Travelogue : Ghost Town – Jazirat Al Hamra
“Guys! Let’s explore the ghost town this time”
The first thing I heard from Henz, when we planned for a photowalk. After a very long time the four of us found some time together to get out and have a good time with our cameras.
‘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!!
By around 3:15 am we reached the spot as shown on the map. The silence was amazingly creepy. By looking at the crippled structures in the dark we could tell; we are almost there. Couple of hours to dawn, gave us the time to explore the area in the dark, before it eventually gets lit up by the blue sky. We parked our car right in front of a mosque where the road ended. Mosque had most of its structure intact and felt as if the minarets are watches over the old town.
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. It took us through some of the houses, mosques and other structures. Abandonment has taken its toll on most of the structures as they seem to be falling apart, in all directions.
As read about Jazirat al-Hamra, translates in Arabic as ‘red island’ named after the soil it was built on, was once a tidal island. The people of Jazirat Al Hamra were said to be Hadhr – coastal bedouins who earned their livelihood majorly on pearling. It used to be occupied by the Za’ab tribe since 14th century.
There has been many stories trolling around this small village and by looking at the place, no wonder why people have so many different stories to tell. This place has more history than just being tagged as ‘haunted’. It has been said that the Za’ab defended their coast against many foreign invasions, including the Portuguese and British, and rebuilt the town after a major battle.
While walking around, it’s easy to notice how these structures were built with mud and stone by incorporating the corals and sea shells into the core. The crushed shells and corals are still visible through the cracks on the crumbling walls. The interesting part is that the way these structures withstood the harsh coastal winds, blazing summer heat and the foreign invasion. Majority of the houses are rebuilt, as it seems, with stones. However, some structures have stood the test of time to tell us the great story of Jazirat Al Hamra.
When the pearl industry collapsed and the oil industry took a hike, the people moved out of the village looking for better prospects. The other stories are related to the village being haunted by ghosts. It seems to be true that the people have abandoned the village in an uncanny way.
Based on the ‘hauntedness’ for which this place has been famous for, it was in the back of my mind that something is about to happen in the darkness. Something really interesting. But it never happened!! We passed through the alleys in complete darkness stopping for taking pictures of the ruins. The only thing that came to my mind thinking about the Ghost effect we had that evening was the black cat… Not really! Naah!
There is no wonder why Photographers would love to visit this place. The signs of life can be found everywhere in this place but no living soul to be found, which makes it more interesting to visit and the story of being haunted derives prominence. We spent hours taking photographs and exploring the place. I’m not sure if anything is being done to preserve this piece of history, else it will remain a ghost town in our memories as it may perish forever.
But wait… to be honest with you all, I found some ghosts in there and I carefully captured them with my ever dependable Nikon,
Jokes apart, Jazirat Al Hamra is still ancestral homes to many and it was an honor actually to visit such a historical place. To read and understand a lot about this place and Ras Al Khaimah as a region was truly worthwhile.