If you want an insight into Qatar’s history, culture and heritage, then visit one of the archaeological sites or old forts. Some of these heritage sites have been partially restored, while others exist as ruins or excavation sites. All forts can be located on the Marhaba map of Qatar (available in every issue of Marhaba Information Guide. You may also locate the forts on Marhaba’s pocket map of Qatar, which is available in both English and Arabic for QR12).
Al Jumail Ruins
On the road between Al Ruwais and Al Zubara are many buildings and ruins in an abandoned village near the roadside. These ruins are open to the public, but take care if clambering around on the loose rubble and brickwork. Al Jamail ruins are under the protection of the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Al Ghuwair Castle
The ruins of this 19th century rectangular fort lie 85 km northwest of Doha.
Al Huwaila Fort
Prior to the development of Al Zubara and Doha, Al Huwaila was Qatar’s principal town. 29 km north of Al Khor, the fort was built during the early Islamic period and was occupied by Al Musallam members of the Bani Khalid family in the 18th century.
Al Thaqab Fort
Located in the north, Al Thaqab Fort is a good example of simplistic military architecture. Close by is Ruwaida Fort, built on a site which excavations have shown to be inhabited as long ago as the 10th century.
Al Koot Fort B5
The fort is a remnant of the Turkish occupation during the 19th century and is believed to have been built in 1925 on Doha’s then outskirts, now Jassim bin Mohammed Street, adjacent to Souq Waqif car park. It was once used as a prison – prisoners were allowed to sit in the open courtyard during the hotter summer months, with the guards watching from the towers above. It was also a base for the nattoor (traditional armed guards) who patrolled the souq in the early 20th century. Unfortunately it was renovated carelessly in the 1970s and many of the original features were lost. However, it is still, a popular external photo opportunity.
Al Rekiyat Fort
Situated about 110 km from the capital, this fort has one square and three round towers typical of old military buildings in the Gulf.
Al Wajbah Fort
One of Qatar’s oldest forts; it was the site of a famous battle in 1893 when Sheikh Qassim bin Mohammed Al Thani defeated the Ottomans.
Al Zubarah, Qatar’s largest archaeological site, used to be a thriving settlement, the focus of the region’s pearling trade. Up to 6,000 people are estimated to have lived in the town in the late 18th and early 19th century, earning their living by fishing, pearl harvesting and trading. The city was destroyed in a siege in September 1878; after the 1930s it lay abandoned until archaeologists began excavations in the 1980s, which are still ongoing. The foundations of the city walls have been uncovered, revealing the bases of watchtowers, residential dwellings, artefacts and evidence of some cottage industries.
Al Zubarah Fort was built during Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al Thani’s reign in 1938. The fort is slightly inland from Al Zubarah. Until the mid 1980s, it was used by the military and is now open to the public daily except Friday and Saturday. Entrance is free.
Note: On 22 June 2013, Al Zubarah Archeological Site has been inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List at the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee conference in the Kingdom of Cambodia. It is the first entry for a Qatari site on the international register and one of 911 natural and cultural properties world-wide.
Borj Barzan Fort
In the Umm Slal Mohammed area, the fort has watchtowers unique to the region. Barzan, which means high place in Arabic, has two towers that stretch 16 m into the sky, which served as lookout points in the late 19th century built to protect the water reservoirs.
15 km north of Dukhan, this fort was built during the Abbasid period (9th century CE). Five groups of buildings, including 250 houses and two mosques, were constructed around an older fort on this site.
Umm Salal Mohammed Fort
20 km north of Doha, the fort was designed to combine civilian and military functions.
Jabal Al Jassassiya Petroglyphs
Although the formations were suspected to date back millennia, a recent study, representing the only scientific evidence to date, found samples to be no more than 250 years old. The site has over 900 different types of petroglyphs – pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. To find the petroglyphs, take the Al Shamal (North) Road towards Al Zubara, pass the Al Khor turnoff and turn right at the signpost for Fuwairit. A tarred road will lead you to a deserted village and limestone jebels (hills) are a few kilometres down the coast. You will need a four-wheel-drive.
Author: Sarah Palmer
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