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.