The Sound of Silence

This is supposed to be a country of endless blue skies, but I had brought the weather with me. My first day was cold and grey. The afternoon’s excitement was being taken to the Carrefour supermarket in a large mall and I needn’t have worried about not being able to get stuff here. They sold everything from cheese to Christmas trees. I want to say that I was a little disappointed but it was nice to know that some creature comforts were available.

It wasn’t long before the sun was back and I was able to explore where I am staying. Falayah was the summer residence of the ruling Quwasim family built in the 18th century and surrounded by palm gardens. In 1820 a peace treaty was signed here between the Sheikhs of the Gulf Coast and the British Government which marks the foundation of the UAE. Today all that remains of the lush palm gardens are tall stumps (a disagreement a few years ago between the current landowner and the past Sheikh resulted in the landowner cutting off the water supply). Of the important site there are three buildings: a mosque to the west, a main building where they would have lived in the east and a stone tower in the centre of the complex.

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Window of the Majlis (reception room)
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Falayah residence from the east. The minaret of the modern mosque is peeking up above the central tower in the left of the picture.

As with everywhere of archaeological importance here, the Department of Antiquities and Museums have surrounded it by a metal fence to protect it. They have chavs here too. Not exactly welcoming but a necessary evil. Their plan is to eventually turn these archaeological sites into tourist attractions. This was the original location of the National Museum which was started in 1976. The houses were built for the staff, the museum building was started and then they ran out of money. It fell into disrepair and was finally removed three weeks ago. It is in these houses that the staff of the Department of Antiquities and Museums still reside.

The compound is rather lovely, despite the constant drone from RAK’s M25. The gate used to keep out the goats and camels but since the palm garden died, there is sadly not the same wildlife problem. There are many birds and also a few cats which keep the snakes and scorpions at bay. Thankfully, I’ve yet to see either. The gate is now used to keep out the locals who come in to steal the honeycombs from the trees! At night the compound comes to life with the sound of stridulation accompanied by the motorised orchestra. Ear plugs just don’t cut the mustard and I go to bed dreaming of the sound of silence.

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House 1. My room is top right. The fence, separating the house from the road, can be seen on the right.

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