Christian monastery found on Sir Bani Yas proves UAE was an ‘incubator of civilisations’

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi said the archaeological site, believed to have been built about AD 600, showed that these lands had always been accepting of various religions.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, visits the excavation site of the remains of a Christian monastery and church on Sir Bani Yas Island, believed to have been settled around 600AD by a community of 30 to 40 monks. Courtesy Ministry of State for Tolerance
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ABU DHABI // The Minister of State for Tolerance said the UAE was an “incubator of civilisations” on a visit to the historical Christian monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island on Thursday.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi said the site, believed to have been built about AD600, showed that these lands had always been accepting of various religions.

“Relics unearthed on the island prove that the UAE has been an incubator of civilisations,” she said. “The results of archaeological excavations in the Sir Bani Yas Island unearthed a Christian monastery that was built between the six and seventh century.”

The monastery was discovered on the 87 square kilometre island during excavations in 1992.

Sheikha Lubna said Sir Bani Yas Island had an important commercial history, as it was on the trade route between Iraq, the Arabian Gulf and then on to India and China.

“The church contained private cabins for monks and prayer rooms. Archaeologists found nearly 15 kinds of pottery and glassware, some of which was used in religious ceremonies,” Sheikha Lubna said, adding that she had visited several archaeological sites in the UAE, including Mleiha in Sharjah and Julphar, in Ras Al Khaimah.

She said the UAE was now home to about 200 nationalities from different religions and races.

“They live in peace and harmony, which is an extension of the tolerance and acceptance of others that is rooted in the people of this region from the old days,” she said.

Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture, added: “The archaeological finds [at the monastery] highlight the history of various religions and cultures that inhabited the island for thousands of years. It reflects the richness of the country’s history.

“The archaeological site plays a major role in the tourist experience [on the island], combined with the natural environment and rare entertainment options and activities.

“We are working to maintain the UAE’s historical and cultural heritage, as an essential element of national identity and a sustainable legacy for future generations.”