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Relatives visit graves of their loved ones at the Bani Yas Cemetery. Now a new cemetery there has been designed for non-Muslims.
Sammy Dallal Photographer
Relatives visit graves of their loved ones at the Bani Yas Cemetery. Now a new cemetery there has been designed for non-Muslims.

More cemeteries to be opened in Abu Dhabi

The emirate's exploding population and diverse demographic makeup has required the municipality to allocate new lands for burials.

ABU DHABI //As the emirate's population continues to grow, more residents are choosing to remain in the country - even in death.

To meet this need, the municipality has opened four new cemeteries in the emirate this year. This month, a graveyard in Al Samha opened for the residents of communities north-east of the capital.

The new cemeteries, including one in Baniyas that is designated for non-Muslims, mean the capital will have sufficient burial space for approximately 30 years.

Khaleefa Al Romaithi, the director of public health for the municipality, said Al Samha cemetery will be able to accommodate 3,000 graves, but other smaller cemeteries will cater to the needs of the emirate's diverse population.

"We have people coming here from around the world," Mr Al Romaithi said.

"We want to be able to have a place for people of all nationalities and traditions."

RevAndrew Thompson, the chaplain of St Andrew's Church in Abu Dhabi, said most Christians choose to have their remains repatriated, but those who prefer to be buried in the emirate will be able to, in one of two non-Muslim cemeteries in the capital.

"Anyone who is not Muslim can be buried there according to their own rites and traditions," Rev Thompson said.

St Andrew's oversees Umm Al Nar, a 40-year-old Christian cemetery built on land provided by Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, which will soon be at capacity.

The new Baniyas cemetery, located behind one designated for Muslims, will also be able to host funerals.

Six cemeteries built on Abu Dhabi island are full, and all future cemeteries will be built on the mainland, Mr Al Romaithi said.

In Al Ain, the emirate's first modern crematorium will open within the next two months. The site, in Al Foah, will be open to non-Muslims and will feature a chapel, offices and a waiting area, along with a cemetery.

Developed by Al Ain municipality, the crematorium will primarily cater to the emirate's Hindu community, though all religions will be welcomed.

"Everybody is helping everybody," said Sarvotham Shetty, the former president of the India Social Centre. "This shows that everyone is supporting each other."

Cremations are tied to residency visas, so residents of other emirates are not able to use the services at the country's only other licensed crematorium, in Dubai.

For five years, the capital's Hindu community has used an incinerator in Al Dhafra, but Al Foah crematorium will be bigger and will allow for funerals on site.

The New Medical Centre helps local Hindus arrange for cremation services if the body cannot be repatriated. In some cases, the centre will waive some of the costs of cremation and the cost of repatriating those remains.

"There are many cases where people cannot afford to be returned home or it is inconvenient for them or sometimes there is no one in their home country to receive them," said Ravi Rai, who works with families at the centre.

At weekends, the chapel at Al Foah will be home to the St Thomas Anglican congregation in Al Ain. The Right RevMichael Lewis, the Anglican bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, will bless and dedicate the Al Foah site on October 13.

Abu Dhabi Municipality also recently launched a campaign to reorganise and clean cemeteries that had been neglected after being closed.

The campaign included the clean-up of trees and rubbish and the repair of walls and signage.

Security guards have been assigned to each cemetery and new lighting has been installed.



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