites in Delma is also displayed. A display of volcanic rocks that date back 57.7 million years, ancient shells, bones, glass, oriental pots and jars are also prominently displayed.
Other exhibits include pottery from the late Islamic age, oil lamps, baskets, water pitchers made of leather, equipments used by pearl divers and old fishing nets among other things.
Delma Mall is the only shopping centre on the island. A Snickers chocolate bar cost me a good one and a half dirhams more than normal; obviously fast-food and imported products are not so much in demand. There are only two restaurants on the island.
If you wish to spend the night in Delma, there's just the one motel. You can also get a chalet by the sea if you are visiting with family.
Delma is a small but beautiful island with palm trees making for its fringe. Residents welcome visitors with a warm smile and are excited to see tourists.