The oldest museum in the UAE, Al Ain National Museum was established in 1969 under the guidance of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Charting the history of Al Ain from the Stone Age through to the foundation of the UAE, the museum houses artefacts discovered in the many archaeological sites scattered throughout the region, including flint tools and arrowheads dating to the sixth millennium BCE.
Opened in 1970, by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and now Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE, the museum’s original location was in Sultan bin Zayed Palace. Al Ain Museum was then relocated to its current location in 1971, where it was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region.
The Eastern or Sultan fort lies at the eastern edge of Al Ain Oasis and once lay at the heart of the former village or hara of Al Ain, which also took its alternative name of Haret Al Hoson from the fort. It is one of a number of historic buildings associated with the increased influence of the ruling Al Nahyan family in Al Ain from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. The fort is a well preserved mudbrick structure with towers at three of the corners and a gate in the southern façade. It was built by the son of Sheikh Zayed the First, Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, in 1910, who resided there prior to becoming the ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1922. It now lies within the grounds of Al Ain National Museum and forms one of its major attractions.
THE MUSEUM COLLECTION
Divided into three main sections – Archaeology, Ethnography and Gifts, Al Ain National Museum offers insight into the local traditions and culture that have defined the region.
The Archaeology section of the museum includes imported Mesopotamian (modern Iraq) pots dating to 5000 years ago which were found in tombs excavated on nearby Jebel Hafeet. The museum also documents the rise of Bronze Age society dating to 4500 years ago when large mudbrick forts were built in Hili. A feature of this society was stone-constructed above ground tombs, including the famous ‘Grand Tomb’ in Hili Archaeological Park. Many objects from these tombs are on display in the Museum.
An example of locally manufactured exquisite jewellery from a tomb in the Al Qattara area, and dating back nearly 4000 years, is also on display at the museum. Dozens of copper and bronze weapons were also found in this tomb and attest to the importance of copper mining and bronze working throughout the ancient UAE.
Several large and complete Iron Age pottery vessels from Hili and Rumeilah can also be seen in the museum. These are 3000 years old and were used at a time when the inhabitants of Al Ain used sophisticated technologies like falaj to irrigate the oases of Al Ain. Several of these ancient falaj have been excavated by local archaeologists. Along with examples elsewhere in the UAE, these represent the earliest evidence available in the world for the widespread use of this innovative irrigation technology. During this time, and because of this technology, Al Ain flourished and many mudbrick buildings were constructed.
The Ethnography section of the museum explores the traditions and customs of the people and culture of the UAE. Objects about the local community, education, agriculture, sport, medicine and daily life, illustrate how society was different just a few decades ago.
The museum also features a wide range of photographs of Al Ain, Liwa and surrounding regions that chart the development of the region and the establishment of the UAE.
A popular item in the museum’s collection is a Moon-rock that was given to the UAE by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, following the historic Apollo 17 trip to the surface of the moon. Al Ain National Museum also features an array of gifts that were given to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, by presidents and ambassadors of fellow countries from around the world.
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