For over seven centuries, Ras Al Khaimah has been home to a prolific pottery-producing industry, the largest pre-oil in the United Arab Emirates. Pottery production started with the rise of the trading community of Julphar, the northernmost town in the emirate. Potters worked in Ghailan, Shimal and most recently, Wadi Haqil, where remains of pottery kilns have been found. Production in the emirate ceased shortly after the Second World War after imports and plastic-made pottery made the potteries in Wadi Haqil no longer worthwhile. The last potter died almost two decades ago. His living son and relatives have scant product and process knowledge.
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Known as Julphur Ware, the Ras Al Khaimah potteries distributed wares across the United Arab Emirates and the Western Indian Ocean. It’s also found along the South coast of Iran, in Bahrain, Qatar and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and as far as the East coast of Africa.
The potters of Shimal and Wadi Haqil produced a wide range of pottery vessels, from small bowls and cups to cooking pots, water pots, and large storage jars. Visitors to the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah can discover various types of pottery on display.
In early 2013, the son of the late potter demonstrated some of the ancient techniques involved in the original production of pottery. He collected various types of clay from across Ras Al Khaimah and mixed them by pummelling them with large sticks until they were smooth and refined. He then sieved the clay to remove stones and other unwanted inclusions. He dampened the clay with water, so it was ready to use. The potter worked on a primitive wheel and formed clay coils, adding them to the base to build the vessel’s walls. He smoothed the inside and outside of the coils with a shell and continued to add new coils until he reached the desired shape of the pot.
This archaeological site can only be accessed when accompanied by a team member from the Department of Antiquities and Museums.