Portion of the island's Christian-settlement dig site.
Remains of a Christian monastery and church on Sir Bani Yas Island in the Arabian Gulf, believed to have been settled around 600 AD by a community of 40 monks, is now open to the public. Unearthed in the early 1990s, the site has valuable historical and religious significance.
"Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east in the Arabian Gulf," Dr Joseph Elders, the project's archaeological director, who began excavating the site nearly two decades ago, told The National. "This shows that Christianity had penetrated far further than we thought before. We don't have many monasteries from this period."
The monastery complex, a multi-building compound located on the eastern side of the 87-square-kilometre island, is the only pre-Islamic Christian site known in the UAE. Discovered in 1992 during an archaeological survey, the monastery is believed to have been an important destination for pilgrims travelling along a trade route to India.
"We think quite a lot of visitors came to the monastery," said Dr Elders. "These people wanted to be visited."
Christianity spread throughout the Gulf between the years 50 and 350, following the trade routes. The inhabitants of the 7th-century settlement probably belonged to the Nestorian Church, or Church of the East. Researchers believe the wealthy community was made up of a mixture of people from along the Gulf, and local residents who spoke Syriac and Arabic.
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