Khatt Towers Tale Preserved in Folk Conscience September 15,2018
When a ‘place’ combines the beauty and charm of nature with a rich history, heritage and values narrated by first generation veterans, eyewitnesses and national figures, it all comes together to create a civilized tale. Khatt, located 20Km south of Ras Al Khaimah, is a village scented with the UAE’s history and geography that narrates this tale.
75 years old Mohammed bin Rashid Al Naqbi, Head of the Khatt region, tells us tales engraved in the history and collective memory of the region that is rich in mineral water, small rivers and sulfur springs bordered by high mountains and a number of valleys. As ‘where there is water, there is life’ is a proven fact, the region is home to more than 300 Palm farms, since the locals focus was on agriculture due to the abundant water and sheep grazing.
Al Naqbi pointed out that the region was coveted by bandits prior to Union’s establishment due to the presence of water, farms, fertile pastures and livestock. Hence, the people of Khatt built towers, fortresses and castles in defense of their area.
Al Naqbi also asserted that the region consists of five towers, namely Burj Al Madina built in 1901 on Khatt Mountain watching over the entire area by the region’s elders and under the directives of Sheikh Sultan bin Salem Al Qasimi first, and then of Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, may Allah bless their souls.
Al Naqbi then elaborated that the first tower to be built was the Al Naqbi Tower, built in 1938 according to Ras Al Khaimah Between Past and Present; a book issued by the Ibn Majid Society in Ras Al Khaimah. However, the region’s elderly recall that the Tower was constructed around 100 years earlier, and underwent maintenance and restoration in 2001 under the directives of the late Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Naqbi continued to shed the light on Al Naqbi Tower’s story, stating that the people of Khatt along with his grandfather Ali bin Mansour Al Naqbi built the Tower at the end of the 19th century in an era named ‘The Old Wars’. As the main defense line against the bandits, the Tower was constructed in the Region’s heart using mud, plaster and gravel. The Tower was equipped with a cannon room at its peak along with embrasures to fight off bandits, thieves and any other aggressors.
Additionally, The Bin Anbar Tower is located near the old Bin Anbar Mosque, originally named the Western Mosque, was built of red clay and plaster in accordance with the UAE’s traditional architecture and heritage at that time.
Moreover, the Old Mosque located on the western side of the area, was named by the region’s elders as The Western Mosque or The Bin Anbar Tower Mosque, and is estimated to be more than 150 years old. The Mosque was built out of red clay, plaster and gravel with the roof being constructed of wood imported from India by Emirati merchants who were traveling between the ports of Dubai, Muscat in Oman and Mumbai in India. The mosque is considered a very important landmark in the region, which is desperately in need of maintenance and restoration according to the people of Khatt.
The fourth tower located in the western part of the Khatt is called the Western Hara (Neighborhood) Tower, built in the late 19th century according to the accounts of the region’s elders and a number of historical references.
According to the Al Naqbi tribe, the fifth tower, which has completely disappeared, was centered between the palm trees west of the town. Due to the lack of maintenance and restoration, the negative effects of aging and erosion, the tower fell to the ground with only ruins left as evidence. Also located near the Fifth Tower was a smaller tower built for the late Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, known among the people as ‘The Room’, and was also utilized in guarding the area and its farms.
Citing his father Sheikh Rashid bin Ali Al Naqbi, who was the emir of the Khatt at the time, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Naqbi indicates that his father told Sheikh Sultan bin Salem Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, that the tower needs cannons to protect and defend the lands. Accordingly, the Ruler sent two cannons on camel-backs, where the larger cannon was placed in Burj Al Madina, while the smaller cannon was placed in Al Naqbi Tower.
For his part, Fahad bin Khaseef Al Naqbi, of the people of Khatt, said that the village is a well-known tourism area in the UAE, which reinforces the importance of preserving its historical heritage. He also stated the people of Khatt have requested the competent authorities to restore the Towers along with the Old Mosque before they also fall. Hence, they constitute an important historical heritage in both Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE as a whole. We are calling on the competent authorities to implement urgent and immediate maintenance to such vital heritage sites.
Fahad also stresses that some of the most important steps to be taken are putting-up a comprehensive information panels in each tower explaining its history, building a fence around each tower to protect the UAE heritage, cleaning these sites and the establishment of paved roads and parking spaces beside other services to facilitate the arrival of visitors and tourists.
H.E. Ahmed Obaid Al Tunaiji. Acting Director General RAK Antiquities and Museums Department said that they are working on an integrated maintenance and restoration plan of historical and heritage landmarks in the emirate. The plan will gradually reach Khatt in an effort to preserve national heritage and strengthen the UAE’s historical, cultural and civilizational identity.