x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

In celebration of Al Ain

Unesco has officially designated Al Ain as a world heritage site. It's a well-deserved distinction for a place packed with lessons in geology, history, anthropology, and more.

There is an Emirati proverb that translates: "One who does not know the value of a falcon would grill it."

In the vicinity of Jebel Hafeet, a 1,300-metre mountain in the south of Al Ain, were once the beaches of the Tethys Ocean. As the level of the ocean lowered during volcanic disruptions about 40 million years ago, the mountains began to form.

Jebel Hafeet is one of the many treasures of Al Ain, which was named a Unesco world heritage site on Monday. The area is a rich subject for geological research, with the mountain providing insights into dramatic earth movements, erosion and uplift rates.

The winning locations include six oases and the archaeological sites of Bida bint Saud, Hafeet and Hili. The falaj irrigation system in Hili is one of the earliest achievements in this cradle of civilisation. The need to distribute water fairly inspired the science of astronomy to keep track of time by the movement of the stars.

The dome-shaped tombs in Hafeet are also fascinating storytellers of the history of the UAE. Archaeologists have found fragments of distinctive pottery in these tombs, indicating trade between this region and what used to be called Mesopotamia. Such tombs are also found along the Euphrates River in present-day Syria.

These treasures are crucial to preserving our collective memory. We hope that including them on this prestigious list, alongside such treasures as Egypt's pyramids, will help to save them from a "grilling" due to negligence.