There are alot of forts (Husns) in the UAE and they all go back till even before the formation of the UAE, fortunately today we are seeing alot of restoration of many forts and towers scattered throughout the country.
The most famous of the UAE forts must be the White fort (al Husn) in Abu Dhabi. It was built on the island in 1793 on the site of the only freshwater well. It covers 6400 square meters and fortified with 4 towers. It underwent various renovations and was finally restored into its present state in 1995. This fort has been redeveloped and in 2007 as stated in “Emirates Today” Abu Dhabi’s oldest building is to become a “Trafalgar Square for the Emirates” and a cultural heart for the nation following a multi-million dirham project that will radically alter the site’s landscape and interior to become a repository and museum depicting all aspects of UAE culture and a place for Emiratis to celebrate national triumphs.
The Al Fahidi fort in Dubai stems from about the same time; built in 1799, it has guarded the southeast entrance to Dubai. It was a residence and government headquarters till 1896, after which it became an armory and jail. It was constructed from coral/shell stones and mud, with palm trunks tied together forming the ceilings. It has two round towers, called ‘burj’ and one rectangular tower called ‘moraba’ah’. Since 1971 it has been in use as a museum and it was totally renovated in 1993.
Also, there is another fort in Dubai the Naif fort that guarded the northern entrance into Dubai It was built in 1939 of coral/shell stones and gypsum and covers 2000 square meters. It functioned as a defense tower till 1956 after which it became the police headquarters and jail. Restored in 1997, it still serves as a police station.
The fort of Ras al Khaimah Al Hisn Fort is from an earlier date. It was built in 1749 and served as a residence for the Al Qasimi family until 1964, after which it was a jail till 1984. At that time it was fully renovated and turned into a museum. Since Ras al Khaimah area is very rich in archeological sites, it is logical that most of the exhibition rooms are dedicated to the many items that have been found in the various digs.
The main fort in Sharjah Al-Hisn Fort was built in 1820 and consisted of two floors with two towers. Almost the whole building, except for one tower, was completely demolished in the second half of the twentieth century, and it is only thanks to the present Ruler of Sharjah that it was possible to rebuild the fort. It was restored in 1997 and is now a museum that holds mainly heritage items – jewellery, clothing, weapons, coins, etc.
The Ajman fort is also old and impressive. It covers 2500 square meters and has 2 round and one rectangular tower. Built of coral stones and wood it served as the government headquarters and the residence for 11 rulers from 1775 till 1981. After two years of restoration work it was turned into a heritage museum. Besides the usual household items and weapons, it also has an interesting collection of dried medicinal herbs.
The Umm al Quwain fort dates from 1876 and is square in shape with two entrances, the main one towards the northwest. Built of coral, palm tree wood, chandal and gypsum, it was the government seat until it was restored recently and turned into a museum.
Al Ain has the highest number of forts, the most popular and known one is the Al Jahili fort, Erected in 1898 by Sheikh Zayed The First, the Al Jahili Fort in the oasis city of Al Ain is one of the great landmarks and symbols of the United Arab Emirates’ cultural heritage. Located on the border with Oman the inner courtyard offers up to 450 visitors an atmospheric setting for chamber music; seating at the large stage is provided for some 3000 concertgoers.
The Murabba fort, also called the Police fort, as it served as police headquarters and jail for long time. This is located in the business centre of AlAin, near the suq, and is surrounded by an ornate wall. This fort was built in 1910 and is the birthplace of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayan. The Rumeilah fort lies in the northern suburbs in AlAin too, close to some major archeological sites, while the Muwaji Fort lies within a date plantation (nakhl) and consists of the main fort with its three towers and a mosque with a free-standing minaret. The Hili fort also lies at the edge of the oasis. It is a large round fort with a round central tower and a very ornate entrance, which was recently reconstructed.
With all the forts listed above the oldest fort in the UAE is Fujairah Fort which was built in 1670 on a high strategic hill. It was both, a defensive building and a residence for the ruling family. Its restoration took a long time and was finished about four years ago. Contrary to the other forts it is not being used as a museum. The Fujairah museum is housed in a modern building nearby.
Most of the forts can be visited at any time, although those in use as museums have specific opening hours. In some cases access has to be arranged with a watchman or with the municipality. All the forts and watchtowers are indicative of a past, in which violent attacks were the order of the day and people needed the refuge of the stone walls to save their lives.