The UAE saw the inauguration of a Church and Monastery on Sir Bani Yas Island, the first Christian site discovered in the UAE, following the implementation of conservation measures and site enhancements by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi). The Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery date back to the 7th and 8th centuries CE, and the site's buildings were discovered in 1992.
The discovery was followed by many excavation works that uncovered the eastern and northern quarters, the surrounding wall, and courtyard houses. In 1994, it was proved that the site's architectural scheme belongs to the church. According to the official information released Thursday, crosses made of plaster were found during excavations among few other plaster pieces that feature fine inscriptions.
Artifacts found at the site show how the inhabitants of the settlement used the sea, in addition to cattle, sheep and goats, as food sources, while glass and ceramic objects indicate that they traded widely across the Arabian Gulf.
The inauguration ceremony for the site was conducted by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance. The event was attended by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, and Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, as well as conservators, archaeologists, heritage experts and clerics.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan said: "The Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery site received special attention from the founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, due to the great significance and value it holds as a historic part of the UAE's cultural heritage. He gave his directions to preserve and renovate the site and work on improving it once the first traces of Christian history in Bani Yas emerge."
"The late Sheikh Zayed played a key role in supporting archaeological excavations studies and research related to history and heritage. He welcomed archaeological expeditions in the emirate and established the Al Ain Museum to display the archaeological discoveries and artifacts from these missions and provide insight into the lifestyle of communities that resided in the region before us," he added.
DCT Abu Dhabi completed its conservation program for the site as part of a larger plan to manage the entire island. This plan provided a chance to gather data on the site and monitor its condition, as well as set policies to regulate any future excavations and research, restoration, management and conservation.
For his part, Mohamed Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: "Sheltering archaeological sites is a complex undertaking that has great implications for their conservation, presentation, interpretation, and overall management. The new shelter over the Sir Bani Yas Church and Monastery is a protective measure that demonstrates DCT Abu Dhabi’s expertise in the field of heritage conservation and its commitment to the long-term protection of archaeological sites."