An Idle Village Serves as a Reminder of the UAE’s Rapid Change

An abandoned settlement in the United Arab Emirates’ desert is about an hour’s drive from Dubai’s skyscrapers. It serves as a reminder of how quickly the nation in the Middle East is evolving. Twenty years after it was constructed in the 1970s, the village of al-Ghuraifa was abandoned. The UAE, which is home to the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has become a global hub for trade and tourism because to its oil wealth. The deserted village in the Sharjah emirate near the town of al-Madam has seen an increase in tourists in recent years. With its two rows of houses and its ecclesiastical center, the village “may teach us a lot of the modern history.

Al-Ghuraifa was constructed as a public housing project following the United Arab Emirates, a confederation of seven sheikhdoms, being established in 1971. Thirteen years prior, the discovery of oil had only begun to transform the nation. According to Sukkar, there were about 100 al-Ketbi tribe people living in the village. They were among a number of Bedouin communities who had up until that point lived a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. When they were little towns, they kept animals, explored the desert oases, and went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. To make the transition to settled life easier, the modern cement houses were constructed with local characteristics. The inside walls featured mosaics and vivid colors. The residences also had areas where village chiefs might convene residents for discussions.


Just twenty years after the residences were constructed, individuals started to leave for reasons that are not entirely understood. Some claim that demonic spirits drove them away. Sukkar, however, believes it is more likely that individuals departed in search of a better life in the rapidly expanding cities of the United Arab Emirates. The community frequently experienced sandstorms and had limited access to water and power. In addition, families would have had to endure lengthy drives over the desert to get to Dubai’s government employment and educational institutions. The town is now gradually being reclaimed by the desert. Homes have been invaded by sand. Because employees from the neighboring town of al-Madam clean it on a daily basis, only the mosque, or religious center, has remained intact.

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