Cultural Sites of Al Ain (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas)

Al Ain, also known as the Garden City due to its greenery, with Sheikh Salama mosque minaret in the foreground and Jabal Hafeet in the background (Xalan Mustafa/Wikimedia,
CC BY-SA 3.0).
 United Arab Emirates
N24 4 4 E55 48 23
Date of Inscription: 2011
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Property : 4,945.45 ha
Buffer zone: 7,605.46 ha
Ref: 1343
Al Jahili Fort (GordonTour/Flickr,CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The serial property of The Cultural Sites of Al Ain, with its various component parts and the regional context in which it is situated, provides testimony to ancient sedentary human occupation in a desert region. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic, the region presents vestiges of numerous prehistoric cultures, notably from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Al Ain is situated at the crossroads of the ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, the tangible elements of the property include remains of circular stone tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and partially underground aflaj irrigation systems, oases and mud brick constructions assigned to a wide range of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. This expertise in construction and water management enabled the early development of agriculture for five millennia, up until the present day.

Criterion (iii):The Cultural Sites of Al Ain provide exceptional testimony to the development of successive prehistoric cultures in a desert region, from the Neolithic to the Iron Age. They establish the existence of sustainable human development, bearing testimony to the transition from hunter and nomad societies to the sedentary human occupation of the oasis, and the sustainability of this culture up until the present day.

Criterion (iv): The tombs and architectural remains of the Hafit, Hili and Umm an‐Nar cultures provide an exceptional illustration of human development in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age on the Arabian Peninsula. The aflaj system, introduced as early as the 1st millennium BC, is testimony to the management of water in desert regions.

Criterion (v): The remains and landscapes of the oases of Al Ain appear to testify, over a very long period of history, to the capacity of the civilizations in the northeast of the Arabian Peninsula, notably in the protohistoric periods, to develop a sustainable and positive relationship with the desert environment. They knew how to establish the sustainable exploitation of water resources to create a green and fertile environment.

2 Replies to “Cultural Sites of Al Ain (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas)”

  1. This place gives a real glimpse into the past lives of the UAE people, how they have survived for hundreds of years despite the hot sun.


  2. Al Ain has a natural purity that has the power to surprise visitors to the Emirates. The area is abundant with fresh produce and spring water and the city’s oases provide a green lung in the heart of the desert. I see an opportunity to link visits to the various sites across the city by explaining how the nation’s heritage and culture has been shaped by natural environment and how this influence has since spread far beyond the city. To understand the city’s historical perspective of landscape and settlement, I will encourage visitors to take in the view over the city from atop Jebel Hafeet.


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