Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Exhibition at Al Jahili Fort explores the architectural tradition of mud and straw in the UAE

The UAE’s architecture has evolved, however, the traditional method of construction showcases how the beautiful conspicuous sights were built.

Al Ain’s most awe-inspiring Al Jahili Fort is one such example. The 130-year-old is located at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s Garden city and is hosting a new exhibition at the fort, titled ‘Building with Earth – An Architectural Tradition in the UAE and Around the World.’

The exhibition, which began on September 1, is in unison between fort and terrain, uncovering the earthen walls and leveled courtyards to reveal the inventiveness that led to the building and rehabilitation of the landmark.

The pale ochre colour fort, the exhibition’s location is indistinguishable from the ground it stands upon, making it seem as if the construction is a natural extension of the earth.

The exhibition which will go on till December 31, features photographs, videos, and diagrams that trace the fort’s development. It showcases how the fort began as a sole circular watchtower built-in 1861 on an elevated mound.

The tower of the fort was used to guard Al Ain Oasis as well as the underground water system and the inner square fort, the mosque, and the courtyard was then built in 1897 by Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, also known as Zayed the First, to defend Al Ain from enemy forces. It also served as a home to members of the ruling Al Nahyan family.

The fort gradually fell into disrepair in the 1950s, when it fell in hands of the Trucial Oman Levies, a British-raised paramilitary force. However, in the late 1980s, the now-defunct Department of Antiquities and Tourism carried out restoration work on the fort.

One of the most important fears during the fort’s restoration was using the same natural materials that were used in the original construction. Portions of the original building were torn down and their raw materials were recycled and used in the restoration process.

While the building and restoration work of Al Jahili Fort is the highlight of Building with Earth, the exhibition also lists dozens of examples of modern earthen architecture from around the wall, featuring photographs and descriptions that make up an extensive wall in the gallery.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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