One that was just as attractive to outsiders, as the new UAE is today.

The layout and rows of houses remain largely unchanged, and you can immediately sense how compact and community-spirited this village once was. An empty boat and rusting truck said to the first car in the Ras Al Khaimah, and the hollow structures, are stark reminders of how instantaneously people left for a new beginning.
Details on how to get to this Emirate and travel around can be found in my ‘Guide to Ras Al Khaimah’.

A man in dark beige overalls and a red hate walks through a sandy area in front of crumbling buildings that make up a ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE Eerie remnants of houses, schools, a mosque and marketplaces are now nothing more than derelict empty shells – a window into traditions and trades, abandoned when oil wealth gave rise to rapid urbanisation in the creation of the UAE.

A wooden slat panel falls off the frame of a low building, abandoned in the orange earth of what was once the village of Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah
A grey tower and low building structures, abandoned and unfinished in an orange sandy area
A rectangular, sandy beige brick structure, with one small window, crumbling and abandoned in the ghost town Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah
A flat buggy car stands alone in the orange sand, in front of crumbling rectangular buildings in Al Jazirat Al Hamra ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah
Al Jazirat Al Hamra is derelict, but not off-limits. There are no chains or fences around it, and anyone can wander the corridors of its history. However, the families of Al Hamra are keen to protect the village, having hosted their first reunion party at the site in 2012. This is an annual occurrence in preserving what is to us a curious ghost town and empty once populated rural space, but to them, a legacy and a heritage.
The former tidal island was predominantly home to the Zaab tribe, who by 1831 developed the area into a renowned pearling trade centre. It was home to over 4,000 inhabitants and dozens of fishing and trading ships, and with its good fortune, came expansion that continued well into the start of the 20th Century.
A low rectangular building with no roof, whose bottom half is painted in yellow and with a reed filled doorway, stands solitary and abandoned in Ras Al Khaimah's ghost town
A abandoned playground, with a wooden swing and sea-saw, remains on the orange sand next to a yellow painted abandoned building in Ras Al Khaimah.
While the future of the ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah place remains undecided, its preservation is key in understanding how a new form of affluence and the creation of a new country quickly overturned a once flourishing trade community and nomadic tradition.
I couldn’t help but look inside each structure of the abandoned town in the hope of finding something, clambering over tumbled walls, piecing together an image of a room from the scraps of material and discarded furniture within it. Houses made of mud, rock and coral, woven leaf roofs and doorways with Arabic pattern displays, show the villages through its ages – from early Gulf to 20th-century practical architecture.
A low, square building painted in mint green and yellow is left abandoned and fading. A wooden table has been left outside the building.
Packages are currently one of the cheapest options and include a transfer from Dubai to your hotel. Prices start from just £385pp economy and £1,185pp business class including Royal Brunei flights from London Heathrow to Dubai and a five-star hotel like the Hilton Al Hamra.
Visiting Al Jazirat Al Hamra – The Ghost Town of Ras Al Khaimah
Al Jazirat Al Hamra, now a filled-in patch of land in the south of Ras Al Khaimah, remained abandoned and untouched while elsewhere in the Gulf, old towns were repurposed and new cities were born. This ghost town now stands as one of the best examples of a ‘pre-oil village’.

Images of me © Brandon Li at Unscripted
An abandoned house whose roof and one wall is made of dried reeds, contains an abandoned bed frame and table - remnants of the ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah
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This guide from the UAE publication, The National, is very insightful, detailing the reunions and the plight to save the village.
A woman in a blue t-shirt walks past an abandoned building and crumbling stone wall in the ghost town of Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah
In the still Ghost Town of Ras Al Khaimah, the bronze, rusty coloured coating over Al Jazirat Al Hamra is a remaining symbol of the once flourishing pearl fishing village, whose name in Arabic translates into ‘Red Island’ for the kind of sand upon which it was built.
A far few of the abandoned buildings of Al Jazirat Al Hamra village in Ras Al Khaimah. A ghost city with shells of buildings left in the desert sands.
A long, light wooden boat, left abandoned in the orange coated ghost town of Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah. Two deserted block buildings can be seen in the distance.
A new life awaited in Abu Dhabi. People left en masse from the 1950s to a land of promised, new prosperity.
A broken wooden four-wheeled cart stands abandoned on orange dust, looking towards empty shells of beige buildings in a ghost village in Ras Al Khaimah
It’s as fascinating as it is haunting; where legend has it, you are not the only visitor who roams here. We left just as the sun was setting, avoiding any spooky encounters within its sandy pockets and passageways.
Four pillars of an old building wall stand next to a crumbling wall, connected by a single roof pole. Part of a ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah left over 60 years ago.

Things to Know about the Ghost Town of Ras Al Khaimah

How to travel in Ras Al Khaimah

By 1968, Al Jazirat Al Hamra became nothing more than an abandoned town. 

How to get to Ras Al Khaimah

A dark green truck, left abandoned in the orange coated ghost town of Al Jazirat Al Hamra in Ras Al Khaimah

Further reading on the Ras Al Khaimah Ghost Town

Although the question still debated here is whether the demise of Al Jazirat Al Hamra was about tribal conflicts with the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, or because of the lure of luxury in Abu Dhabi, once the oil was discovered, a visit to this ghost village is nonetheless a unique experience in understanding just how quickly life changed here.
A box shaped building made of reeds and with no door, stands abandoned on orange sand. Other abandoned stone structures can be seen in the background.
A man in a purple shirt and black trousers looks as a fragment of rock from a crumbling sandy wall in Al Jazirat Al Hamra ghost town in Ras Al Khaimah

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