Christian Monks Traded Pearls

Christian Monks Traded Pearls


The Christian monks living here were involved in pearl trading, the waters around Sir Bani Yas remaining famous for pearls until today.

Carrying the name of Bani Yas tribe, of whom Al Nahyan royal family belongs, the fresh water wells on the island had long dried and for years the island remained deserted. This was not the case in ancient times, though, as human settlement dating back to the Bronze Age has been proved in the 36 archaeological sites found on the island, including a pre-Islamic 1,000 years old monastery.

Believed to be founded in the late 6th century AD and abandoned around 750AD, following the arrival of Islam, the monastery is the only early Christian site in the UAE. Its location on the east edge of the island, facing the sea, reinforces the reasoning that its existence was a strategic one, being on a major sea trade route from Mesopotamia, through the Arabian Gulf, to the south-eastern Arabia and beyond to India, China and the Far East. The Christian monks living here were involved in pearl trading, the waters around Sir Bani Yas remaining famous for pearls until today.

With the natural pearl industry being “killed” by the invention of cultured pearls, the island lost its lustre and appeal to traders. It was only 25 years ago that Sir Bani Yas returned to the radars of people’s attention. When the last Arabian Oryx was extinct from the wild, the late president Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan brought a few specimens on the island, trying to save them. He also had about three million different trees planted here, including ghaf, palm, cedar and miswak, the toothbrush tree. An impressive two-and-a-half million of them survived, among them being the olive orchard that surrounds the royal palace.

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