The last hilltop fort in the UAE. Dhayah Fort, a castle-like structure, is on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List and stands proud amidst the arid mountains and fertile date wadis of northern Emirate Ras Al Khaimah. The fort forms the centre of this lush oasis and boasts spectacular views from the mountains across palm trees and verdant lands to neighbouring Oman and down to the sea.
Dhayah Fort is the only hill fort remaining in the United Arab Emirates. It dates back to the Late Bronze Age (1600 – 1300 BC) when locals used it for settlement and fortification.
The twin-peaked golden mud-brick fortress was built during the 19th century and restored in the late 1990s. It is an important historical monument where the 1819 battle between British troops and local Qawasim tribes took place.
It’s worth climbing the zigzagging steps to bear witness to the spectacular views. At the base of the hill lies a slightly larger fort used by people that lived and worked in the palm gardens.
They would retreat here with their animals in times of danger. Single watchtowers are peppered throughout the fertile oasis of Dhayah to ensure optimal defence and communication.
The fort stands on a 70-metre high hill that rises grandly between the date palm gardens and the Jebel Jais mountains to form the central hub of the lush oasis. Over the past few centuries, the original watering system has remained unchanged, where run-offs from the mountains are collected during the infrequent rains.
Dhayah Fort would once have been the residence of the ruling Sheikh. At the base of the fort lies 12 large Wadi Suq tombs from between 2,000 to 1,300 BC. Four of the tombs have already been excavated to reveal impressive Southeast Arabia funerary structures.
Ras Al Khaimah Department of Antiquities and Museums intends to turn this entire area into an archaeology park. The climb to Dhayah Fort is uneven and rocky. It is not accessible to prams, wheelchairs and other mobility aids. There is no lighting, so it’s advisable to visit the fort during daylight hours.