Al Mezyad Fort
“So where are we going today?” my husband asks with a sigh of resignation. “Al Mezyad Fort”, is my quick reply, before I inform him that it is past Bawadi Mall and to the right of the border post to Oman. “Really just down the road, and easy to find! And look at the bright side: soon I will run out of places for us to go to, and then you don’t have to take me anywhere anymore.” “My babes, you will always find new places to go to.” “True”, I laugh as we get into the car.
The last road to the right just before the border post at Mezyad, deposits us in front of lacklustre black metal gates. Not sure if this is actually the entrance to the fort we can clearly make out from behind some palm trees, Michael gets out to ask. It is, despite the lack of any kind of sign to indicate that it houses one of the largest forts in Al Ain.
The short drive to the fort takes us past labour accommodation and buildings that were clearly once part of a thriving date palm farm. Now, only clumps of date palm trees remain, and there is an atmosphere of neglect blanketing the place. No wonder there are no signs. I am sure that the proud Emiratis are not keen to direct tourists here until the space is renovated to the point of looking brand new. I am glad that it is not a “tourist attraction” though, and being the only two visitors around to enjoy the quiet, is a special gift.
I like finding these off the beaten track gems that encapsulates the past, while peacefully crumbling away. It makes me feel like an olden day explorer, and the solitude that comes from being the only people around really nourishes my soul. Everywhere is evidence in the form of mud bricks, sand piles and newly made doors stacked in a room that some sort of restoration is either taking place or being planned. It has 44 rooms, many with doors slightly ajar, others with roofs missing, but most serving as a hiding place for hungry mosquitoes. The bird life in the trees that fill the spacious courtyard is active and the only sound that split the morning air.
What makes this fort different from the others in Al Ain, is its imposing backdrop in the form of Jebel Hafeet that plays sentinel to the passage of time.
We take our time to explore all the nooks and crannies, after which we just linger in the courtyard to soak up the tranquility of the space. I am, as always, reluctant to leave and wished that I packed a picnic basket. We decide to take another road to the entrance and slowly drive along a dirt track that unexpectedly leads us to a verdant vegetable patch. Having just planted our own, we are eager to see what they are growing. A friendly labourer prattles away in Arabic punctuating whatever he is saying with big gestures. Sign language and smiles are universal, and although we can only guess at what he is actually telling us, his convivial demeanour warms our hearts, especially when we are presented with a gift of freshly picked zucchinis. I cannot wait to get home to try out a slew of zucchini recipes, while Michael is in a hurry to stop at the souk to buy more seedlings.
GPS co-ordinates to the gate of Al Mezyad Fort: N 24° 01′ 33.2″ E 55° 50′ 19.4″
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