Jazirat al-Hamra: Ghost Town or a Crumbling Piece of History?

One look at the seclusion and crumbling walls across the main road tells us that we have arrived at the right place. It’s a couple of hours before dusk; we have some time to explore the  area before it eventually gets dark. We park our cars right in front of a fort that watches over narrow alleys and abandoned buildings in eerie silence.

A sister of mine knows some people from a photography club. It is through them that we came to know about this town. It’s a weekend, and not having any other plan, we decide on visiting this place for some photography fun.

The breeze is chilly. There is labor camp not so far away. We see a couple of men walk past us carrying firewood on their heads. When they left, there are only the eight of us remaining in the area. I look up; a few fluffy clouds are scattered on a very blue sky, and a few birds fly overhead. We pick up our cameras and start walking towards the quiet town.

This place is Jazirat al-Hamra, or the Red Island, located in Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that form the U.A.E. It is also known as the ghost town. The story goes that this town was haunted, which is the reason why it was abandoned, and has remained uninhabited and neglected since 1968.

The main paths meander through this village—passing by mosques, and houses with features like wooden doors, star windows, wind-towers, and courtyards—towards the sea. However, all of these structures lie in varying degrees of decay.

Occupied by the Za’ab tribe, this coastal village was created in the 14th century on a peninsula. They were also called Hadhr, which is the local name for coastal Bedouins, whose livelihood depended mainly on pearling.

The 1930s economic crises saw the decline of the natural pearl industry. Few years later, this town was deserted when the inhabitants moved out, attracted by the prospect of better living conditions offered by the local government. People left behind their houses, mosques and shops, creating what now is an undisturbed picture of life before the exploitation of oil.

It is said that the house shown above belonged to a very wealthy merchant. I have not walked past the house to see the other side, but I heard that there is a huge courtyard in front of the house. The mud-and-brick wind towers were designed to funnel even the slightest breeze off the Gulf into the house.

But what I find really interesting while roaming around the deserted town is how corals and sea shells were incorporated with stone and mud to create the walls. Most of the houses were built from coral rag, the roofs were constructed from palm trunks. The walls of the oldest buildings have larger pieces of coral, while the younger once were built from bricks of crushed coral.

This town is so famous for being haunted that different people have different stories to tell. A nephew of mine—very charming and naughty—said that he once came to this town with some of his friends. They drove into the town and decided to stop in front of a big house. Some of them started to smoke cigarettes and chat. Few minutes later, they looked down and noticed that there were actually graves right at that spot!

We walk around town but do not find any graves.

A few journalists even decided to spend the night here hoping to encounter whatever is rumored to be living in these decaying structures. Although incomplete, their ‘live’ update was featured here.

This is the courtyard that I find the most impressive. We stand there for a few minutes trying to imagine how lively this place must have been years ago. As you can see, the pillars look like they will come apart anything soon. Someone had a recent bonfire around here, the soot scattered right at the center of the courtyard.

Do we ‘feel’ anything at all? No. My sister even remarks that the town has no fear factor at all. We comfortably pass through the alleys, stopping in front of houses to take pictures. Once, I enter the fort to take pictures from inside, but there is this uncomfortable feeling—like I’m trespassing or something—so I decide not to enter any other building.

Photographers frequent this place. One can spend hours roaming about, taking countless pictures. This is also a favorite amongst fashion photographers.

We quickly walk back towards our cars when the sun begins to set into the horizon. Although we do not encounter anything spooky, it is believed by a lot of people that there are jinns who live here, and they usually come out at nightfall. We are not interested to meet them, so we leave.

Jazirat al-Hamra may be a ghost town to many, but for me it is an amazing piece of history. It is also the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the U.A.E., and if the government does not do anything to preserve it soon, it is going to perish forever. Some say that this place is off-limits, but I do not see a sign anywhere.

How to get here:

We took the Emirates Road (E311) and drove straight until we approached a roundabout. Take left (the sign says ‘Umm al-Quwain’). After some time, you will see the Ice Land water park on your right. Keep driving until you see some whale statues on your left. Take right and drive straight until you see the town on your right.

You can also read this account about Ras al Aisha al Shareef, whose ancestors once lived in this very town.



This entry was posted in Culture & Tradition, People, Photography, Ras al Khaimah, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

61 Responses to Jazirat al-Hamra: Ghost Town or a Crumbling Piece of History?

  1. Lat says:

    Loved the history bits! And it was very interesting to learn about corals being incorporated in the walls.It shows the culture and art of the people who lived there.Wonderful pics really! Liked the pic of the door.Don’t know why.And I’m glad nothing spooky happened while you guys were there 🙂

    So a place that’s left empty for years can become alive with ghosts? Hhmm…I thought only avenging and unfulfilled spirits linger around? No…

    • nadia says:

      Thank you, Lat! I really like that door picture myself. I think it portrays the mood of the place. Yep, nothing spooky happened, alhumdulillah.

      I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits, Lat. But jinn, yeah. So there was this tiny bit of worry that if some jinn resided there, they may not like our intrusion into their quiet place 🙂

    • Rashid says:

      For me ….. i like this artical…….but if some one say that this is a living of ghosts Jinns…….yes i can believe because i have seen them with my open eyes 3 times and talk to them 2 time…….but i will not recognize that they were harming to the people openly and still wondering openly at night any way to meet them i a coming soon

  2. mezba says:

    Ras Al Khaima is full of spooky stuff 😀 there’s a cave there from which strange noises come at night (probably some wind effect) that is attributed to jinns too – it became quite famous some time ago.

    Loved the pictures – I would have said ruins and kept on going, but you guys managed to get some lovely photos out of those. The part about the coral in the walls was quite interesting.

    Am glad no aatma met you guys!

    • nadia says:

      You are right, Mezba. I heard there’s a haunted palace too! RAK is one spooky emirate 😀

      Yep, the incorporation of corals into their walls is pretty interesting. I don’t have a macro lens, else I would’ve spent an hour photographing the shells and their textures.

      Aatma probably thought we weren’t worth meeting with 😀

  3. Sabiha says:

    Very nice pics bhabhi 🙂 Really, it was nothing like to be horrified. I thought something… 😛

  4. Shahan Ur Rehman says:

    Wow, amazing article! I didn’t know the place had much more in it then just clicking pictures until now.

  5. masood says:

    Courtyard picture is awesome, it looks like a movie set of some Naagin series…lol

  6. Khanum says:

    Wow , I wish I was there to explore that place.

  7. Tien says:

    Wow, this place looks fascinating Nadia! The pictures you took “captured” the mysterious air of the place perfectly. I agree that the UAE government should do something to preserve this heritage….

  8. Humaira says:

    Wow, I feel a chill just looking at the pictures let alone being their!

  9. joveria shah says:

    thanks for such in depth history …..

  10. While all the photos are great, the picture of the door is outstanding. It was really interesting to see the structure of the coral building material. It is nice that the town will be preserved in your photos. Wish I could go see it though.

    • nadia says:

      Thank you, Sheryl! There were so many sea shells and corals all over the place that it makes one worry that the people who once lived there might have used up all from this part of the ocean 😀

  11. Love that courtyard too Nadya! X

  12. Sajib says:

    I very much want to see a ghost town (like I read on Stephen King’s “You Know They Got A Hell of A Band). But these photos make me think of an Iraqi city where battle took place. 😐 Being honest.

  13. hello, ms. nadia.

    i really like the way you tell the story of the places you visit. you highlight the views without disturbing them. you take us with you through your pictures.

    we’re lucky that you’ve lived in our country some years back. 😀
    keep taking pics and sharing with us your wonderful narratives.

    • nadia says:

      Thank you so much, dpsa 🙂

      Oh, there are so many places in the Philippines that are famous for being ‘spooky’. Too bad I didn’t own a camera or a blog back then to document my adventures there.

      It’s been 5 years.

  14. 'liya says:

    Fascinating post! Love the pics and the history 🙂

  15. [[[ x Smiley x ]]] says:

    Loved the history part to it!
    Fascinating stuff! Even though its all in ruins there is something really beautiful about it.
    Love the courtyard picture, 😀

    • nadia says:

      Thanks, Smiley!

      There’s always something fascinating about ruins with so much history hidden behind them, more so if this history isn’t clearly documented. That way, there remains some mystery too 🙂

  16. The Harebeat says:

    Jinns? ghosts?!… Woaaah! I always knew jinns are quite kind and nice beings!:)

    But what a beautiful town! Do you know if there are earlier photos of the town with its people?!

  17. The Harebeat says:

    And what happened to the ghost busters team? Are they safe? in the last message they said to send help.. huh..

    • nadia says:

      The ghost busting journalists didn’t update that article, but since they are still reporting with the same paper, I have a feeling they’re pretty much safe 🙂

      Yeah, they should’ve updated the readers on what happened there. Or perhaps nothing has happened at all that’s why there was no ending to that article 😀

  18. been there…stayed there over night…going there again this weekend for a over night stay n doing photography…so far so good…nothin really has scared us thankfully…i have a blog on it aswell…have a look for more pictures…;)

  19. nadia says:

    How about leaving a video camera for the night activities to see if there really are jinns in that place? 🙂

  20. Najeeb says:

    great work, love the pics….keep it up and god bless
    BTW do u know any similar locations in UAE to take some snaps like this??

  21. mfahadaijaz says:

    Amazing article. I always thought of RAK as an empty emirate without any tourist attractions but I guess I was wrong. I feel like visitng this place in the coming weekend. Thanks alot again for this superb article. 🙂

  22. Afzhari Parveen Sheikh says:

    Well interesting story.. I came to knew about this interesting place today morning, when my fiance told me about. He really wanted go inside and roam about and find the things inside…but the story behind the haunted village horrified my cousins and they brought him back. But very interesting pics you have got. Great work!
    But i really wanted if you could have stay back after evening find something more n more interesting n met the jinn’s. Still your work is awesome and made me mad making me curious to visit the place. Hoping to find the place sooooon but after sunset…..

    • nadia says:

      Thank you for your comment, Afzhari Parveen Sheikh. Much as it sounds fascinating to spend the night in these secluded town, it’s better to not disturb places such as these after dark 🙂

  23. Ahmed says:

    Nadia, what about visiting the location at around 12am? and your pictures are excellent, each of your pic speaks a story of its present and past.

    • nadia says:

      Thank you, Ahmed. There are people who visit the location at midnight, specially during full moon to take videos or do nighttime photography. They report nothing unusual.

  24. Jeyabargavi .G says:

    This is the first time i’d been to some “HAUNTED” / “EERIE” place which is found on my arrival in nothing other than abandoned ruins. This place is right among people, the city. Half of this place is converted as archaelogical site which infact was the right decission made by the government as it only shows us simple lifestyle of our ancestors who had lived amidst happiness, peace and soberness. Definetely when you enter into any of these houses you’ll feel strange stuffiness / heavy to breathe that I and my friend had felt and its not just one but all of them. Onething i found really creepy was human bones (by its size and feel looks that of a young child). I wish they preserve this place further nicely, some re-modification and they could also include sound and light show.

  25. Faisal Choudhary says:

    Hello Nadia,

    I am a final year student of Civil Engineering and i am doing a research on Jazirat Al Hamra. While, doing a desktop research I came across your blog.

    I have read your whole blog several times and I find it very informative.

    There are couple of confusions which I am facing currently, hope you could explain me those:

    1. You have mentioned that the village was created in 14th Century, do you have any authentication for that?

    2. “..abandoned, and has remained uninhabited and neglected since 1968…” again any authentication.

    3. Za’ab tribe & Hadhr, could you explain more about them. As what was their origin and where did they go from here.

    Hope you will help me in my project. And please accept my apologies for bothering you.

    Waiting for an early reply.


  26. sonal says:

    Firsty I’d like to commend on the photography which makes this beautiful place even more prettier . I’m a great history lover! .. And the door for some reason is the best picture (: and yeah I’m glad you guys had no spooky experience !! In india there is this place called bhangarh in jaipur..? It is also a ghost town with a very interesting history to it.. You must take a look! (:

  27. neha says:

    i was just browsing for red island curries and came by your blog. Your pictures are very good. hope you travel a lot

  28. Siddique says:

    Thanks for this report . This is my and my famely parents town sinc long time , when i born there till my eag 6 . Really I do have nice memories and nice time . I love the old thinks. Old is gold .

  29. I am from this land ,,, there is no ghost … its an old town … GREAT HISTORY over there read about alzaabi tribe they belong to this town.

  30. aleem says:

    have you and your crew been to ‘The Haunted Palace’? of shaikh Qassimi in RAK? If not, then you must. Spend a night over there nearby somewhere. 🙂

  31. Lovely piece and great pictures … I went there on a film script recce and was fascinated … eerie and rich with untold and unknown stories …

  32. Abdullah Masood says:


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