Uncovering Ras Al Khaimah’s infamous ‘ghost town’ - GulfToday

Uncovering Ras Al Khaimah’s infamous ‘ghost town’

Main RAK

The supposedly haunted settlement of Al Jazeera Al Hamra is dotted with a number of minarets.

Mitchelle D'Souza, Staff Reporter

Ras Al Khaimah’s (RAK) coastal town Al Jazeera Al Hamra, or more commonly referred to as "ghost town," has piqued the interest of many curious visitors over the years. Sitting on the edge of the coast, this is one of RAK’s last remaining traditional villages from a bygone era.

It is a town whose reputation precedes itself. As per lore, this hamlet was abandoned by its occupants a long time ago, owing to what some say was paranormal activity. The neighbourhood has also been the subject of an Emirati horror movie named "Djinn" (2013), which was shot in part at the present derelict site.

Although in ruins, some of the coral stone and mud structures that dot this tidal village have stood the test of time. The skeletal remains of the households and shops with its demarcated rooms and interlocked date palms for roofs, can be determined to this day. Signs of human activity are almost non-existent, save for distant screams by a group of labourers playing a game of cricket. Every few steps you will spot a minaret spiralling out among the cluster of crumbling houses. If this was to keep the rumoured ominous presence away is a question we would never find answers for. Such is the inconspicuousness of people and signs of life in this former trading outpost, that veritable information is hard to come by.

The once thriving village bears the ubiquitous markings of a traditional town, which includes a fortress for defence purposes, a small market, several mosques and a variety of house designs. These belonged to the residents of the village, with the more elaborate structures housing rich pearl merchants. The inhabitants of this town, consisting mostly of the Zaab tribe, relied on maritime and pearl trading before their exodus in the middle of the 20th century, 1968 to be precise.

So, what, you may ask, bought such infamy to a rather sleepy settlement? What provoked the occupants of the village to leave their land abruptly? Various theories exist. Jaswant, a labourer hailing from Amritsar in India and who resides in the vicinity said, "The village folk shifted base to greener pastures, ditching their hometown for Abu Dhabi." Others believe that a tribal conflict led them to leave. Another supernatural explanation is that ghostly sightings and hauntings drove them away.

Restoration efforts by former residents to preserve the legacy of their once-upon-a-time happy home have been undertaken in the past. More recently, the annual Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival, a community engagement endeavour by the Al Qasimi Foundation, held an outdoor, large-scale visual arts and sculpture exhibition in the village. Eliciting renewed interest in this fossilised landscape, it transformed the precinct into an open-air museum. Colourful portraits and life-size paintings by an eclectic mix of artists brought new life to this old town. It saw aficionados of art and families from across the UAE paying a visit through the course of the festival which ran from Feb.14 until Feb.28, with an extended outdoor exhibition running until April 20.

Despite all the efforts towards bringing attention to this unassuming space, signs of reclaiming the town and making a modern dwelling out of it cannot be seen. Perhaps this is to do with the quest to preserve the last remaining specimen of a life once lived, before the oil boom in the Gulf. Surrounded by modernity and industrialisation — Al Jazeera Al Hamra is flanked by a port, a water park, a plush resort and a gated community — the town holds its own unmistakable character.

Standing firmly on its ground, holding many secrets and mysteries within its twisting alleys and coral stone structures, one cannot help but feel a sense of eeriness in the air in this hamlet. Whether this is due to the stony silence punctuated only by the rustling of the trees, or the ghostly backstory that has put this town on the map of intrepid adventurers, remains unknown.