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Centre of Pearl Trading

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Ancient settlement, pearl-trading centre, archaeological site and island habitat; Delma is a witness to the history of the United Arab Emirates
Offering bountiful underground fresh water, Delma Island was one of the earliest sites of human habitation in the United Arab Emirates. It also served as an important centre for pearl trading, helped to quench the city of Abu Dhabi’s thirst for water in the early 20th century and is today a vibrant fishing community.

Stone Age

The first human occupation of the island was approximately 7,000 years ago during the Later Stone Age, likely drawn by plentiful supplies of fresh water. Archaeological excavations have yielded significant finds, including pieces of Ubaid pottery, imported from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), painted and plain plaster vessel, a limestone mortar, finely flaked stone tools, and a variety of shell and stone beads.
Charred date stones (pits) dating back to the period between 5500 BCE and 4500 BCE, as well as fish and animal bones, shed light on the people’s diet and their ability to harvest the resources of both land and sea. The date stones are among the earliest evidence of date consumption in the Arabian Peninsula.

Modern Times

The modern-day town on Delma Island dates back several centuriesand there are historic buildings, including a house and three mosques, dating to the 19th and 20th centuries. They reflect the island’s role as an important pearl-trading centre. During the height of the Gulf pearl trade in the 1880s and 1890s, the island’s shoreline was lined with markets.
Delma was also reputed to have had more than 200 wells and supplied water to Abu Dhabi until the 1950s.

Al Muraykhi House

The core of the historic town is the fortified home of pearl merchant Muhammad bin Jasim Al Muraykhi. It was built in the period between the late 1800s and early 1900s, using beach stone and coral and was covered in gypsum plaster.
The Bait Al Muraykhi, which today houses the Delma Museum, features two windowless strong rooms on the ground floor and an upper storey, reached by a wooden ladder. The upper floor features two terraces and a central reception room designed to impress visitors, with moulded dogtooth relief decoration on the walls. Numerous windows were closed during the day in the summer and then opened at night, and a barjeel (a tower that catches breezes and funnels air into rooms below) helped to ventilate the house during the hot summer.

Mosques

The three historic mosques on Delma Island feature a high level of craftsmanship in the plaster decoration of their windows, columns, doors and ceiling cornices.
The pearl merchant Muhammad bin Jasim Al Muraykhi built Al Muraykhi Mosque out of beach stone and coral and it was covered in gypsum plaster.
Al Muhannadi Mosque, which was built by Saeed Ali Al Muhannadi in 1946, is the only one of the mosques to have a Mihrab (a niche in the wall indicating the direction of Mecca) which also incorporates a Minbar (a platform where the imam addresses the congregation), and prayers continue to be held there.
Al Dawsari Mosque, which was built by Rashid bin Fahd Al Dossari in 1931, has a flat roof on the prayer hall that is constructed from mangrove poles and palm matting, with woven reeds covered by gypsum plaster.

 

Fishing Village

Delma Island lies approximately 30 kilometres off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Measuring nine kilometres from north to south and five km from east to west, it has a population of around 10,000, most of whom are fishermen or work on the island’s numerous farms. Surprisingly green, the island today has extensive vegetable fields and fruit orchards.

Did You Know ?

Like many similar mosques in the Gulf region, the three Delma mosques have no minarets.

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