Digging Palaeolithic levels at Faya Image Credit: Courtesy of Directorate of Antiquities in Sharjah

Jebel Hafeet Tombs

Standing tall over the desert, the Hajar Mountain range and the imposing Jebel Hafeet appear as if they have positioned themselves to guard the city and its ancient Bedouin roots, culture and traditions.

Archaeologists have found and documented a thriving civilisation that existed in the Hafeet area in the Stone and Bronze Ages with a distinctive culture and character. The remains of an ancient cemetery were discovered in the northern and eastern foothills of the mountain that date back to 3200 to 3000 BC. The finds in this area show that the cemetery belonged to a community that lived in the region around 5,000 years ago.

Some 500 ancient graves, in different dome-shaped tombs, lie at the bottom of Jebel Hafeet. This site was discovered on the top of mountains in the south of Al Ain. From this site archaeologists recovered some copper materials, pottery, coloured beads and a bronze-engraved sword. They all date back to the third millennium BC.

Al Ain Oases

The date palm oases in Al Ain carry a history that goes as far back as 1000 BC. Each of these have archaeological sites that tell a vital part of the UAE’s culture and civilisation. They are located in Hili, Al Qattara, Al Mutaredh, Al Jimi, Al Muwaiji, Al Jahili, and Al Markazyyah (town centre) districts. They cover an area of 3,7 million square metres supporting up to 133,511 trees, according to Al Ain Municipality.

The ancient date palm culture is an important part of the ecosystem that also maintained Al Ain’s significance. The date palm oases possessed a particular strategic value which is why Al Ain represents the oldest and most original settlement of the UAE.

All trees and plantations in the oases are protected by walls and irrigated by Falaj, an ancient system of narrow waterways with origins stretching back to 1000 BC. The water comes from the mountains some 30 kilometres away.

A couple of years ago, Al Ain Municipality launched a project using satellite, aerial, and land scrutiny to help experts gather information and map these seven jewels of Arabian culture. The data was used to create topographical maps drawn for different purposes including the future protection of the oases and the promotion of cultural tourism. The maps also provided a detailed description of the palm trees, springs, and other geographical components inside and in the surrounding of the oases.


Hili Archaeological Park has been designed to highlight the ancient history of the UAE. Several sites dating back to the Iron Age are also located in the preserved archaeological area surrounding the park. One of the most impressive monuments in the UAE is the Hili Grand Tomb, which is more than 4,000 years old. This tomb, which was discovered in 1960s, is located in the middle of the park.

The village of Hili, which spreads over more than 10 hectares, was organised around big towers, made of unbaked bricks and reaching 20 metres in diameter. The tower at Hili 8 site was rebuilt at least twice in less than a millennium. At the end of the third millennium two other Hili towers were also in use, according to Dr Walid Yasin, an archaeologist who has spent much of his life in Al Ain.

There are a dozen tombs in the necropolis of Hili that were built during the Umm Al Nar period that started around 2,700 BC and ended around 2,000 BC.

Dr Sophie Mery, an archaeologist who worked in the area, said people living here used seven different pottery making techniques, some of them were unique. Archaeologists also found pottery that was imported from Mesopotamia and the ancient Indus Valley of Pakistan.

Most of the contents of the grave were originally excavated before 1989 by a team that decided to leave part of the burial deposits in the central part of the structure untouched. The original excavations produced a huge amount of disarticulated and fragmented human remains mixed with hundreds of pottery vessels and other objects, some of which are now on display in Al Ain Museum.

Bida Bint Saud

This small rocky area is located some 15 kilometres to the north of Al Ain and it is here where archaeologists found some graves made of round stones. These graves date back to the first millennium BC. Also some pottery and other copper and bronze items were discovered inside.

According to the Culture and Tourism Authority-Abu Dhabi (TCA-Abu Dhabi), a number of ancient mass graves were found on a 700-metre long natural outcrop, called Garn Bint Saud. The outcrop is named after a well that was dug in the beginning of the 12th century. The area was inhabited for thousands of years. Archaeologists have found graves and traces of the ancient settlements on and around the outcrop.

The objects found from the area date from the first century BC (1100-600 BC) — the period known as the Iron Age. These tombs were excavated by a Danish archaeological team and Al Ain Department of Antiquities in 1970s. The tombs were renovated in 1985.

The stone heaps at the foothills are thought to be older (dated around 3,000BC) of those located on the eastern side of the outcrop. Objects found in the tombs, especially those on top of the outcrop, include decorated stone vessels, pottery vessels and weapons made of bronze and beads, some of which are on display in Al Ain Museum.

More recent excavations to the west and south of the outcrop brought to light a settlement site and two Aflaj irrigation system dating back to the Iron Age. These discoveries indicate that the inhabitants of Bida Bint Saud were farmers with an economy based on cultivation and husbandry. Camels were already domesticated animals by then.