The Map Room

THE ISLANDS - Marawah


Marawah is on the north side of the Khor al-Bazm, around 100 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi. It is privately owned.

Around 13 kilometres east–west and a maximum of 5 kilometres north–south, Marawah is composed of relict Pleistocene limestone platforms linked by Holocene (recent) sand and beach deposits and intervening patches of sabkha (salt flats). Forests of mangroves (Avicennia marina) grow along sheltered shorelines and bays. The island contains the most complete sequence of Pleistocene and Holocene geological exposures to be found in the southern Arabian Gulf, including fossil corals not known anywhere else in the region.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), little green heron (Butorides striatus) and Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) are among birds breeding on the island, while dugongs (Dugong dugon), bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and turtles are regularly seen in offshore waters.

Marawah has been occupied by man since the Late Stone Age, around 7000 years ago, and has one of the most important sites from this period in the UAE, which has yielded over 200 fine flint tools. Other sites date from the Bronze Age, the late pre-Islamic period, (c. 300 BC to 650 AD), and throughout the Islamic period, offering one of the most complete sequences of occupation on any of the UAE's islands.

The island also has the only limekilns yet discovered in the Emirates, dating to around the middle of the first millennium AD. These burned local limestone to produce lime for plastering buildings like the pre-Islamic Christian monastery found on the island of Sir Bani Yas, to the west.

Marawah also has a sophisticated old water catchment system. Former inhabitants of the island used the natural topography to trap rainfall that was then guided through small channels to cisterns and storage tanks, permitting people to survive despite a shortage of natural wells and springs.