Hili Oasis is the northernmost oasis in the Al Ain district and features several historic structures, including two watchtowers, a traditional irrigation system and a fortified home built in the early 1800s. The Hemad Bin Hadi al Darmaki (Bin Hadi) House stands at the centre of Hili Oasis and is a great example of the fortified houses from that period that guarded oases at the time.
Oral tradition says the foundation of the Bin Hadi House dates to approximately 1820, a generation before the family of Sheikh Zayed the First arrived in Al Ain. Common to these buildings, the house includes a rectangular enclosure with a large square tower at one corner.
The oasis features a falaj irrigation system, which primarily uses underground canals to bring water from distant aquifers to the oasis. The oasis and its falaj were of such importance to the families living in the area that they built two defensive watchtowers for protection.
The Hili Watchtowers
Although commissioned by different patrons, both towers – just 56 metres apart – serve a common aim: to form a protective gateway to Hili village and its vital water supply. Both are built of local materials, including stone for the foundation, while mud brick, palm trunks and palm fronds were used for the rest of the structures, which were both built on artificial earthen mounds.
The square-shaped Sheikh Zayed Murabba watchtower was built at the command of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The simple structure stands more than eight metres high, with the structure broader at the base than at the top. It has the classic features of a defensive square tower, including a ground floor with no windows and only a wooden staircase leading to the upper battlements, from where guards could keep watch over the surrounding area.
Seebat Khalifa Bin Nhaya watchtower is round, with 1.75-metre-thick walls that rise to a height of more than seven metres. Like the adjacent Al Murabbaa tower, it has a single internal space and a wooden staircase leading to the roof. Four large triangular openings provide ventilation and lighting and the machicolations (openings in the floor through which stones and boiling liquids could be dropped on the enemy) are augmented by saw-toothed battlements that alternate between protective walls and open spaces for attacking or keeping watch.
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