UAE’s Christian Archaeological Site Opens

ABU DHABI - Developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), Desert Islands, the region’s premier nature-based tourism destination, has announced the opening of the UAE’s only discovered Christian monastery to the public on Sir Bani Yas Island.

By (WAM)

Published: Sat 11 Dec 2010, 6:32 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 11:19 AM

This historically important archaeological site makes Sir Bani Yas one of the very few destinations in the world to offer a holistic tourism experience, covering wildlife, nature based activities, a 5-star boutique hotel and sites of historical significance.

The pre-Islamic monastery, which is believed to have been built around 600 AD, was initially discovered on the 87 square kilometer island of Sir Bani Yas during excavations in 1992. Now almost two decades since its discovery, and more than a thousand years since it was built, the general public can visit the site and experience another piece of the rich tapestry that makes up the UAE’s fascinating history. A new phase of work is currently underway by archaeologists, and treasures are still being unearthed, making the site a significant focal point for history enthusiasts worldwide.

His Excellency Shaikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman of TDIC, said: ‘We are delighted to be opening this ancient site to the public, which gives visitors an insight into the rich history of Sir Bani Yas Island and the UAE. We are proud of our heritage and are therefore focused on creating a multi-experience tourism destination where guests are able to enjoy a variety of activities, while protecting and preserving the history and culture of our country, as well as the natural environment of the island.’

The team of archaeologists excavating the site, which is believed to have been built by the Church of the East (also known as the East Syrian Church), is led by Archaeological Director Dr Joseph Elders. Dr. Elders oversaw the initial surveys of the site in the 1990s. He is currently the Chief Archeologist for the Church of England, responsible for the preservation of thousands of English churches.

Dr. Elders said: ‘Opening the site to visitors marks an exciting tourism development for the island as we seek to discover and share more about the past lives and human stories that have played their part in creating its fascinating history. We look forward to welcoming visitors to experience this precious asset on Sir Bani Yas.’

The precious artifacts unearthed so far include more than fifteen types of pottery, glass vessels, ceremonial vases and richly decorated elaborate plasterwork stucco. The decorative designs that adorn these items provide great insight into how the 7th Century inhabitants of the island led their lives. These artifacts have been carefully stored for their protection and may be displayed to guests in the future.

Sir Bani Yas Island has been inhabited for over 7,500 years, and more than 36 archaeological sites have been found on the island since surveys and excavations began. These include a circular tomb thought to be 4,000 years old, a fortified watchtower, a mosque and evidence of the ancient pearling industry. In the future it is hoped that these sites will be opened to the public.

More news from