Pre-history and Palaeontology
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Maqta Conservation Area



Did You Know


One of the oldest buildings in Abu Dhabi, Maqta Tower stands as a testament to the earliest days of settlement on Abu Dhabi island
Built at the shallow low-tide crossing to Abu Dhabi island from the mainland, Al Maqta Tower is a significant historic building in Abu Dhabi city. Constructed in the late 18th century and contemporaneous with Qasr al Hosn, it represents one of the few examples of coastal defensive towers built of coral stone and beach rock.
The Maqta Crossing continues to serve as a physical and symbolic gateway to Abu Dhabi island, with continuous additions of prominent elements to the area including the Maqta Causeway, Maqta Customs House, Maqta Bridge, and Sheikh Zayed Bridge.

The Crossing

Fording the crossing was only possible at low tide. This natural protective barrier was one strategic reason for establishing Abu Dhabi island as the site for the new capital of the Al Bu Falah tribes, who had lived in the Liwa Oasis for centuries. 
In the early 1950s, a rough causeway was built to allow for easier access by car. In the late 1960s, Maqta Bridge was constructed, leading to the removal of the causeway and reopening the crossing to the natural flow of water, thereby restoring the natural habitat.

Maqta Tower

Until the 1950s, the tower signalled to wayfarers their arrival on Abu Dhabi island and their exit from the arid and unforgiving desert. Still a long way from the town around Qasr Al Hosn and Al Bateen, which were on the far side of the island, Maqta Tower provided a welcomed rest stop before crossing the salt flats on Abu Dhabi island on the way to the town. 
With construction of Maqta Bridge, Maqta Tower became obsolete, yet it remained a symbol of the historic importance of this area. 

Maqta Customs House 

In the 1960s, a police station was established on the mainland to monitor causeway traffic to and from the island. It was built of local gypsum mortar and sea and coral stone. It later became a Customs House until 1971, when the founding of the United Arab Emirates meant that customs no longer needed to be checked at the border to Abu Dhabi island. The building was then heavily restored and transformed into a museum.


Sheikh Zayed Bridge

The newest bridge to span the crossing between Abu Dhabi Island and the mainland is the Sheikh Zayed Bridge. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid, its road decks are suspended from symmetrical steel arches, forming a waveform with a fluid silhouette that evokes undulating sand dunes.The dramatic 842 metre-long, 64-metre-high Sheikh Zayed Bridge is said to be the most complex bridge ever built.


Late 19th century - 2012

Late 19th century

Al Maqta Tower is built to secure the shallow crossing from the mainland onto Abu Dhabi island. It is constructed of coral stone and beach rock.

Late 19th century

Early 1950s

A rough causeway is built near the tower to allow for easier crossing by car. 

Early 1950s

Late 1960s

Maqta Bridge is constructed. 
Maqta Customs House is built on the mainland to monitor traffic across the causeway.

Late 1960s


With the formation of the UAE, customs formalities are no longer required at the entry to Abu Dhabi island. The Customs House is converted into a museum.



The Maqta Conservation Area is established as a protected area comprising the shallow ford, Maqta Tower, Maqta Customs House, Maqta Bridge and any archaeological remains of the Maqta Causeway.



Did You Know?

Al Maqta Tower is one of the very few remaining pre-oil era buildings on Abu Dhabi island.


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