Originating in Iran and heartily adopted by communities on this side of the Arabian Gulf, the barjeel or wind tower is a fascinating piece of early engineering. The cross-pollination of ideas between what we now know as Iran – Persia in the past – is no co-incidence: the Al Qassimi tribes of the Northern Emirates were a powerful influence across the Northern coast of the Gulf, controlling key ports such as Lingeh in the 17th century onwards.
This particularly outstanding example of a barjeel, recently undergoing restoration, is located in the Heart of Sharjah area and is unique in the UAE – it’s the only circular wind tower in the entire country.
The technology is remarkably simple: the wind tower collects the breeze caused by convection currents of air over the hot land and concentrates it downwards. Sitting at its base, you can feel the palpably cooler air. In the years before air conditioning, this was as good as it got and would have been an enormous relief in the blistering heat of the UAE’s summer months. Fortunate indeed was the family who could afford a barjeel to relax under in the heat of midday and the torpor of early afternoon before sunset brought welcome relief and cooler breezes in from the sea.
In the hot months, at night, it was common to pour water on the roof of the house and sleep on paillasses laid over the wet rooftop, the slow evaporation of the water providing cooling relief to the sleepers. These days, we rather take our AC for granted!