Tucked behind the renovated traditional Emirati homes of The Shindagha Historic District, overlooking Dubai Creek, is the new Saruq Al Hadid Museum.
Saruq Al Hadid, which translates to “the way or the valley of Iron”, is located on the northern edge of Dubai’s great Rub al-Khali desert. It is believed to have been once an important Iron Age factory.
An excavation of just about 10 per cent of the location, which covers an area of 6.2 square meters and was discovered in 2002, has yielded over 12,000 artifacts.
Hundreds of these items are now on display at the museum, which features nine galleries as well as a section dedicated to the latest discoveries. One of the first questions Al Hanoof Al Husani, a tour guide at the museum, gets from visitors is whether the “ring” that inspired the Dubai Expo 2020 logo is inside.
“We tell them yes, go in and see it, and most get surprised when they actually see it,” says Ms Al Husani. “First of all it is not a ring, it is a tiny gold decorative object, about one centimeter in diameter. It has 20 circular bulbs extending out of it, as well as internal 20 circular tiny bulbs.”
Between 1,300 and 800 BC, large quantities of metal objects, including tools and weapon-like swords, daggers and arrow heads, were produced at Saruq Al Hadid. One dagger features a pouncing lion decoration on the handle. A common motif in Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean, it suggests links between Saruq Al Hadid and these distant regions.
Among the items are jewelry, everyday tools and pots and elaborate seals with carved into tigers and beetles. Visitors can even touch some of the slag crust, which is a waste product of the smelting process, found at the site.
“What is interesting is that still no tombs and no human skeletons have been found,” says Ms Al Husani. “But the digging continues, and we are sure to discover fascinating new stories.”
The museum also features a special children’s trail and two immersive audiovisual experiences.
One documentary tells the story of the site’s discovery in 2002, when Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid was in a helicopter flying over the area, noticed unusual dune formations and brought a team of experts to investigate. The second film introduces visitors to some of the site’s most compelling finds, and speaks to some of the as-yet unresolved questions they pose for archaeologists.
• For more information, go to www.saruqalhadid.ae/ or call 04 353 9090. For July and August Saruq Al Hadid Museum opening hours are: 8am-2pm, Saturday to Thursday, although they are soon to be expanded to 8pm and weekends. Adults are Dh20, children 7-10 Dh10; children under seven and adults over 60, as well as those with disabilities, enter for free.