Browsing 'Al Zubarah' News

Researchers have found 18th century images of ships etched into the walls at Al Zubarah.

Qatar Museums

Archaeologists working at one of the country’s most important historical sites say they have uncovered artifacts that add weight to the theory that Qatar was an 18th century trading hub.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen, the University of Exeter in the UK and Qatar Museums say they’ve found 15 images depicting boats etched into plaster on the walls of the 250-year-old buildings at Al Zubarah, located at the northwest corner of the peninsula.

13-54 Dhow5&10

Qatar Museums

A year’s worth of study has led the experts to conclude this “graffiti” depicts large ocean-going vessels used for trade in the Gulf and Indian Ocean region. They include a European warship, a locally made fishing boat and trade dhows traditionally constructed on the Malabar Coast of India.

The discovery advances the researchers’ understanding of the relationship that residents of that period had with the sea:

“The technical detail of the rigging, rudders and other aspects of the etchings show that the graffiti artists must have had an intimate knowledge of these vessels … (and) that Qatar was a center for international trade in the 18th century,” Qatar Museums said in a statement.

International commerce

The etchings are the latest discovery of relics that shed light on regional trading patterns at the time.

The University of Copenhagen notes that coins and ceramics dating to the 18th century found at Al Zubarah contain materials derived from eastern Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere in the Gulf.

Published research on 18th century ceramics found in Qatar suggests much of what had been previously recovered from that time originated in East Asia.

Chinese ceramics – which have been found at Zubarah – were common in the Gulf up until the 18th century, after which they began to be displaced by European wares, according to British academic Dr Robert Carter, who published an extensive report and catalog of the Qatar National Museum’s ceramics collection in 2011.

The Dutch East India Co. and Britain’s East India Co. ran trade routes in the 18th century connecting the Chinese city of Canton (now Guangzhou) with what is now Jakarta and Mumbai, as well as operating trading stations at various Gulf ports in what is presently Iran, according to a 2011 paper published by UK archaeologist Anthony Grey.

From there, Grey wrote, local Arab dhows redistributed cargo to settlements on the southern coast of the Gulf, such as Zubarah.


Founded by merchants from Kuwait, Zubarah thrived as a pearling and trading center in the 18th and early 19th century before being destroyed in 1811 and abandoned in the early 1900s, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Largely protected by a layer of sand, the fortified settlement became Qatar’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.

Along with an active archeological dig site, the property also includes a visitor’s center, where a plaster impression of one of the recently recovered ship etchings can be seen.

Some of the original images have been removed from the site and taken to a laboratory, while others have been reburied for protection from the harsh climate, according to Qatar Museums.


Qatar’s population dipped slightly at the end of last month, to 2.02 million people, newly released statistics show. The figure is down nearly 29,000 people from Dec. 31, 2013, likely because many schools are on mid-term break this week.

Despite the decrease, malls, Souq Waqif and other popular hotspots in town appeared more crowded than ever over the weekend.

Not all of Qatar is bursting at the seams, however. For those craving a bit of a change in scenery or some quiet, consider heading out of Doha.

To the north, as shown in the photos above taken by Aju George Chris, the area in and around Al Zubarah has some astonishing architecture. The coastal town has also recently joined the ranks of UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and opened to the public in December to share details about the nation’s history.

Also near the top of Qatar is Purple Island, which is just past Al Khor, about 50km north of Doha. It is linked to the mainland by a narrow dirt walkway that is interrupted by a few streams, with big rocks available to step on and cross without getting wet.

Unlike in many other parts of the country, the island is home to different kinds of vegetation and rock formations, as seen in these photos taken by Omar Chatriwala. The island is also strewn with seashells – and unfortunately, increasingly home to visitors’ trash.

Learn more about the island’s history – and get directions – here.

Where are your favorite escapes in Qatar? Thoughts?

Photos by Mohammed Ismail

This weekend, the Qatar Museums Authority has officially opened Al Zubarah to visitors. The old coastal city, located in the northwestern part of Qatar, was founded in the mid-18th century and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site earlier this year.

According to QMA, the area once bustled with industry from pearling and trade, and Al Zubarah fort was erected in 1768 to protect the increasingly prosperous town from raiders.

But in 1811, the town was partially burned and razed by forces from Muscat, then a Sultanate. It was eventually abandoned. A team of Danish archaeologists unearthed the city in the 1950s and since then, many remains of homes, mosques and other things, including a market, have been unearthed.

The archaeological site is open daily from 9am to 6pm, and this weekend includes a pearl diving show, band recital, children’s games and displays of skeletons of rare and marine animals.


Doha resident and photographer Mohammed Ismail took some shots of the area this weekend, and shared these impressions:

I arrived at Al Zubarah archaeological site – added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list on 22nd June, 2013 – around midday so the sun was especially hot. As you enter the site, your eyes are immediately drawn towards the fort which occupies the center of the site.

Entering the fort, I saw what you see in a lot of old Islamic architecture – a four sided structure built around a central, open-roofed courtyard, and believe me, you can really feel the sun’s heat standing in the center.

As I explored the rooms, I immediately felt the cooling properties of the design. High ceilings and small circular holes allowed the flow of air and was therefore the perfect combination to provide the occupant with much needed protection from the sun – something I was very much grateful for.

Reluctantly leaving the natural cool air flow, I headed back down to take a look at the tents set up just outside the fort.

One thing I admire about the Qataris is their willingness to share their culture with everyone and anyone and those in the tents did just that. A pearl diver recalled his adventures of diving for pearls to a foreign camera crew and did so with a smile, whilst others wove baskets and flags using traditional methods.

Al Zubarah is another effort by Qatar to bridge the cultural divide and to generate a common understanding between its culture and the culture of its vast expatriate population. At the moment, there is not much in the way of facilities for visitor’s to make the one hour and a bit drive out there from Doha easier, but there are plans in the pipeline to build a visitor’s center.