Ras Al Khaimah restores 100-year-old watchtower made of coral, beach stone

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Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, history, tower, Al Jazira Al Hamra, Ras Al Khaimah Department of Antiquities and Museums

Ras Al Khaimah - The Ras Al Khaimah Department of Antiquities and Museums used traditional materials and rebuilt it in the same way it was constructed ages ago.


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Published: Sat 4 Jul 2020, 1:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Jul 2020, 4:12 PM

A 100-year-old watchtower that used to guard an ancient maritime village in Ras Al Khaimah has been completely restored, and plans of opening it to the public are  under way, authorities announced on Saturday.  
Built on the sand dunes of Al Jazirah Al Hamra - a village renowned for fishing, pearl diving and boat building - the tower watched over the community's water wells and protected the settlement from attack in the early days of the emirate. Today, it is one of only two towers standing on these dunes. 
In bringing the historic tower back to life, the Ras Al Khaimah Department of Antiquities and Museums used traditional materials - like coral and beach stone, mangrove beams, and palm fronds - and rebuilt it in the same way it was constructed ages ago. 
"The traditional technique of wall-building leaves voids and gaps in the structure. The tower was built using the same technique, which is one of the reasons for its partial collapse," said Ahmed Hilal, director of archaeology at the department.
With the rise of development from 1950s, the tower's use as a defence system slowly declined, while Al Jazirah Al Hamra was connected to the mainland by 1970s through land reclamation works. 
Over the past few years, parts of the tower's roof collapsed and some of its stonework fell into disrepair. The Department of Antiquities and Museums then created a detailed record of its architectural features and decided on the repairs that needed to be done. 
Work began in April, with workers injecting a mortar made of traditional materials - such as lime - into the walls to stabilise the building. 
"No chemicals or modern materials were used in the repairs to reflect the original process and maintain the tower's historical integrity," said Hilal. "We have also tried to avoid material containing salt, which is a major problem in many structures because it can cause corrosion."
The restoration process took about four weeks. Workers also rebuilt its roof and repaired its main door and some of its plasterwork. 
"The 11.9-metre high tower is a classic example of a traditional defensive building," said Hilal. 
"Its restoration forms part of our mandate to safeguard Ras Al Khaimah's priceless heritage and secure it for future generations."
The Department of Antiquities and Museums is working on plans to open the tower to the public and allow a wider audience to experience the emirate's rich heritage. 
RAK's conservation project
The entire village of Al Jazirah Al Hamra has been the subject of a major restoration effort in the past few years. This conservation project is also part of a plan to document all traditional buildings in Ras Al Khaimah. 
More than 1,600 structures have been recorded and mapped as part of the department's plan so far, and 75 of them are towers. A number of these towers are similar defensive fortifications to the Al Jazirah Al Hamra building, while others are part of larger forts or civilian buildings. 
Once the plan is complete, a digital database will be created by the department to showcase Ras Al Khaimah's traditional buildings.

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