Shurooq to invest Dh250m into Mleiha archaeological project

The site, which has many ancient ruins and burial sites and dates back thousands of years, will be opened to the public on Wednesday.

SHARJAH // The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has revealed that about Dh250 million will be invested in the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project, which will be opened to the public on Wednesday.

The site, which has many ancient ruins and burial sites, dates back thousands of years.

“Launching this project reflects the keenness of our leadership to protect our heritage and preserve our Emirati identity,” said Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Shurooq’s chairwoman.

“We intend to work towards promoting this important historical site to both protect it and bring visitors to it.”

Work on building a visitor centre began in 2014 with the archaeology department, said Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Shurooq’s chief executive.

“To turn it into a destination, touristic components are needed, and we have now completed the first phase, which allows us to welcome visitors,” he said. “This is why we created activities and [educational] programmes.”

The first phase included the opening of the Mleiha Archaeological Centre, where visitors can browse information about the area’s landmarks and survey the archaeological finds.

Visitors can also take guided tours to sites such as the Umm an-Nar Tomb, the Valley of the Caves, the Mleiha Fort, a historic graveyard for horses and camels, an ancient farmhouse with a kitchen, and the pre-Islamic Mleiha Palace.

The area will also feature sporting activities.

The second phase of the project will include the Mleiha National Desert Park, the Night Camping Park, inns and an observatory.

“Some findings date back more than a million years and the pre-Islamic times. It [the project] is located between the sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf, on trade routes,” said Dr Sabah Jassim, director of the Sharjah Directorate of Antiquities, who is overseeing the excavations.

“We have found more than 300 skeletons, including those of horses and camels.

“There have been very many significant relics found in the burial sites that are the remains of daily life, including some pottery and iron tools.

“In the caves we found antiquities that date back to 125,000 BC. This coincides with human immigration from Africa.”

Dr Jassim said the site, which Unesco has nominated as a World Heritage Site, was ready to host visitors after years of excavation.