Sunday, July 14, 2024

A ‘ghost village’ near Dubai offers a glimpse into the UAE’s past


In the embrace of the sand dunes, and an hour’s drive from the giant skyscrapers of Dubai, there is a deserted village from the nineties of the last century and a glimpse of the country’s past before the rapid urbanization of the Emirates.

The village of “Al-Quraifa” was built in the 1970s to house semi-nomadic Bedouin, but two decades later interest in it waned, including in the giant emirate of Dubai, as oil wealth turned the UAE into a “global business and tourism hub”. and Abu Dhabi.

Al-Gharifa, which has become a “ghost village” near the city of Al Madam in the emirate of Sharjah, has become one of the Emirati’s tourist attractions in recent years because it offers an outlet to escape the concrete. forests, and a rare opportunity to glimpse the UAE’s desert past.

Ahmed Sukar, an assistant professor at the University of Sharjah and a member of the research team for the Village website, told The Associated Press that Kharifah, made up of two rows of houses and a mosque, “can teach us a lot about the modern history of the United Arab Emirates.”

The village was established within a public housing scheme after the creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, a federation of seven emirates.

It was 13 years before this date that oil was discovered in the Emirates, which reshaped the country.

Sukar said there were about 100 people from the Al-Qutbi tribe in the village.

Al-Khetbi was one of the many tribes who lived a semi-nomadic life until then, and the tribe only worked as pastoralists, traveling between desert oases and when Dubai and Abu Dhabi were two small tourist towns. Fishing and pearl diving, according to the Associated Press.

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Built to facilitate the transition to a sedentary lifestyle for nomads, the concrete buildings have brightly colored interior walls, some of which are decorated with mosaics.

The areas of the houses were so large that the village elders could hold regular local assemblies.

In one of these houses, the wallpaper depicts lush landscapes, a stark contrast to the dull, sandy landscape outside.

It is unclear why the village, built over two decades, was abandoned.

Local accounts say “evil spirits” drove the residents out, but Sukar says they may have left in search of a better life in the UAE’s fast-growing cities.

The village was suffering without clean water and electricity, and had been swept away by sandstorms. Families had to travel long distances across the desert to reach government jobs and schools in Dubai.

Nowadays the desert village has started to come alive little by little. The sand filled the houses and covered the walls of the rooms almost reaching the roof. Only the mosque remains intact, thanks to regular cleanings by maintenance workers from the nearby town of El Madad.

Some descendants of the first residents still live in the emirate’s countryside, although many have now moved to cities of gleaming skyscrapers, luxury air-conditioned shopping malls and a vast network of modern highways.

The majority of the UAE’s population are expatriates, and its more modest past has sparked much interest. Recently, tour guides have been seen leading groups of visitors through the deserted village, which has been used as the setting for songs and the backdrop for social media posts featuring foreign models, luxury cars and the extravagance Dubai is now famous for.

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“I wonder why they left? Was it due to evil forces? Could it be witchcraft? We will never know,” said Nitin Panjal, an Indian expatriate who visited the site.

The municipality recently constructed a fence, security gate, garbage bins and parking lot around the village. Earlier visitors left graffiti on the walls, removed some wall decorations and climbed onto fragile ceilings to take pictures.

The new activities have removed some of the mystery from the site, and raised the possibility that it could become another tourist attraction in a country full of visitors.

Danny Booth, a foreigner from the Isle of Man, a crown dependency in the Irish Sea, told The Associated Press that he decided to “come and see the village before things change here.”

“Sometimes, it’s better to leave these areas alone because they lose their beauty when they’re crowded,” he added.

Bill Dittman
Bill Dittman
"Freelance alcohol fan. Coffee maven. Musicaholic. Food junkie. Extreme web expert. Communicator."

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