Jazeera al Hamra, Red Island, might seem a misnomer as the land where the village lies is a few hundred feet from the coast but it was originally a tidal island and home to a pearling community. It is now an abandoned village and has been since 1968 although a few of the later houses on the periphery are still used as labour accommodation. The others are now just ruins of what were homes to families for several decades.
As you wander through the winding streets, you can start to imagine how people there used to live. The men coming back from their pearling missions exhausted to children running around and the womenfolk all working together to prepare meals, sew and embroider clothes, weave baskets and the like and chattering and singing. Some of the houses are small with families living in two rooms whilst others had bigger houses with an inner courtyard.
Although many of the house are just ruins, look carefully at the designs on the air vents, lattices on the roof, arched niches in the interior walls. Notice the sheer thickness of the walls, the large pieces of coral mixed with mud to build the walls, the roofs made out of different parts of the palm tree and mangroves. You will see different types of houses built at different times, from the 19th century, when it belonged to Sharjah, to the earlier half of the 20th century, and later additions such as telegraph/electricity poles and house numbers.
Legend has it that the village is haunted but I was fortunate enough not to encounter any spirits on my visit. I wasn’t brave enough to visit at night though! However, the village has been used as a set for numerous films including Djinn and 6 Under.
If you first arrive at the fort, don’t be put off by the construction and closed signs. Just drive around the western side or the back and you’ll find the village. The fort and some of the houses are being restored. On the opposite side of the village, restoration work is also ongoing but you can still go into most parts and look around.
Once you’ve finished your tour of the village, you can head down to Hamra Beach. This is separated by a breakwater into two parts. The northern part is much wider than the part directly behind the village, with a stretch of grassy sand to cross before reaching the broad beach. When you get to the shore, it’s worth it though for the beautiful turquoise water and clear view out to sea.