From a distance, it is barely noticeable. In fact, unless it is pointed out by a tour guide, the modest but historic landmark might go unnoticed by visitors in their 4x4s. Perched on a slight hill on one of the UAE's oldest settled islands, the archaeological find blends in perfect harmony with the natural austerity that surrounds it.
As The National reports today, Sir Bani Yas island is home to the remains of a 7th century monastery and church, discovered by a tourist in 1991. The remains, which pre-date Islam, are the most easterly Christian settlement found in the Gulf.
The island has a rich history. The UAE's ruling Al Nahyan family are descendants of the Bani Yas tribe, and archaeological finds indicate that the island itself was inhabited as far back as 6,000 years ago.
Sheikh Zayed used Sir Bani Yas as a personal retreat, and it was his dedication to conservation and archaeology that helped to excavate and maintain this hidden treasure. His vision for the island was for it to be a haven for endangered plants and animals. It's beauty lies not in conventional tourist attractions, but in providing a snapshot of what life in this land was like across the centuries.
For years, only the inhabitants of Sir Bani Yas island and the country's founding fathers appreciated the island's heritage. Now it can be enjoyed by any visitor interested in the region's history.