As promised, this next entry is about two of my favorite old buildings in Abu Dhabi – the Al Maqta Fort and watchtower.
They sit prominently at the water’s edge overlooking the Khor al Maqta (Maqta channel). With it’s crenulated (called tarbushes in Arabic) fort and tower, mangrove wood beams, and plaster structure, it is one of the few important buildings left from when Abu Dhabi was a small fishing village. This next shot was taken by Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer who crossed the Empty Quarter two times. This was taken when he came to Abu Dhabi in the early 1950’s.
The 200 plus year old fort and watchtower guarded the shallow ford across the water and protected the village from bandits and raiders. It is a beautiful reminder of the indigenous architecture from the gulf region that is largely neglected.
The design elements of the buildings are typical for an important fort at that time. Overall, the fort consists of a low rectangular block with windows and square niches in the wall above the windows. A highly ornamented gateway door leads into this block of rooms. At the corner overlooking the water, an attached tower finishes the composition and is topped with a small dome.
The walls are most likely made from clay bricks and hand covered with a layer of plaster. Little or no wall ornamentation is common for a fort from this era. The tower and entry doorway are the most elaborate elements within the fort complex. The tarbushes around the top of the fort’s tower are decorative yet also hide a lowered floor for a man to stand on. The rows of rectangular openings were most likely used by the guards to shoot approaching raiders from protected positions. (from Qasr al Husn by Reem Tariq el Muwalli)
To me, the exterior gateway door is the most beautiful piece of work at the fort.
It has 4 intricately carved panels per door with 4 rows of nail heads. The nail heads are called “…finjan, which resembles the shape of an inverted Arabic coffee cup.” (from Qasr al Husn by Reem Tariq el Muwalli) It calls to mind the beautiful Omani doors so popular among expats.
Sadly, the fort is now engulfed by roads, bridges and construction sites. It is never open to the public and seems to be viewed as an after thought along the highway. Maybe one day it will be open and we can all get out on the balcony and appreciate the view.