Located just around twelve miles south of the city of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates, Al Jazirat Al Hamra was once a thriving pearl fishing town, ruled by the Zaad tribe. The literal meaning of its Arabic name is Red Island, for the colour of the sand on which it was built. Originally a tidal island, it was split into two sections, the southern Manakh and the small northern quarter of Umm Awaimir. Although it began as a coastal village during the 14th century, its population swelled to around two thousand in the 20th century, which included many prominent citizens of Arab, Iran and Baluchi, apart from the Zaads. However, the town has also been known as Jazirah Al Zaab, as it was predominantly settled by members of the Zaab, owning around 500 houses at the turn of the 20th century. As the principal source of income of the tribe until the crash of the pearl market in the late 1920s, Jazirah Al Hamrah maintained a fleet of some 25 pearling boats.
Pearl diving was a treasured tradition of Al Jazirah Al Hamrah and before the abundance of money from the oil boom, the town was thriving off of the money made from the pearls. However, although in those days the divers used to plug the nose with clips of turtle shell, plug the ears with wax and eat dates and coffee to store extra energy before a dive, diving underwater using only traditional tools was no easy task. They had to tie small stones to their feet for enabling them to sink to the bottom of the seabed, descend as far as 125 feet and collect shellfish resting in the oyster beds, as many as possible on a single breath, to fill their small nets.
By the 19th century, Al Jazirat Al Hamra became an international hub,which attracted interested traders, merchants, business mongers from the Abu Shamis tribe, boat crews and labour from the Shihuh and Habus peoples, even prominent citizens from far away countries like Iran. But the good days ended, when the Japanese invention of the cultured pearl, a pearl created by manually placing a shell bead inside an oyster, together with a global economic depression, killed the pearl industry of Jazirah Al Hamrah. Finally, following a tribal dispute with Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, all the inhabitants gradually left the town and mostly migrated to Abu Dhabi, in the quest for a better future. In fact, apart from the prevailing political factors, the significant growth of the oil industry drew workers from across the Northern Emirates into Abu Dhabi in search of new opportunities, which turned Al Jazirat Al Hamra into a deserted city.
However, although the eerie remnants of the deserted houses, schools, a mosque and marketplaces are now nothing more than derelict empty shells, frozen in time and coated with a layer of ochre desert sand, the deserted town of Al Jazirat Al Hamra is still rich in valuable things. Unbelievably, the walls of the old buildings were created with stone and mud, blended with corals and seashells. While the old walls have larger pieces of coral, the comparatively new walls were built with bricks made of crushed coral. Although most of the housing infrastructures have become dilapidated and crumbling over time, many are still standing and appear untouched and unchanged after decades of abandonment.Till today, the abandoned town contains more than three hundred historic buildings, eleven mosques, two schools and eighteen shops, as a remembrance of its golden past. Some of the public areas that still stand in apparently good shape include the mosques, the fort, a small fish market, small courtyard houses, ornate two storey buildings and large courtyard residences belonging to rich pearl merchants.
Today, the extraordinary quiet and silent Jazirah Al Hamrah is rumoured to be haunted by ghosts. Some claim that they heard strange noise and disembodied voices near the beach of the ghost village. There are stories about some unfortunate people who had encountered ghosts and gradually became insane. Even, some visitors also asserted that somehow they felt uneasy, as if some unknown danger was lurking and waiting for the appropriate moment to overcome them. Some even claim to have witnessed the inexplicably appearing of handprints on the ruined pillars and walls and experienced many more unexplainable paranormal things within the periphery of the desolate, ruined town.
Although huge sections of the town are just piles of rubble, Jazirah Al Hamra was never wholly abandoned, despite the tales of strange noises, chilling wails, and unexplained apparitions. Apart from the coastal fishermen, labourers and Taxi drivers inhabited on the periphery of the island town, serving the visitors, as the town's eerie atmosphere made it a popular location for regional films. In 2011, a group of former residents took a spirited initiative of their own and began clearing debris from the ghost town, which followed a series of entertaining programmes by the tribal inhabitants to mark the revival of the old city after restoring several of its heritage buildings and sites. His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, attended the festivities and ordered lighting up the entire area to reflect the beauty and cultural heritage of the site, helping it to become a tourist attraction with its forts and buildings steeped in history. The future project of the revival includes plans for the entertainment of the visitors by setting up and decorating a traditional café in ancient décor and the establishment of authentic traditional amenities reflecting the spirit of life in the past.