Al Ain Cultural Sites (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas) – World Cultural Heritage in United Arab Emirates

Al Ain’s Cultural Sites (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oases Areas) constitute a legacy that testifies to human occupation of a desert region since the Stone Age. new with traces of many prehistoric cultures. Notable remains in the property include circular rock tombs (circa 2500 BC), wells, and a variety of brick constructions: residential buildings, towers, palaces and administrative buildings . In addition, Hili has one of the oldest examples of a sophisticated aflaj irrigation system dating back to the Iron Age. The property provides important evidence for the transition of cultures in the area from hunting and gathering to sedentary settlement.

Accreditation year: 2011
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Area: 4,945.45 ha
Buffer zone: 7,605.46 ha

Outstanding global value

The continuation of Al Ain’s Cultural Sites, with its different constituent parts and the regional context in which it is located, provides evidence of ancient human settlement occupation in a desert area. desert. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic period, the area has vestiges of many prehistoric cultures, especially from the Bronze and Iron Ages. Al Ain lies at the intersection of ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, tangible elements of the property include the remains of circular rock tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and a partially underground aflaj irrigation system. , oases and mud-brick structures are used for a variety of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. purpose.

Criterion (iii): Al Ain’s Cultural Sites provide exceptional evidence for the development of successive prehistoric cultures in a desert region, from the Neolithic to the prehistoric. ironwork. They establish the existence of sustainable human development, testify to the transition from hunting and nomadic societies to human occupation of the oasis, and the sustainability of the culture. this to this day.

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

Criterion (v): The ruins and landscape of the Al Ain oases appear to be evidence, over a very long historical period, of the possibility of civilizations in the northeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, especially especially in prehistoric times, to develop a strong and positive relationship with the desert environment. They know how to establish the sustainable exploitation of water resources to create a green and fertile environment.


Composed of 17 satisfactorily defined components, Al Ain’s Cultural Sites constitute a continuum with sufficient integrity to embody the exceptional values ​​of prehistoric cultures and primitive related to the development of the oasis landscape. The proposed sites cover sufficiently large areas and include a wide variety of archaeological sites, which are generally well preserved and adequately protected. However, integrity will be underpinned by a systematic inventory and deeper knowledge of the nominated groups and their environment. The history of the oases from prehistory to the 19th century is still very fragmentary and must be studied scientifically. The environment near the population forms the landscape associated with existing deserts, mountains and oases, and this also applies to their urban scale, but in some cases the urban context of they have outdated elements nearby, as a result of contemporary developments (amusement parks, modern buildings, road infrastructure and hotels, etc.). The integrity of the environment must be carefully monitored to ensure these growths do not proliferate to adversely affect their environment.


Al Ain’s prehistoric sites, especially the Hafit and Hili populations, and related mobile artifacts, have a high degree of authenticity. Several recently excavated archaeological sites reveal completely authentic construction remains. However, since their discovery in the second half of the 20th century, there has been a tendency to reconstruct certain circular tombs in an attempt to make them symbolic, which necessarily limits their accuracy. their real. The presence of aflaj systems dating back to the Iron Age has been confirmed, most notably the case of Hili 15 falaj, which shows all units of the system intact (cut and cover, shari) ‘a and open channels) and where there are no interventions other than sandbag fencing to protect and drain stormwater. Al Ain’s Aflaj doesn’t all date back to the Iron Age, but does include new additions to the system throughout the following centuries. Recent studies have filled in some gaps in the continuity of the system. Subsequent attempts at more systematic documentation will aid in assessing their authenticity as a system that forms the basis of today’s oases.

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The work of restoring mud-brick buildings and structures in the oases, which took place from the 1980s onwards, was primarily reconstruction with priority over preserving the physical structure. This trend has been moderated in recent years, to ensure that authenticity is more respected (in terms of form, structure and materials), as consideration of authenticity is at the core of conservation activities. ADACH’s existence. The conditions for the authenticity of the oases in terms of use seem to be essentially there, given the efforts of national and local authorities as well as ranchers. Together, they aim to ensure the continued development of the oases. However, threats to their authenticity due to the changing economic impact on sustaining agricultural activities,

Protection and management requirements

The property has been legally protected by the Abu Dhabi Agency for Culture and Heritage Establishment Act (ADACH) 2005 and the Oasis protection laws of 2004 and 2005, as well as the Archeology and Excavation Law of 1970. Building regulations of the City of Al Ain The Department of Town Planning prohibits the construction of new buildings over four floors and with a maximum height of 20 meters. Sites within the property and its buffer zone are registered in a repository managed by ADACH, which also administers the Preliminary Cultural Assessment, the cultural heritage component of its Environmental Impact Assessment process. The Emirates. Two draft legislation, the Emirate Protection, Conservation and Management of Cultural Property Act, and the Federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act, are both in the final stages of review by government agencies. . These laws will improve the existing protection framework for websites.

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The asset protection offered by many industry agreements reflects the complexity of asset definition. The Abu Dhabi Cultural Heritage Management Strategy provides the overall management framework for Al Ain Cultural Sites. It has an implementation plan consisting of 19 action plans, some of which have been completed and communicated to the ADACH Entity Strategic Plan. The ADACH Entity Strategic Plan is a live document reissued on a rolling basis and its 2010-14 cycle completed. The Heritage Management Strategy is currently being reviewed and updated, to incorporate specific management plans and other projects for specific sites. ADACH was merged with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority in February 2012 to create the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (ADTCA).

With regard to the text of the ‘Al Ain’s Cultural Site’ (Hafit, Hili, Bidaa Bint Saud and Oasis Area) site text, United Arab Emirates, It should be noted that, according to United Nations directive of 15 May 1999 (ref.ST/CS/SER.A/29/Rev.1) the terms ‘Persian Gulf’, ‘Gulf’ and ‘Shatt-al’ -Arab’ to be referenced and used in all documents, publications and statements emanating from the Secretariat is the standard geographical designation of the waters between the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic Republic of Iran. .

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

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

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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