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United Arab Emirates: Al Jahili fort

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Al Jahili fort | United Arab Emirates | Asia

[Visited: March 2016]

Al Ain is enormous in terms of surface, and after entering the city from the north, it is still a long drive through to reach the city centre. A little to the south of it, it is easy to spot Al Jahili fort, and after parking my car, I decide to first walk around it to appreciate its size and architecture. The fort has been restored recently, using traditional materials, and the result is great. One of the first things to see is the round tower with four levels, all marked by a crenellated circular wall, for which the fort is famous. There are more watchtowers, and when I have done my full tour of the outside of the fort, it is time to admire the two towers alongside the big wooden gate before entering the complex.

Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Towers at each corner of the residential section of the fort

First thing to do: visit the visitor centre, where I get a very warm welcome, and all kinds of leaflets and postcards. After watching a video about the meticulous reconstruction of the fort before 2010, I watch the exhibition in honour of Sheikh Zayed, who was born in Al Ain and is the grandfather of the first president of the United Arab Emirates. Walking through the courtyard of Al Jahili fort, I arrive at the other side of the entrance, where a permanent exhibition has been installed about the British explorer, adventurer and photographer Wilfred Thesiger. He crossed the vast desert of the Empty Quarter twice in the 1940s, befriended Sheikh Zayed, and stayed in Al Ain. Called Mubarak bin London by his local friends, he was able to appear like a local himself because he mastered the Arabic language. The black and white photos on display show that, apart from being an adventurer, Thesiger also was a keen photographer, and addicted to the desert and its raw beauty and harsh reality.

Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): The afternoon sun shining on the entrance gate and the impressive watchtowers

It is time to further explore the inside of Al Jahili fort. I walk to the square residential section which has several more circular watchtowers, and a fortified wall. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public for renovation. From here, I walk to the circular tower I have seen before; now, I climb to the second floor. Unfortunately, there is no way further up, and I walk around the tower for views of the two towers of the entrance, the residential section, as well as the courtyard of the fort. I wait until the fort closes, and once I am outside again, the light is much warmer and the colour of the walls has changed from a pale light brown to almost light orange. When I come back the next morning, I again walk around the fort and, with the sun on the other side, enjoy a different light falling over the crenellated walls and towers.

Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): The round tower of the fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Strengthened walls and circular watchtower inside the fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): One of the corners of the fort with circular watchtower
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Four levels of the round tower of the Al Jahili fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): The photo exhibition about Wilfred Thesiger is located in this galley in the fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): The residential section of Al Jahili fort seen from the round tower
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Late afternoon sun on the watchtowers and entrance gate of Al Jahili fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Afternoon view of a wing of Al Jahili fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): The two watchtowers of the entrance to Al Jahili fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): Looking up the crenellated interior wall and towers of Al Jahili fort
Picture of Al Jahili fort (United Arab Emirates): View of Al Jahili fort from its eastern corner

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