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Khaleef Falaj

Text by Brien Holmes
Photographs by Geoff Cosson

  • Illustration of falaj construction
  • Line of access shafts looking west towards Foha
  • Shafts now lined with cinder block, concrete caps
  • Soil surrounding the shafts has been removed
  • Recording coordinates of pot sherds found nearby
  • Shafts drilled in recent years with circular caps
  • Detail of the recently drilled access shafts
  • System is close to new road along border fence
  • Taking a GPS reading of one of the access shafts
  • 3 falaj channel systems converge where Brien is
  • Another view of the converging systems
  • Large channel has been excavated by machine
  • Shafts leading to subterranean channel
  • Circular access shafts with ramp(?) to opening
  • Access shaft filled with debris and blown sand
  • The remains beam for raising water perhaps
  • End of the system is covered now by camel pens

The seven oases of the ancient settlement of Al Buraimi -- now divided with two oases in the city of Buraimi, Oman, and five oases in the city of Al Ain, UAE -- were irrigated with a complicated system of wells and aflaj (singular: falaj) systems. Each system consisted of a series of vertical access shafts that lead to the horizontal falaj channel. Some of these access shafts are more than 20 meters deep in some of the larger systems. Workmen were lowered -- or climbed -- down the shafts to dig and later maintain the water channel. The vertical shafts are usually about 10 meters apart. In the mountains, falaj systems were more often above-ground constructions though some, as at A'Dahir, were a combination of under-ground and above-ground.

The falaj at Khalieef, near the spur that runs along the border between the UAE and Oman at Foha, consists of XX access shafts and a section of wide, deep subterranean channel.

Over the years, witness by the remains of control panels, I-beam steel bars that once suspended pumps, and other evidence, water was pumped from these access shafts. Originally, however, it is assumed the water was collected and diverted to the oases at the community now known as Khalieef, a suburb of Al Ain between Hili and Foha.

The falaj system is less than two kilometers from the remains at the Hili archaeological park and the hundreds of Hafit period tombs on the low mountain range beside the Buraimi industrial park.


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