Islands of History in a Sea of Modernity: Forts of the UAE

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Travelers to the UAE are drawn to the flamboyance and glamor of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is easy to be awestruck by the superlatives of modern wealth but there is much more to be seen in this young, yet historical country. Before this region of the Arabian Peninsula became a modern mecca of wealth and success, local tribes fiercely controlled portions of the desert landscape. Local rulers often built impressive forts that served as symbols of their power and control and provided security for the family and tribe.

Many of the forts built over the past four centuries still survive and have become icons celebrating the cultural heritage of an amazingly resilient culture. At the Al Jahili fort (one of the largest forts in the country) in the oasis town of Al Ain, visitors can wander through the remains of the summer palace of a royal family. In the center of Dubai, the Al Fahidi fort has been transformed into a wonderful museum that traces the history of culture in the region from prehistory to the present. Sprawling over a rocky bluff, the Fujairah Fort guards the Indian Ocean port of Fujairah continues to stand tall after more than 300 years.

When visiting the UAE, take the time to explore beyond the resorts, desert camel rides and shopping malls. This region is home of a fascinating cultural heritage that few visitors take the time to experience. Check out some of the forts and museums to learn how the people of this region were able to endure and thrive in this searing desert climate.

Fujairah Fort

Fujairah Fort

Watchtower at Al Jahili Fort

Watchtower at Al Jahili Fort