Christian monastery built more than 1,400 years ago – before Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born – is uncovered in the United Arab Emirates

  • Remains of an ancient Christian monastery have been discovered in the United Arab Emirates
  • Carbon dating suggests the monastery was constructed between 534 and 656 AD
  • This means it was built before Islam started – the Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 AD
  • Archaeologists uncovered cells where monks spent time in solitude, along with rooms for  baptism and baking wafers for communion

An ancient Christian monastery unearthed off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was built more than 1,400 years ago, making it older than Islam’s the Prophet Mohammed who was born in 570 AD.

Remains of the monastery suggest Christian worshippers prayed within a single-aisle church, which had additional rooms for baptism and baking wafers for communion. Cells where monks spent time in solitude were also uncovered.

This is only the second of its kind discovered in the region, the other was in 1990, and historians believe the two were eventually abandoned as Christians began to convert to Islam as the faith became more prevalent in the region.

Christianity is currently a minority across the wider Middle East, but the UAE guarantees freedom of religion as long as it does not conflict with public policy or morals.

An aerial view of the Christian monastery shows its intricated details.  There is a  single-aisle church, which had additional rooms for baptism and baking wafers for communion. Cells where monks spent time in solitude were also uncovered

Archaeologists also unearthed cells where monks spend time in solitude (pictured). The complex is believed to be more than 1,400 years old, which pre-dates Islam in the region

However, certain Middle Eastern countries, like Iraq, Syria and Egypt, persecute Christians.

For example, 99 Egyptian Christians were killed by extremist groups in 2017, with 47 killed on Palm Sunday in Tanta and Alexandria

But the religion was practiced long before Islam began.

The ancient monastery was discovered on Siniyah Island, part of the sand-dune sheikhdom of Umm al-Quwain.

Carbon dating of samples found in the monastery’s foundation date between 534 and 656. Islam’s Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 and died in 632 after conquering Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia.

Next to where the monastery stood remains of a separate building with four rooms, which archaeologists believe surrounded a courtyard and was likely the home to the head of the monastery.


Carbon dating of samples found in the monastery’s foundation date between 534 and 656. Pictured is a bronze lamp found at the site and a glass vial (right)

This is only the second of its kind discovered in the region, the other was in 1990, and historians believe the two were eventually abandoned as Christians began to convert to Islam as the faith became more prevalent in the region

For Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University who helped investigate the newly discovered monastery, the UAE today is a ‘melting pot of nations’.

‘The fact that something similar was happening here 1,000 years ago is really remarkable and this is a story that deserves to be told,’ he said.

Siniyah Island shields the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain, an emirate some 30 miles north east of Dubai along the coast of the Persian Gulf.

The island has a series of sandbars coming off of it like crooked fingers. On one, to the island’s north east, archaeologists discovered the monastery.

Historians said early churches and monasteries spread along the Persian Gulf to the coasts of present-day Oman and all the way to India. 

Archaeologist have found other similar churches and monasteries in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and these nations are also known to persecute Christians.

Next to where the monastery stood remains of a separate building with four rooms, which archaeologists believe surrounded a courtyard and was likely the home to the head of the monastery

In the early 1990s (pictured), archaeologists discovered the first Christian monastery in the UAE, on Sir Bani Yas Island

In the early 1990s, archaeologists discovered the first Christian monastery in the UAE, on Sir Bani Yas Island.

This complex, similar to the recently discovered one, featured monks’ cells, kitchens and animal pens surrounding a courtyard dominated by a church. 

In addition, archaeologists found more than eight houses surrounding the monastery, suggesting this was a permanent settlement.

The monastery is believed to have been an important destination for pilgrims traveling along a trade route to India. 

Archaeologists believe the settlement was ‘peacefully’ abandoned around 750AD. 

Source: Read Full Article