National Geographic : 1956 Jul
Watchtowers Guard Dibai Against Surprise Attack For generations intermittent wars between the sheikdoms kept the Trucial Coast in a state of tension and alarm. Raiders most often struck in the interior, but occasionally they descended on a coastal town. They preferred to attack just before dawn, or at the height of a dust storm, when near darkness cloaked their movements. -Towers of coral or sandstone bound with gypsum mortar dominate the ports. Once brig ands climbed towers like this to scan the gulf for merchant ships. A century and a half ago the pirate fleet boasted more than 850 craft, manned by some 20,000 men. In times of siege, riflemen fire from the battlements. Ends of poles serving as floor joists dot the walls. Noselike projections ventilate the guardroom. Red flags, with varying amounts of white, are used by the rulers of all seven coastal principalities. Middle banner of the three borne by this holiday crowd serves no function but decoration. +A canopy of palm leaves pro vides shade for the sentry on a round tower surmounting the Dibai jail.