Forts of Al-Ain and Oasis Buraimi
For many years, the Al-Ain – Buraimi region was called the Buraimi Oasis. The Buraimi Oasis did not refer only to the palm groves in Buraimi, it was the name of great Al-Ain – Buraimi territory. Thus, it was the whole geographical area, and not a certain palm plantation. Over the past decades of rapid development of the UAE international frontier, the name of the geographical area Buraimi Oasis changed to Al-Ain.
Initially, the Buraimi Oasis or Al-Ain region included nine small settlements. Three of them were manned by population ruled by the Sultan of Oman. They are Buraimi, Sara, and Hamasa. The rest six settlements were manned by population ruled by the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi. They were Qattara, Al Ain, Jimi, Mataradh, Hilli and Muwaiqih. In 1972, the international frontier was established across the Oasis area, and Sara, Buraimi, and Hamasa preserved the belonging to Sultanate of Oman. However, the other six villages passed to the ownership of Abu Dhabi Emirate of the UAE.
Historically, Buraimi Oasis was a place of permanent interest of different parties that wanted it to be in their possession. Both the Sultan of Oman and the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi had equal rights on it. However, if to study its historic location, it is possible to find out that the territory is located in the “Sultanate of Oman and in the uninterrupted administration of the oasis by the Al Bu Falah Shaiks since 1869.” In the first half of the twentieth century, the government of Saudi Arabia was trying to get the exclusive right on Al-Ain, however, it was difficult because of interference of Western countries. Moreover, during the conflicts, forts that were built all over the oasis were the strategic objects.
The most famous fortof Al-Ain is al-Jahilī fort complex. It was constructed in the end of the nineteenth century for protection of the city and valuable palm groves. Moreover, it served as a main branch of the Oman Trucial Scouts that guarded the passes and maintained inter-tribal peace. It also was a place for the local governor (Kelly, 1956). Within one location, the complex contains a lot of different specific buildings of mud brick architecture. It comprises a square fort with defensive towers, a round watchtower, two big walled enclosures and a mosque beyond the walls. Each of these components ensures visual and material connections with historically sufficient events and occurrences from the early nineteenth century that left their trace on both the political situation of the area and the physical landscape of Buraimi Oasis.
There are several versions of the fort’s foundation. According to the first version, the tower al-Jahilī and its falaj (water channel) were the part of the eighteenth century community and crop estates of the Ya‘āribids that were bought and updated by Shaikh Zāyid Bin Khalīfa in 1870s. In 1907, during his trip to the region, Lorimer mentioned the traditional connection of the Āl Bū Falah with Baraimi via their fort at Muraijib. Moreover, he noted that the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi had lately obtained a property at Jahali. Archaeological report from al-Jahilī, confirmed by some credible historical sources, indicates that Shaikh Zāyid used his influence and power to not only get territory from the Dhawāhir but also to form entirely new buildings at al-Muwaij‘ī andal-Jahilī. The second version is supported by the text of Percy Cox where he described some of the details during his second journey to Al-Ainn in 1905. He wrote that to the east of Muthariz, the Shaikh of Abu Dhabi constructed the new estate at Jahali. Moreover, he noted that it had only been in existence for six years. Jahali was a nice fort with a walled housing and fruit orchard (Sheehan, 2012).
Al-Jāhilī apparently originated from the tower blocks of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and became a large fort at the beginning of the twentieth century. Moreover, before appearance of the modern city of Al-Ain, the fort represented not only the Na‘īm power and grandeur but also the political situation that had existed in the Buraimi Oasis for the hundred years.
Brymee is another fort that is located in the Al-Ain region built from sun-dried bricks. It was surrounded by the huge walls made of the same material. Unfortunately, the fort is not completely preserved, and the most part of it was ruined. However, from the historical sources, it is known that Brymee had a ditch, eight feet high walls, and at the corners there were round towers. Moreover, on the north side of the fort, there was another smaller fort. In time of military activities, Brymee could hold about 800 men for its defense. The fort could offer an efficient opposition to rebellious Arabs. However, Hamerton thought that it was not a problem for disciplined troops with artillery to attack the building (Al-Rasheed, 2010).
In conclusion, it is necessary to point out that the region of Al-Ain was the strategically important area during the centuries, and forts, which are located there were strategic places. Moreover, because of geographical conditions, the construction and preservation of buildings was very hard process, the forts appear to be historically valuable places.