“Guys! Let’s explore the ghost town this time”
The first thing I heard from Henry, when we planned for a photo journey. After a very long time the four of us found some time together to get out and have a good time with our cameras. The first obvious suggestion came from Henry ‘Let’s do it’.
I put up a suggestion of reaching the spot, early morning by around 3 am for more starry night photo opportunities and of course it is a Ghost town, so what more do we need!!
The seclusion, the silence that we feel and the sight of those crumbling walls across the main road tells us that we have arrived at the right place. It’s a couple of hours before dawn; we have some time to explore the area before it eventually gets lit up by the blue sky. We parked our car right in front of a mosque minaret , where the road ended; that watches over narrow alleys and abandoned buildings in eerie silence.
We picked up our photo gear and walked through the dark narrow allies of the quiet town. The visibility was not that bad; thanks to the construction work going on close to the place, but it almost spoiled the mood of being in a Ghost town and ruined our starry photographs.
We went on exploring deep inside the town with the dim lights of our mobile phones. We were accompanied by a black cat, which shied away every time we tried to photograph it, which made our quest more interesting. We avoided the main path and wandered through the narrow village alleys —passing by mosques, houses with features like wooden doors, star windows, wind-towers, and courtyards towards the sea. However, all of these structures are in varying stages of decay.
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This is Jazirat al-Hamra, or the Red Island, located in Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that form the U.A.E. It is also known as the Ghost Town. It’s been said that this town was haunted, which is the reason why it was abandoned, and has remained uninhabited and neglected since 1968. Maybe it is just one of those stories as this town is so famous for being haunted that different people have different stories to tell.
It used to be occupied by the Zaab tribe (still they own the place), this coastal village was created in the 14th century. The people of Al Jazirat Al Hamra were said to be Hadhr, which is the local name for coastal Bedouins whose livelihood depended mainly on pearling.
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The 1930s economic crises saw the decline of the natural pearl industry. Few years later, this town was deserted when the inhabitants moved out, attracted by the prospect of better living conditions offered by the local government. People left behind their houses, mosques and shops, creating what now is an undisturbed picture of life before the exploitation of oil.
But what I find really interesting while roaming around the deserted town is how corals and sea shells were incorporated with stone and mud to create the walls. Most of the houses were built from coral rag; the roofs were constructed from palm trunks. The walls of the oldest buildings have larger pieces of coral, while the younger ones were built from bricks of crushed coral.
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It was in the back of my mind that something is going to happen. Something really interesting. But did we ‘feel’ anything? Being there? Like it has been told? No. There was no fear factor at all. We comfortably passed through the alleys, stopping in front of houses and other ruins to take pictures. The only thing that came to my mind thinking about the Ghost effect we had that morning was the black cat… Not really! Naah!
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Photographers frequently visit this place and it’s quite obvious why! One can spend hours roaming about, taking countless pictures. Jazirat al-Hamra may be a ghost town to many, but as far as I can see it is an amazing place with lots of history and stories within. It is also the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the U.A.E. I’m not sure if anything is being done to preserve it, else it will remain a ghost town only in our memories as it is going to perish forever. Some say that this place is off the limits, but I couldn’t find any signs anywhere.
But wait… to be honest with you all, I found some ghosts in there and I carefully captured them with my ever dependable Nikon,
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