Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Dec 15, 2010 / 23:47 pm
The remains of an ancient Nestorian Christian monastery and church on Sri Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates have been opened for public viewing, providing an important glimpse into the pre-Islamic history of the region.
The site was unearthed in the early 1990s and is believed to be the only permanent settlement ever established on the island, which is 160 miles southwest of Abu Dhabi.
A multi-building compound on the eastern side of the island, the site is the only known pre-Islamic Christian site in the United Arab Emirates. According to Archaeology Daily, the complex includes monks’ cells, kitchens and animal pens surrounding a courtyard dominated by a church. At least eight houses have been unearthed.
The monastery is believed to have been an important destination for pilgrims traveling along a trade route to India.
"Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east" in the Persian Gulf region, commented Dr. Joseph Elders, the archaeological director of the excavation project. “This shows that Christianity had penetrated far further than we thought before ... We don't have many monasteries from this period."