RAS AL KHAIMAH: Al Jazirah Al Hamra, the Red Island, is a historic old town in Ras Al Khaimah that has survived the vagaries of time.
It is an old fishing and pearling centre, dating back hundreds of years. The town, situated on the coast south-west of the city of Ras Al Khaimah, was abandoned by its inhabitants in the middle of the 20th century when they moved to the expanding city of Abu Dhabi.
Much of the town survived, including part of its fort, a market place, mosques and many of its traditional houses, some of which were the homes of pearl merchants.
Ahmed Obaid Al Tunaiji, director-general of Ras Al Khaimah’s Antiquities and Museums Department, says that Al Jazirah Al Hamra today offers one of the best opportunities in the region to study traditional Arabian Gulf forms of architecture, in particular the use of blocks of coral in building.
Although many of the buildings have become ruinous, others survived. Many of the houses built of coral display intricate decorative designs on their walls and around the windows.
Al Tunaiji also says that the gardens and courtyards of the town were once the centres of social life, providing interesting insights into the way of life it the people.
Extensive studies have been undertaken to record the town’s architecture, while a reconstruction and rehabilitation programme has restored many of the key buildings. Archaeological surveys and excavations are also underway to learn more about the origins of the town and to seek information about its earlier inhabitants.
The only part of the town’s fort, which survived, is rectangular in design, with a rectangular and a circular tower on opposing corners.
Being a popular spot for visitors interested in the country’s past, Al Jazirah Al Hamra is now attracting a growing number of tourists from European and Asian countries.