Al Jazeera Al Hamra, a former coastal village in southern Ras Al Khaimah that was abandoned at the time of the formation of the United Arab Emirates in the late 1960s and 1970s, is considered one of the last traditional towns in the country. Once an active fishing and pearl diving community, Al Jazeera Al Hamra consists of a fort (hisn), several mosques, a market (souq) and over 100 houses including a wind tower home—some of which are constructed of traditional materials such as coral and gypsum. Due to the wishes of the families who once lived there, the buildings have not been demolished and remain relatively intact. Consequently, Al Jazeera Al Hamra provides a snapshot of a traditional Emirati coastal town that has been fairly unspoiled since its original inhabitants left. This unique setting offers insight into how coastal village life with courtyard homes, mosques and a souq were mainstays of the urban tissue before UAE citizens transitioned to inhabiting air-conditioned villas and shopping malls.
The deserted village’s densely knit courtyard homes stand close together separated by vein-like narrow pathways called sikkas that run throughout the town, providing shade and at times a gentle breeze for the inhabitants as they conducted their day-to-day activities. Mosques were conveniently situated throughout the community for worship and prayer. Located on the northern part of the former island are remnants of a souq that stood along the original coastline. An aerial view allows one to see the original “red island” amongst the sea of white infill sand that now surrounds Al Jazeera Al Hamra, connecting it to the Ras Al Khaimah mainland. It should be noted that today, the area known as Al Jazeera Al Hamra is divided into two parts: the old settlement which is the residue of the former three kilometer island—the focus of this project—and the new modern village that resides beside it.