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Al Zubarah

Mohammed Ismail / Doha News

Al Zubarah

A group of young people from around the world have begun a new conservation project at Al Zubarah, Qatar’s only UNESCO world heritage site.

More than 50 volunteers between 18 and 30 years old – including 12 from Qatar – are carrying out work at the site as part of the World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) program.

The 20-day project is part of UNESCO’s drive to help young people appreciate and respect heritage and cultural diversity.

The UNESCO volunteers at Al Zubarah

Qatar Museums

The UNESCO volunteers at Al Zubarah

On site until Nov. 25, the group will learn about traditional building techniques, how to apply and remove plaster and how to remove weak parts of buildings.

Many other activities are being planned by organizers Qatar Museums (QM), UNESCO and the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).

All of the work carried out in the next couple of weeks will help protect the site from harsh desert and coastal conditions, QM said.

Cultural exchange

It added that the volunteers will also engage in “intercultural exchanges” such as storytelling with Qatari citizens, lectures and competitions.

In a statement, QM’s acting CEO said that the scheme was “exciting” and that he was grateful for the volunteers, who he hoped would also benefit from the experience.

QM Acting CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud

Qatar Museums

QM Acting CEO Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud

Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud continued:

“They will learn not only about Qatar’s heritage, but also learn new skills, express new ideas and help to protect and preserve this historical site to the highest standards for future generations of visitors to enjoy.”

This is the first time that QM has participated in the UNESCO volunteer program.

Zubarah’s history

Al Zubarah is a historical coastal town, situated approximately 100km northwest of Doha.

Founded by merchants from Kuwait, Zubarah thrived as a pearling and trading center in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It was then destroyed in 1811 and abandoned in the early 1900s, according to UNESCO.

Al Zubarah fort

Aju George Chris

Al Zubarah fort

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

Although Al Zubarah is an extensive archaeological site, only the fort and its visitor’s center are currently open to members of the public.


UNESCO has today named the abandoned historical coastal town Al Zubarah Archeological Site to the World Heritage List, the Qatar Museums Authority has announced.

Zubarah, which is some 100 km northwest of Doha and “one of the largest and best preserved examples of an 18th-19th century traditional pearl fishing and merchant town in the Gulf,” is the first site in Qatar to make the list. It is now perhaps best known by tourists for its famous fort of the same name.

Many of its archaeological finds, which were excavated in the 1950s, are now part of the National Museum of Qatar’s (NMoQ) permanent collection. Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohamed Bin Ali Al Thani, QMA’s Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, was present at the UNESCO event and said in a statement:

“It is very significant to include Al Zubarah in Qatar as part of the UNESCO World Heritage list as a historical site that must be protected.

This follows the enormous effort by Qatar in ensuring the preservation and conservation of this historical site, leading it to be internationally recognized for its human legacy, specially that Al Zubarah is significant to many of the Gulf nationals.”

The UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site brings Zubarah more explicitly under the protection of the Law of War under the Geneva Convention. To be selected by UNESCO, cultural heritage sites must meet at least one of six criteria. Zubarah fulfilled three of them:

  • To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
  • To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history; and
  • To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

During UNESCO’s 37th session in Cambodia this week, India’s Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Canada’s Red Bay Basque Whaling Station and Namibia’s Namib Sand Sea, among others, were also inscribed into the list.

The World Heritage List also includes more than 900 other natural and cultural sites, like the the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Petra in Jordan.


Credit: Photo by Aurel Cuvin