Constructed in 1891, the Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, is one of the largest castles in the region, as well as one of the most historic buildings in the United Arab Emirates. Over the years, the fort has served a number of important purposes, and today it is home to a permanent exhibition that is devoted to Wildfred Thesiger, a writer, photographer and explorer.
The fort is surrounded by a beautiful, lush park, which is something that you will immediately notice when you pay it a visit, as it feels like an incredible oasis in the middle of the desert. The serene environment that surrounds you here is a welcome break from busy city life, and the vibrant plants and flowers are bound to inspire. Visitors are encouraged to explore the park, so be sure to leave enough time in your visit for a leisurely stroll around the grounds.
Natural Climate Control
When you first enter the fort, you will notice that the temperature within remains at a steady 22 degree Celsius, which is extremely comfortable in the scorching desert heart. This is something that has always been controlled naturally, thanks to the traditional mud brick walls. However, in 2007, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage worked to restore the building, and wanted to combine this traditional climate control method with modern technology. This has allowed for additional cooling within the rooms, with a network of chilled water pipes running beneath the mud plaster that has been used in the fort’s newer compound.
The North Wing
The North Wing of the fort was the original structure, and today is home to an exhibition devoted to Wildfred Thesiger. Thesiger crossed the area twice in the 1940’s, documenting his travels through photography. The black and white photographs that you will find on display here, titled Bin London and the Freedom of the Desert, are a fascinating insight into what the fort would have looked like in its early days. There is also a visual room that is a part of the exhibition, and here you will be able to watch a short documentary film on Thesiger’s life, as well as that of his two Bedouin companions.
The West Wing and South Wing
The West Wing and the South Wings are the newer parts of the fort’s compound. The West Wing is primarily used to house temporary exhibitions, while the South Wing is where you will find an visitor information center, which will tell you all you need to know about the fort and Al Ain in general. There is also a bookshop here, which is well worth browsing if you are looking to expand your knowledge on the area.
The Al Jahili Fort is closed on Saturdays, but open on all other days throughout the year, even on public holidays. There are specific visiting hours that you will need to adhere to, with different timings for the summer and the winter, so be sure to check these in advance on the fort’s website before planning your trip.