One of the six oases in Al Ain on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Hili Oasis covers an area of 60 hectares and contains approximately 40,000 mature palm trees over 252 farmed plots. The oasis contains several historic structures, including two watchtowers and a fortified house built in the early 1800s. The Bin Hadi Al Darmaki House stands at the centre of Hili Oasis and offers a good example of the fortified tower houses of the early 1800s that guarded the oases. The house consists of a rectangular enclosure with a large square tower at one corner.
The Hili Watchtowers
Although commissioned by different patrons, the two watchtowers at Hili served a common aim – to form a protective gateway to Hili village and guard its vital water supply. Both towers were built of local materials including mud bricks, palm trunks and fronds. The square tower, known as the Sheikh Zayed Murabba, was built at the command of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates. The tower stands on top of a man-made earth mound and has the classic features of the defensive murabba (square) tower. Approximately 50 metres away, the 7.4-metre high round watchtower known as Seebat Khalifa bin Nahyan dominates a similar earth mound. This older tower was probably built during the 19th century.
Jimi Oasis is one of six oases which make up the oasis component of Cultural Sites of the Al Ain UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jimi Oasis contains more than a dozen historic earthen buildings – including mosques, fortified houses and watchtowers that speak to the agricultural and administrative importance of this historical oasis from the 18th century onwards. Jimi Oasis sits in a sunken basin that is divided into a series of palm gardens. Fruit trees and vegetables are grown in the shade of the palm canopy. In the past, fields around the outer edge of the oasis were used for winter cereal crops, and beyond that was a zone for animals to forage.
Among the most important structures in the oasis is the late-19th century fortified residence of Sheikh Ahmad bin Hilal Al Dhaheri, the Representative of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Zayed the First (r. 1855-1909) in Al Ain. The house provides a fine example of a residential fort built to protect the oasis, the falaj and farms and houses that fell under his jurisdiction. A nearby mosque reflects the simple design and construction that characterised the architecture of Al Ain at the time. Located to the south of Jimi Oasis is the round Jimi Watchtower, built by Sheikh Ahmad bin Hilal Al Dhaheri in the second half of the 19th century. The 14-metre tall tower protected the shariaa of the falaj, the point where the underground water supply comes to the surface and is accessible for public drinking and irrigation.
Qattara Oasis is rich in history, with a 4,000-year-old tomb, ancient mosques and fortified houses. Nestled amid the attractive patchwork of date palms, fruit orchards and cool pathways are 19 historic earthen buildings dating from the mid-18th to the early 20th century. These buildings include a souq or traditional market. While the oasis has been farmed for at least 300 years, older signs of human habitation include a 14-metre long tomb to the east where excavations revealed a trove of ancient artefacts more than 3,000 years old.
The oasis and its haraat (the villages at the edge of oases) present a profile of the religious, domestic and trading activities of the area. In the former haraat there are a number of mosques; several residences (some featuring storage and living areas); three forts; the souq and numerous plantations, many of which are still operational.
Qattara Tomb is located to the east of the oasis. This Bronze Age site dates from 2000-1000 BCE. Excavations revealed jewellery, including golden pendants, and a large cache of weapons, stone vessels and pottery.
Al Qattara Souq
Al Qattara Souq dates back to the 1930s. The original structure remains largely intact, although a limited restoration was undertaken in 1976. The souq comprises a corridor approximately 35 metres long with 19 shops arranged on either side of a central covered passageway. The building demonstrates the traditional construction techniques of the oases – thick mud walls with limited small openings for light and air. It was roofed with palm logs and palm mats and had mud plaster floors and walls.
Al Daramkah Watchtower
The watchtower stands at the south-east corner of the oasis and was built by one of the families living there to protect the vital water source. The water for the oasis is supplied by a falaj irrigation system that brings water from the Hajar Mountains, located several kilometres to the east.
Muwaiji Oasis is the smallest and westernmost oasis in Al Ain and contains approximately 21,000 palm trees. The oasis was historically fed by the Muwaiji falaj, an underground water channel running east west under the modern city from its source in the foothills of the mountains. The oasis lies at the western edge of the Al Ain alluvial aquifer in an area bounded by two main seasonal water courses or wadis. Some 500 metres to the north of the oasis is Qasr Al Muwaiji, believed to have been built by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, son of Sheikh Zayed the First, in the early years of the 20th century at a strategic location guarding the approaches to Al Ain from Abu Dhabi and the west. From 1946 to around 1960 this fort was the home and diwan of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and it is the birthplace of the present ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Mutaredh Oasis is located in the central/western part of the city, about two kilometres west of Al Ain Oasis. A number of historic mud brick buildings survive in and around Mutaredh Oasis. These include the House of Sheikh Suroor bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al Dhahiri, a large mud brick courtyard house on the eastern edge of the oasis. A little to the east of Mutaredh Oasis is the recently restored House of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa.