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Al Ain Falaj Watchtowers

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by Phil Iddison

Several falaj watchtowers are still in existence in Al Ain. They are usually located close to the point where the falaj enters the oasis and on high ground. Falaj security was paramount and the towers enabled at least some of the route of the falaj to be watched at times of disturbance whilst still being in touch with the local community. There do not appear to have been towers all along the route of the falaj which could stretch for kilometres.

Examples can be found at Hili, Qatarra and Jimi. They are simple round or rectangular towers constructed of mud brick with some use of stone. The entrance was usually at second storey level in common with many other fortified towers in the Emirates. Access was by means of a rope thrown down the side of the tower and toeholds in the tower surface.

The Qatarra tower is on the south east corner of the oasis and is unrestored. It is not very high but the top may have eroded and anyway it has a commanding position. There are a number of restored and original mud brick dwellings along the east edge of Qatarra oasis, they are behind the shabiya housing south of Qatarra club.

The Jimi tower is also on the south east corner of the oasis and seems to have been restored some time ago. It now has a ground floor entrance but this is not original as the old entrance can still be seen above and to the left. This is a tall tower and is located near the Jimi fort which has also been restored.

There are two towers at Hili quite close to each other, tribal rivalry perhaps? They are on the north side of the oasis, the falaj originates to the north of Hili Fun City. One is square the other rectangular, each on its own mound with entrances at ground level facing the oasis. Both have been restored quite recently and the rectangular is occupied by a watchman. They are clearly visible from the east-west dual carriageway which bisects Hili district.

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Al Ain Falaj Watchtowers Gallery

Photographs by Phil Iddison

  • Qatarra tower, unrestored and in its context
  • Qatarra tower from (originally!) open country side
  • Jimi tower and fort in the distance
  • Jimi tower, original entrance, toeholds and top
  • Hili towers
  • Hili, detail of the rectangular tower parapet
  • Hili, detail of the round tower
  • Hili, entrance facade of the rectangular tower

Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan