Cultural Landscapes & Oases


Did You Know

Centre of Pearl Trading

Ancient settlement, pearl-trading centre, archaeological site and island habitat; Delma is a witness to 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 of pearl trading, helped quench Abu Dhabi city’s thirst for water in the early 20th century, and today is a vibrant fishing community.

Stone Age

The first human occupation of the island occurred approximately 7,000 years ago during the Later Stone Age, likely drawn by plentiful supplies of fresh water. Archaeological excavations have yielded significant finds, include pieces of Ubaid pottery, imported from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), painted and plain plaster vessels, 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 represent some of the earliest evidence of the consumption of dates in the Arabian Peninsula.

Modern Times

The modern settlement of the town dates back several hundred years, while several existing historic buildings, including a house and three mosques, date to the first half of the 20th century. 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, its shoreline was lined with markets.
The island also was reputed to have had over 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 dates from 1931 and is made of beach stone and coral, covered in gypsum plaster.
The Bayt 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 that are closed during summer days and opened at night, and a barjeel (a tower that catches breezes and funnels the air into rooms below) aided in ventilation during the hot summer.


The three historic mosques on Delma Island feature a high level of craftsmanship in the plaster decoration of windows, columns, doors and ceiling cornices.
The Al Muraykhi Mosque was built between 1931 and 1946 of beach stone and coral covered in gypsum plaster.
Al Muhannadi Mosque, originally known as the Sa’id Ali Al Qubaysi Mosque, is the only one of the island’s three historic mosques where the Mihrab (niche in the wall indicating the direction of Mecca) incorporates a Minbar (platform where the imam addresses the congregation).
Al Dawsari Mosque, formerly known as Sa’id Jum’e Al Qubaysi Mosque has a flat roof on the prayer hall that is constructed of 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 9 kilometres from north to south and 5 kilometres 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 other similar mosques in the Gulf region, the three Delma mosques have no minarets.


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