The Ancient Enclave of Jumeirah Archaeological Site, Dubai

Jumeirah Archaeological Site’s ancient ruins with Dubai skyline in the background

photography by: Omri Westmark

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With sleek skyscrapers, mid-desert ski resorts and oddly-shaped artificial islands, Dubai is first and foremost synonymous with its ultra-futuristic veneer. However, as it turns out, the city is also home to a couple of archeological relics that date back to as early as 2000 BC. Contrasted by Dubai’s iconic skyline on the background, Jumeirah Archaeological Site comprises the ruins of an ancient settlement which a millennium ago, was a stopping point along a medieval trading route.

Archeology may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Dubai, yet apparently, the city has to offer far more than world class amenities. Away from the glut of vanity projects, the seemingly-empty plot in Jumeirah residential area offers a glimpse into the city’s bygone era.

 

Sandwiched between rows of nondescript villas, Jumeirah Archaeological Site can trace its roots back to the Abbasid period between the 9th- to 10th-century CE, when the area served as a stop along the trading routes linking the far east with Oman and Iraq.

 

Back then, the settlement consisted of a mosque, a marketplace, six residential buildings as well as a caravansary, the latter of which is a roadside inn for ancient-time travelers. With an area of 1,000 square meters, it is by far the largest building in the complex. The caravaners who frequented this medieval Arabian motel, stayed in one of the small-sized rooms, centered around a big courtyard.


Encompassing an area of 8 hectares, the site was first discovered in 1969, when a series of excavations unveiled a treasure trove of artifacts and remnants of the former settlement. Weathered by the elements for over a thousand years, all buildings in the complex were reduced to mere ruins, with only the lower part of the walls and columns still intact.

 

Some of the pottery shards, bronze coins and tools found on the site are now showcased in the nearby visitor center, where a permanent exhibition provides insights and information about the hamlet.

 

The precinct is crisscrossed by a couple of paved walkways where visitors can have a close look at the ruins, which strikingly lie on the backdrop of Dubai’s famous skyline, forming a direct path between the past and our times. Speaking of the present, amid the millennium-old structures, one can also find the Arabian Tea House, a traditional-style restaurant with a wide assortment of scrumptious Emirati eats.