New series of specially curated tours takes members of the public on an exploration of the history and heritage of Al Ain
Al Ain, 27 November 2017: Al Ain National Museum and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi relaunched a revamped version of the My Old House tour on 25th November, as part of the Al Ain Cultural Programme 2017/18, with the first installment of the latest iteration of the popular series proving popular with visitors and enthusiasts.
The tours offer the public an exploratory view of old houses and architecture in Al Ain, showcasing the building styles adopted by early Emirati residents. The Al Ain National Museum tour guides also lead discussions on the natural materials used to build the houses, and the lifestyle and traditions that were popular during the period the houses were built, immersing visitors in a unique experience of the past.
Al Ain is renowned for its historic roots, specifically its strategic location at the crossroads of trade and commercial routes, the presence of some of the oldest human settlements in the world and the diversity its natural environment. Al Ain Oasis is also home to the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UAE.
The second installment of the My Old House tours will run on Saturday, 23rd December 2017, from 9am – 12:30pm.
The tours are open to all, and are free. Please note that prior registration is required through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tours will begin at 9am from Al Ain National Museum and include visits to Al Ain Oasis, Al Qubaisi House, Jimi Historic Buildings, Qattara Historic Buildings, and Qattara Arts Centre and Souk.
About the Historical Sites:
Through their simple architectural details, the walls of these old houses tell us stories of the past. Houses with different interiors, some built with mud, some with stone. Despite being in different places, certain elements tie them together; other elements highlight the differences between them. All these historic buildings create a picture of these past communities; with their watchtowers, and mosques through different fragments of time. Set against the backdrop of beautiful Al Ain and nestled between its lush Oases, these houses add to the beauty of this city that has always been a place of exchange for different cultures. The goal is to showcase the varying styles and designs that have emerged from this one city, while highlighting Al Ain’s position as a key historical site.
The tour spans seven historical and cultural sites; Al Ain National Museum, Al Ain Oasis, Al Qubaisi House, Jimi Historic Buildings, Qattara Historic Buildings, and Qattara Arts Centre and Souk.
Al Ain National Museum was established in 1969 by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan to display archaeological finds discovered in and around Al Ain. The first museum was located in Sultan Fort, and was inaugurated in August 1970 by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In 1971, the museum moved to its current building, which was officially inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the ruler’s representative in the Eastern region.
The museum exhibits two different collections illustrating the archaeology and heritage of the United Arab Emirates. In 1974, the museum was expanded and two halls were added to display the archaeological objects discovered through ongoing excavations in Al Ain.
Al Ain Oasis setting is key to understanding the traditional buildings of Al Ain. These buildings were concentrated in villages or Harrat located around the edge of the oases, and were constructed using upcast earth from its gardens and the by-products of the palm. The typology of these buildings includes forts, defensive towers, and fortified houses built to protect the inhabitants and produce of the oases, as well as mosques for those working in the palm gardens.
All these building types demonstrate the traditional techniques of thick mud walls with limited small openings for light and air, roofed with palm logs and palm mat roofs, and mud plaster on the floors and walls.
Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis in the city, covering an area of 120 hectares with almost 70,000 palm trees. The date palm has been cultivated for more than six thousand years and is still considered the source of a number of basic resources since ancient times.
The oasis is characterised by its fertile soil and the cooling shade provided by the palm trees. Citrus and mango trees are also grown in the oasis. The flourishing vegetation in the oasis is made possible by the Aflaj, the underground channels bringing water from the mountains.
Al Qubaisi House building in the Mutaredh district of Al Ain is an important example of local architecture from the immediate pre-oil era in the1960s. Constructed largely of local limestone and Juss plaster, the house consists of two rows of rooms with an external arcade along the north and south sides of a walled courtyard.
Jimi Historic Buildings – East: The House and Mosque of Bin Hammoodah Al Dhaheri is located on the eastern edge of Jimi oasis. It has a large courtyard with a deep well and is thought to date back more than two hundred years. A mosque, with a prayer hall and small courtyard lies in the eastern part of the house.
South of Bin Hammoodah, the House of Khalfan and Saif bin Abdullah Al Dhaheri is a small mudbrick courtyard house believed to be around 90 years old, located near the western edge of Jimi oasis. This building displays many aspects of the traditional layout of earthen houses in and around the oases of Al Ain. The House of Sultan bin Abdullah Al Dhaheri House is a one-room structure lying immediately to the east of the House of Khalfan and Saif bin Abdullah Al Dhaheri.
Qattara Historic Buildings: Bin Biduwa Al Darmaki House is one of the mud houses that includes a mud-brick tower and is located on the edge of Al Qattara Oasis. The house consists of several rooms with varying periods of construction and degrees of completion. This house can be dated to the 17th century.
Visitors can learn about such accurate processes for a comprehensive understanding of the building’s history and the preservation thereof, as it is possible to distinguish renovated parts from the original parts from the simple difference in the colour of mud.
In addition, the Bin ‘ati Al Darmaki House is a 17th century house distinguished by its many rooms and its 3-storey tower. It also contains a well and a madbasa date press. Part of the house is used to host the arts centre, which also includes an underground small-scale museum that showcases the items found during the construction process of the arts centre.
Qattara Arts Centre was opened in 2011 to provide the local community of Al Ain with a venue where they could participate in art and cultural activities. Along with Souk Al Qattara, re-opened in 2012, it is the location of various heritage events and programmes. Both buildings display the traditional earth and palm construction techniques of Al Ain, which in Qattara Arts Center have been harmoniously combined with modern architectural elements. Souk Al Qattara highlights the artisanal products of Al Ain, encouraging local families to preserve their heritage through the production and sale of traditional handicrafts.
About The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi
The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction that enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The Department manages the emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The Department of Culture and Tourism supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key role played by the Department is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close co-ordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.