The oldest pearling town in the Arabian Gulf has been discovered in Umm Al Quwain.
Announcing the major find on Monday, the Umm Al Quwain Department of Tourism and Archaeology said digs at the site this year have yielded evidence of a thriving 1,300-year-old settlement that predates the rise of Islam — with hundreds of houses and several thousand people.
The landmark discovery was made on Al Sinniyah Island, close to the ancient monastery found last year, and it is now believed the monks made their home next to this major pearling settlement.
It sheds light on the harsh life of the pearl trade, how these early communities were plugged into global trade networks and poses questions as to why monks chose to set up their monastery so close.
Although other pearling towns of this period are known from historical sources to have existed in the Arabian Gulf, this is the first time the site of one has been investigated, documented and excavated.
One reason is that the town’s inhabitants left the island and the site was never reoccupied, ensuring it remained preserved.
Digs carried out this winter showed how something special had been unearthed.