ENHG Field Trip to Ras Al Khaimah March 2004

ENHG Field Trip to Ras Al Khaimah March 2004

On the weekend of March 17-19 2004, the Al Ain chapter of the ENHG travelled to Ras al Khaimah for a weekend of touring some of the more spectacular sites in the Emirates.

The tour included stops at:

  • the Wadi Suq tombs at Shimal
  • the dhow building yards
  • the yanz of Wadi Sha'am
  • the abandoned village of Sili in Wadi Sha'am
  • the ghost town of Jazirat al Hamra
  • the fort and farm at Falayah

Yanz of Wadi Sha'am

The yanz of Wadi Sha'am, a collection of 52 storage buildings perched on a narrow mountain ledge overlooking the wadi bed, were unknown to non-locals until a few decades ago when a visiting archaeologist stumbled on the site.

The structures, used by farmers to store grain and fodder, are easily missed at Wadi Sha'am as they blend in so well with the mountainside. Yanz are common in communities in the mountains of the Musandam; visitors will recognize them in many of the remote mountain communities.

Each yanz is built of stone, with little or no mud mortar between the stones. However, the exterior and interior of each is plastered in fine mud. The entire structure is constructed in the same manner as houses and mosques found elsewhere in the Musandam region. That is, the roof is supported by a carefully constructed set of wooden poles laid across the top of the yanz walls. On top of the poles is a woven mesh of palm leaves covered with fine gravel. Stones are used around the edges, with large flat stones overhanging the walls by several centimeters so that rainwater is directed away from the yanz' walls and foundation.

One of the yanz in Wadi Sha'am
Photo by Brien
The more than 50 yanz with the RAK mountains in the background
Photo by Brien
Material inside the yanz suggests they were used up until about 25 years ago
Photo by Brien
The yanz are tightly packed along a narrow ledge of the mountain on the west side of the wadi
Photo by Brien

Looking up the narrow path between the yanz and the mountain
Photo by Brien
The sloping gravel mountainsides look inhospitable for farming todayground
Photo by Brien
In the valley below the yanz is an old settlement and numerous terraces
Photo by Brien
ENHG members photographing and examining the yanz
Photo by Brien

Looking back towards the yanz, one can see how they blend into the mountainside
Photo by Brien
A solitary yanz sits above some terraced fields nearby
Photo by Brien
A drainage tunnel beneath a platform in front of this solitary yanz
Photo by Brien
Looking into the drainage tunnel, constructing entirely of mountain stone
Photo by Brien

An abandoned terrace and a solitary yanz
Photo by Brien
The steep, rocky mountain slopes nearby remind visitors how harsh the environment for farming is
Photo by Brien
Walls, like this one almost two meters tall, still hold the fill and top soil of the terraces in place
Photo by Brien
Weeds grow in what appear to be seeded rows in this abandoned terrace
Photo by Brien

Finely crafted steps leading to a yanz
Photo by Brien
A gate (middle of frame) is visible in the stone wall surrounding this farm
Photo by Brien
A curious goat watches ENHG members from a ledge about 100 meters above the yanz
Photo by Brien
One of the nearly intact yanz; note the flat stones used for the overhanging roofline
Photo by Brien

ENHG members make their way back to the vehicles over the wide gravel bed
Photo by Brien
Two members pause on the walk for a final look and photograph of the yanz
Photo by Brien

The settlement at Sili in Wadi Sha'am

Across the wade bed and at the end of the wadi is the abandoned settlement at Sili. Evidence suggests individuals were living in the community up until a generation ago -- one man we spoke with estimated people moved out 20 or25 years ago. The exodus from the community would correspond with the construction of new housing, complete with municipal water supply, sewers, schools and electricity, constructed with the first oil revenues.

At least two of the original houses at Sili have been renovated in the past two years, evidence that families are returning to the community, if only for weekends. Many of the doors of the houses are locked and many of the courtyards appear to have been abandoned only recently. Unfortunately a few of the structures are showing signs of neglect.

An oven, probably used for baking bread and fish, outside one of the houses
Photo by Brien
Notice the overhanging flat stones along the roofline and the quality stonework
Photo by Brien
Most houses, like this one, feature a bench along the front wall of the house
Photo by Brien
There are three large kilns for firing pottery, this one with a bench on which pottery would have been stacked
Photo by Brien

Sherds of a failed pot in the soil beside one of the kilns
Photo by Brien
Many reservoirs, such as this one, are located around the community which is built on three levels
Photo by Brien
Extensive terraces encircle the stone houses
Photo by Brien
Huge flattened stones are used in this house construction. The passageway to the door is about a meter deep
Photo by Brien

In the courtyards, flat stones used for preparing food can still be found
Photo by Brien
Courtyards also feature grinding holes. Often there are two holes, one for grain, the other for spices and medicines
Photo by Brien
The harsh climate has caused some of the structures to collapse as wooden roof beams deteriorate by climate and infestation
Photo by Brien
A storage pot rests against a tree in the courtyard of this house
Photo by Brien

Sun and wind has left the door to this house a bright color against the gray of the stone
Photo by Brien
Notice the huge stone lintel over the door and the thick stones used along the roofline of this house
Photo by Brien
Honeycomb scattered on the ground near one house. The condition of the comb confirms people were living here recently
Photo by Brien
The graveyard at Sili is densely packed with most graves raised above the surface
Photo by Brien

Weary ENHG members make their way back to the vehicles
Photo by Brien


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