Al Jazirah Al Hamra, United Arab Emirates

Photo: Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

A ghost town. Nearly everything feels like one these days. But this is a real one. Decaying coral-stone architecture. Abandoned houses. A deserted mosque. A rusty wind tower. Gutted shops. A silent school. Dusty fishing boats. Haunted spirits. Okay, the latter isn’t true. Or at least not confirmed. The rest of Al Jazirah Al Hamra is frozen in time, though.

Al Jazirah Al Hamra (the Red Island) was once a tidal island, which connected to the mainland by a causeway during low tide. The Za’ab people, who arrived in the 16th century, became pearl fishermen in the Persian Gulf. Their village thrived until the 1920s when the pearl market crashed. It then became part Ras Al Khaimah, a region in between the gulf and the Al-Hajar Mountains. It wasn’t a good fit. Disagreements with Ras Al Khaimah’s sheikh escalated. In 1968, the Za’ab people moved to Abu Dhabi.

So Al Jazirah Al Hamra is now a ghost town. It’s one of the best-preserved traditional fishing villages in the United Arab Emirates. It’s also still part of Ras Al Khaimah. The country’s northernmost emirate borders Oman’s Musandam Peninsula. The village’s former residents now return once a year to celebrate their history and old home.

Photo: BM Hotels & Resorts

Much has changed in the last 50 years. There’s a new residential area along the coast of Al Jazirah Al Hamra. A man-made archipelago was recently built just offshore, as well. High-end beach resorts and tourists quickly followed. It’s easy for people to add a few days in the sun to their trips to Dubai, which is only 45 minutes away. Few realize the fascinating history right next to them.

Those resorts are turning your adventure day into an overnight trip. You’ll spend the morning walking around the village. The photos you take will be both eery and peaceful. Then you’ll head to BM Beach Resort. The modern resort has striking white buildings that stretch toward the golden sand. Large chalets feature bright pops of royal blue that match the water beyond their balconies. Not that you’ll waste much time in yours. A 2,000-meter beach, a beach bar with colorful stools, three large pools, and a beer garden will keep you outside in the sun. You certainly don’t want to look like a ghost when you return to Dubai.

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