x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Time Frame: Final moment before the end of an era

This photo, taken in January 1972, depicts the watchtower at Rams in Ras al Khaimah, shortly before the emirate became part of the UAE.

Courtesy of Peter Jackson
Courtesy of Peter Jackson

The watchtower at Rams is a familiar landmark in Ras Al Khaimah. It was built in the middle of the 19th century, and looks very much the same today as it did 40 years ago, when this picture was taken.

The photographer was Peter Jackson, then a young architecture student working for a company involved in the construction of Dubai's Rashid Hospital.

Mr Jackson, who still lives and works in Sharjah, was a keen photographer and captured what on the surface looks like a tranquil scene of life in RAK, complete with a Brahman cow.

Jackson recalls: "My father and I drove up to Ras Al Khaimah for our Friday fish and chips lunch at the Ras Al Khaimah Hotel, a favourite family outing, this time while my mother had gone briefly back to the UK. After lunch we explored up the coast as far as the fishing village of Rams.

"I was especially taken with the architecture of the watchtower, with its regular patterns of slots and holes to shoot from, its pointed crenellations and the projecting noses - all so different to the European forts that I was used to. It was though the juxtaposition of the zebu, the tower and the flag caught my eye to take the photograph, and it was always one of my favourites from that first trip."

In fact, this image records one of the most dramatic periods in the history of the UAE. The clues are all in the photograph, taken in late January 1972.

Flying from the top of the tower is the flag of Ras Al Khaimah, a red square with a white border. At the time, RAK remained outside the federation, having decided to go it alone when the other six emirates joined to form the UAE on December 2, 1971.

The isolation was short-lived. By January 11, 1972, the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, had already signed up for the union, but the six did not formally become seven until February 11 that year.

Now look more closely at the flag. It is at half mast, in mourning for Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah.

On January 24, 1972, Sheikh Khalid was killed during an attempted coup by a former ruler. Order was restored with assistance from Dubai and the new Union Defence Force. Sheikh Khalid was succeeded by his brother, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, who rules the emirate to this day.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae