Diving in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Ras Ghanada

Diving in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Ras GhanadaCoral reefs in the Gulf are providing unique opportunities for researchers to understand the future impacts of climate change due to their ability to withstand high salinity and sea temperatures above 30C. They are fragile however and threatened by degradation, climate change, as well as coastal development.

Plunging beneath the deep blue waters off of the UAE coastline, a vibrant underwater world awaits. Ras Ghanada Reef is the largest coral reef in the UAE and the Gulf region, known for its biodiversity and reef development:

  • 4 kilometers off-shore
  • Supports flourishing marine life, including turtles, dugongs, sea snakes and clownfish
  • 5 x 7 km in size (an area of 35 square kilometers)
  • The reef is inspected every four months by the National Coral Reef Institute, Florida, USA
  • The latest report from September 2010 stated that the reef is in “great condition”
  • Scientists say that the breakwater has certainly helped the reef stay healthy
Location (latitude/longitude): near 25° 03’ N / 054° 25’ E


This small island c. 65 km northeast of Umm al-Nar was investigated in 1982 and found to contain evidence of human occupation in the period c. 2300-2000 BC.

Sheikh Khalifa requested that the Department of Antiquities and Tourism from Al Ain Museum should survey Ghanadha Island on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border. Here a very shallow site, a bare 30cms thick, revealed both third and first millennium artifacts, many on the surface, but as yet no settlement. Parallels with Umm an Nar are obvious with the recovery of lead sinkers, red potsherds, and copper fish hooks. Many bones were found, as at Umm an Nar, including dugong, camel, sheep, gazelle and seabirds.

Diving in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Location Map Ras GhanadaAt the time, this discovery represented only the second site of Umm al-Nar type known along the Gulf coast. Typical Umm al-Nar-type pottery, imported Mesopotamian pottery and copper tools (including several fishhooks) were recovered in a sandy area with stone foundations which probably represent the remains of fishermen’s huts. No burials were noted and the architecture is not very impressive, but it is clear from the investigations on Ghanadha that during the late third millennium people were active on the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi.

Avoiding huge destruction to Ras Ghanada, Khalifa Port opened on the new site in 2010, keeping intact this gem of the Arabian Gulf and the number of species depending on it. The terminal is build offshore on an island to protect the coral reef. This outcome demonstrates the relevance of EWS-WWF’s approach in working with local authorities.

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