Friday 8 November 2019

Visit the Mleiha Archaeological Centre

The stunning Mleiha Archaeological Centre - the only such centre in the Emirates, sadly...

I was rabbiting on about the amazing archaeological site of Faya-1 and the emergence of anatomically modern humankind (Homo Sapiens, as you ask) from Africa to populate the world yesterday and so I thought it appropriate to tell you how and why you can go there and take the kids, granny, your visiting parents or the school with you. You could do it today, actually - just bundle 'em all in the car and nip out there for a wander around and a funky lunch at the glorious café there!

Faya-1 is part of the remarkable spread of human history you'll find preserved and, uniquely, celebrated at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah. It's a bit of a schlep - about an hour's drive from Dubai, but it's brilliantly worthwhile - nowhere else in the Arabian Gulf will you see such a spread of human history in such a small area. And the Mleiha Archaeological Centre is, while glorious in its own small way, sadly just as unique.

The settlement, city, site of Mleiha is as central to the human history of the Emirates as it is central to the whole country. It's the motherlode, pure and simple.

Not only do we have the finds at Faya-1 to date the emergence of humans from Africa to populate the world, but we have a gloriously preserved 4,500 year-old Umm Al Nar tomb on display at the Centre. Here you'll also find evidence of human occupation - and inhumation - at Jebel Buhais, just down the road. Jebel Buhais, a huge necropolis, stretches from the Neolithic to the Iron Age in its scope - although, oddly, lacks any evidence of Umm Al Nar occupation. It's an enormously important site which has been yielding new clues about the history of the Emirates since 1974, when an Iraqi team first started exploring the area. Buhais stands as the earliest radiometrically dated inland burial site in the Emirates. Beat that!

Mleiha not only contains a museum and a guide to the many sites spread around the area - from Faya-1 and Buhais through to the Iron Age and Pre-Islamic forts and settlements of Mleiha, but it has a funky café (beetroot hummus in Mleiha? Check! Super coffee and hipster cakes? Check!) and offers a series of adventures from dune buggy tours through to nighttime desert barbecues and camping experiences. Opened in 2016, master-planned by Shurooq - Sharjah's development authority , the place has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and quite rightly so, too.

Nearby, you'll find the achingly contemporary, chiq and just generally cool Al Faya Lodge, which offers reasonably priced and totes chilled (See this? Huh? Down with the kids or WHAT?) overnight accommodation. Or you can simply plan to trek out to Mleiha and do lunch there before heading to the east coast of the Emirates and the many beach hotels therein - just in time for check-in.

I reckon you'll want to read up on it first, so you can answer the kids' questions. What you'll need is a dramatic, accessible and fun human history of the Emirates that tells the story as the amazing epic that it truly is.*

2/2/2020. You'll just have to wait... ;)

*NO, that WASN'T a book plug! It WASN'T! It was a responsibly sourced reference to a future resource. That's all! Now, move on, people...

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