UAE: UNESCO Heritage Sites

UAE: UNESCO Heritage Sites

Role of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

- World Heritage sites are established by the UNESCO as a means for identifying places with cultural and historical significance. 
- Demarcated as protected zones.

UNESCO heritage sites act as a major attraction for tourists and residents who want a glimpse into the nation’s epic history:

Falaj irrigation system in Al Ain Oasis
- Function as one of many in Al Ain recognised by the UN’s Food, Agricultural Organization for its value in biodiversity and cultural heritage. 
- One of the many popular oasis in the UAE.
- Known for preserving the traditional Falaj irrigation system.
- Located in the middle of the Rub al Khali desert.
- 4,000-year-old settlement and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 
- Covering 1,200 hectares.
- Biggest oasis in the region.

Why the Al Ain Oasis is a UNESCO site in the UAE?
- Area is resplendent with fruit trees and around 147,000 date palms. 
- Has Had a history, UAE’s founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, was born under the shade of palm trees. Apart from foliage, a still-operating Falaj irrigation system reflects what the agriculture in the region has been like for millennia.
- Great place to start your tour is with Al Jahili Fort. 

Al Jahili Fort
- Originally built in the 1890s.
- Officially opened to the public in 2008.
- One of the largest in the country. 

Highlights
- Restored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage into a tourist attraction.
- Displaying the components of the UAE heritage site is an Eco-Centre at the entrance showing an overview of the site’s significance and importance in Abu Dhabi’s civilisation. 
- Showcasing ancient farming methods, visitors can know more about the area’s history with a series of interactive exhibits.

Things to know in Al Ain Oasis
- Popular tourist hub.
- Featuring several beverage and food outlets. 
- Parking is free here too with connectivity to neighbouring attractions like the Al Ain Palace Museum.

Note 
Location: Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
Contact:  +971-2-599-5438
Opening hours: 08:00 am to 05:00 pm (Open daily)

Grand Tomb in Hili Archaeological Park
- Hili Archaeological Park in Abu Dhabi has a history dating back to the Bronze Age.
- One of the UAE UNESCO sites.
- Located 10 kilometres outside Al Ain.
- Area is a combination of a public garden.
- Historical site with a history that can be traced back to the Bronze Age.

Highlights
- Monuments in the UAE heritage site are from the Umm an-Nar period and are dated from 2500 BCE to 2000 BCE. 
- Several ancient tombs and settlements in and outside the park.
- Notable structure is the Hili Grand Tomb.

Hili Grand Tomb
- Used to bury the dead from surrounding settlements.
- Tomb has two entrances with engravings of people and animals. 

Notable Ancient Settlements
1. Hili 8 reveals evidence from agricultural practices in the UAE 5,000 years ago. 
2. Hili Archaeological Park is a family-friendly space with plants, fountains and small play area for kids.

Note
Location: Mohammed Bin Khalifa Street, Al Ain
Opening hours: 04:00 pm to 11:00 pm (for families only)

Jebel Hafeet Tombs, Abudhabi

Highlights
- Beehive-shaped Jebel Hafeet Tombs
- Part of the UAE UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Marking the beginning of the Bronze Age in the UAE.
- Are pretty distinct considering their beehive shape. 

Note: The site is closed but it can be seen from the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain. 

You might always bide your time with other leisurely pursuits in Jebel Hafeet and take a trip to the Al Ain Zoo.

Bida Bin Saud
- Area is pretty hard to miss. 
- Located 15 kilometres from Garden City.
- Archaeological site is a large stratified rock, rise above the surrounding farms and desert.
- Referred to as the Gharn bint Saud.

Highlights
- Site of several unearthed stone tombs, some of which date back 5,000 years. 
- Area is completely fenced off although visitors are allowed to drive around the perimeter.  
- Unearthed artefacts from Bida Bint Saud are on display at the Al Ain National Museum.

Other Notable Sites
1. Gate to the Trucial States in Sharjah 
2. Umm an-Nar Island
3. Sharjah central region
4. Sabkha or salt flat in Abu Dhabi
5. Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah
6. Ed-Dur Site
7. Khor Dubai
8. Dhayah
9. Jazirate Al Hamra
10. Julfar
11. Shimal
12. Sir Bu Nai Island

Gate to the Trucial States in Sharjah 

Highlights
- Had great significance in the country’s pearl trade.
- Emirate of Sharjah was the gate to the Trucial States.

Historic structures
- Government of Sharjah has made great efforts to preserve the city’s historic structures:
1. Old port
2. Buildings in the old air station that are now home to the Mahatta Museum. 
3. Emirate has a strong law of Antiquities and Heritage that keep historical areas protected which adds to its appeal as a potential UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sharjah central region

Highlights
- Refers to a mountainous region that includes around five major archaeological sites. 
- Excavations in the area have revealed the existence of human settlements dating back to ancient times.

Umm an-Nar Island

Highlights
- Located on the southern shores of the Arabian Gulf.
- Off-limits and is a major historic site. 
- Recent excavations have covered 20% of the site and uncovered houses built with marine rocks and a cemetery.

Sabkha or salt flat in Abu Dhabi

Highlights
- Are on the tentative list of heritage sites in the UAE.
- Coastal sabkha, or flat salt-encrusted desert, in Abu Dhabi are located south on the coast of the Arabian Gulf.  
- Sabkha are considered some of the most unique because of their completeness, vastness and research carried out by geologists.

The Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah

Highlights
- UNESCO site in the UAE.
- Oldest mosque in the country still in operation.
- One of the UNESCO heritage sites in the UAE on the organisation’s tentative list is the Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah. 
- Located in the Al Bidya village.
- Has a unique architectural design. 

Ed-Dur Site

Highlights
- Considered one of the largest archaeological sites in the UAE.
- Periods of human settlement at the Ed-Dur Site include the Bronze Age, Stone Age, Iron Age, Obeid and Pre-Islamic periods. 
- Located in Umm Al Quwain.
- Home to a significant temple with architectural details unique to the first century AD.

Khor Dubai 

Highlights
- One of the tentative UNESCO heritage sites in the UAE. 
- Natural seawater inlet in the Arabian Gulf divides Deira and Bur Dubai.
- Spread across 14 km. 
- Also known as Dubai Creek.
- Site was the focal point for Dubai’s development as a trading port with the first recorded reference dating back to 1587.

Dhayah

Highlights
- Another place on the prospect list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites UAE.
- Area’s cultural landscape is a good example of traditional settlements. 

History

1. Past settlers represent historic interactions with the environment, apparent from the presence of palm gardens, lagoons and mangroves that were a major food source for centuries. Land and sea use were important for the survival of the inhabitants of Dhayah.
2. Archaeological excavations have been carried out in the region and on Hulaylah Island over the past 20 years. 
3. Area’s historical sites and the island have been officially been declared as “Protected Archaeological Zones.”

Jazirat Al Hamra

Highlights
- Found in the 17th century. 
- Former island was situated in a lagoon off the southern coast of Ras Al Khaimah. 
- Several buildings and watchtowers with forts are built from fossil beach rock and coral stone.
- Traditional pearl trading town was turned into a heritage and archaeological site.
- Old houses in Jazirat Al Hamra are modest winter or summer homes around a courtyard.

Facts
- Jazirate Al Hamra was once ruled by the Za’ab tribe before they moved to Abu Dhabi during the 1900s. 
- Only historical pearl trading area that was not transformed with modernisation efforts in the Gulf. 
- Act as a “ghost town” preserves traditional island settlements.
- Representing the country’s past dependence on the pearl trade before the oil era.

Julfar

Highlights
- Trading town of Julfar is also one of the oldest in Ras Al Khaimah.
- Dates back to the 14th century, marks a significant turning point in the region and is among investigated archaeological sites.
- Considered to be the only port in the Gulf that offered access to Southeast Arabia. 
- Historical record mentions it relating to Iranian and Mesopotamian attempts to conquer the region.
- Excavations in Julfar reveal the area’s extensive trade relations across the Gulf, Indian Ocean, East Africa and Southeast Asia. 

Structure
The area houses two outstanding structures:
1. Mohammed Bin Salim Mosque which was constructed during the 18th century.
2. Wadi Sur, a town wall from Medieval times with towers and moats.

Shimal

Facts
- Shimal’s archaeological landscape spans along the foothills of the Ru’us-al-Jabal mountains for 3 km. 
- RAK-based site features prehistoric settlements.
- More than 100 tombs and a medieval palace. 
- Unearthed remains here date to the Wadi Souq Period, Late Bronze Culture and Middle Islamic Period.
- Home to two ancient pottery kilns reminiscent of the emirate’s industrial past. 

Other Preserved Places

Middle Islamic Palace, a home of the ruler of the trading town of Julfar.

Sir Bu Nai Island

Facts
- Protected island in the UAE.
- Prized as a home for marine birds, natural flora and geological formations. 
- Refuge for turtles, reef fish and coral communities.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Name some historical venues in Sharjah where you can explore?
The historical venues in Sharjah include the Sharjah Al Hisn Museum among others. Those who are in the capital and visit the heritage sites in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain like Qasr Al Hasn Fort and Jebel Hafeet Tombs.

2. What are the highlights of Ed-Dur Site?
Highlights
- Considered one of the largest archaeological sites in the UAE.
- Periods of human settlement at the Ed-Dur Site include the Bronze Age, Stone Age, Iron Age, Obeid and Pre-Islamic periods. 
- Located in Umm Al Quwain.
- Home to a significant temple with architectural details unique to the first century AD.

3. Can you please show me some of the notable sites in UAE?
1. Gate to the Trucial States in Sharjah 
2. Umm an-Nar Island
3. Sharjah central region
4. Sabkha or salt flat in Abu Dhabi
5. Al Bidya Mosque in Fujairah
6. Ed-Dur Site
7. Khor Dubai
8. Dhayah
9. Jazirate Al Hamra
10. Julfar
11. Shimal
12. Sir Bu Nai Island

4. Why the Al Ain Oasis is a UNESCO site in the UAE?
- Area is resplendent with fruit trees and around 147,000 date palms. 
- Has Had a history, UAE’s founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, was born under the shade of palm trees. Apart from foliage, a still-operating Falaj irrigation system reflects what the agriculture in the region has been like for millennia.
- Great place to start your tour is with Al Jahili Fort.