History buffs will be in their element here. Just 10 kilometres outside of Abu Dhabi’s lush garden city of Al Ain (on the road to Dubai), about an hour and a half away from the capital, you’ll find the Hili Archaeological Park. Combining both a public garden and an impressive archaeological site, this is a popular place for international visitors and residents.
Hili Archaeological Park was developed to highlight the ancient monuments of Al Ain and make them easily accessible to visitors. The site not only provides the earliest known evidence of an agricultural village in the United Arab Emirates but also contains other Bronze Age and Iron Age villages, burial grounds, forts and agricultural infrastructure. The early agricultural village is located at Hili Site 8 and dates to 3000BCE. Artefacts from these sites can be seen in Al Ain National Museum.
In the period between 2500BCE and 2000BCE, the settlement at Hili expanded. This period is called the Umm an-Nar period after the island off the coast of Abu Dhabi where the remains of this culture were first found. The largest collection of tombs and buildings from this period in the UAE is located at Hili. A number of these Bronze Age structures, located within the Hili Archaeological Park, are open to the public.
The park’s centrepiece is the Hili Grand Tomb, dating to about 2000BCE. Built in a circular form with a diameter of up to 12 metres, and approximately 4 metres high, the tomb was used to bury people from surrounding settlements. The tomb has two entrances decorated with beautifully engraved reliefs portraying human and animal figurines. Many other similar tombs can be found throughout the area of Hili, with an archaeological trail being planned to permit tourists to visit these sites and learn more about the Umm an-Nar culture up close.
There are other archaeological structures around the park, but it is chiefly a garden with plants, fountains and a small children's play area. You’ll find Hili near Fossil Valley, an area rich in a variety of fossils dating back many thousands of years to when it was covered by the sea.