Al-Zhubara: Explore Qatar's past in the harbor that is lost in the sand of time


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(CNN) – Just an hour – and a world – away from the bright lights of Doha, the sandy ruins of an ocean port provide a brief yet fascinating look at life in the Arabian Gulf for centuries.

Located in northwest Qatar, about 100km from the futuristic capital of Doha, the desolated and ruined town of Al Zubarah was a thriving pearl and commercial hub in parts of the 1700s and 1800s.
The heavily fortified city was established by merchants in the middle of the 18th century and quickly ascended to become an important international center with commercial links across the sea to distant east and west destinations.
"Al Zubarah was more than a regional harbor," says Professor Thomas Leisten, an active archaeologist at the Qatar Museum. "During the second half of the 18th century and the first decade of the 19th century, it was an international hub with connections to Iran, India, China, East Africa, the Netherlands and Britain."

During these peak years, Al Zubarah is believed to host up to 9,000 people, according to archaeologists, stretching for more than 1.4 kilometers along the coast.

A carefully designed city was placed in a rectangular road grid and held large palaces – some of which were larger than 10,000 square meters – stone yard houses and mosques, as well as fishermen's huts and production areas.

Archaeological work

In addition to harvesting pearls and long-distance trade, Al Zubarah's financial strength was enhanced by the large-scale production of molasses of the time, used for sweetening and conservation. So far, archaeologists have uncovered nearly 40 date pressures.

But after several attacks, the city was destroyed mainly in 1811 and was completely abandoned since the beginning of the last century, after which the rest of its buildings began to disintegrate. As the decades rolled over, a protective layer of sand blown from the desert of Katri finally covered the ruins.

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The city was destroyed mainly in 1811.

Photo by Dimitris Sideridis

Today, the coastal archaeological site, covered by tiny shells, consists of the ruins of the city, where archaeological works are carried out. the ruins of Murair's brotherly settlement, which was fortified to protect the vital springs of the city. and Al Zubarah Fort, the most important attraction of the attraction.

The imposing fortress was built in 1938 and served for decades as a military and police post. These days, it acts as a visitor center where tourists can learn about Al Zubarah's lively past and artifacts that have been discovered through interactive touch screens and watching an educational film.

"It is very interesting [place], very well preserved, and [there is] a lot of information, "says Mieu da de Brad, a 76-year-old visitor from the Netherlands, about the fortress.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

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It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Dimitris Sideridis

In 2009, Al Zubarah was designated a protected area and four years later it was added by the World Heritage Committee to the UNESCO World Heritage List – Qatar's first entry.

"Al Zubarah will be the biggest attraction for tourists in the future," says Leisten, describing efforts to secure the site from the hard desert and coastal environment and visibility to future visitors.

"One of the biggest problems in Al Zubarah is to preserve the more fragile ruins, which is why only small excavations were made," he adds.

"We are planning a 2.5 km pedestrian walkway, which will provide a visit to the central points, as well as virtual reality boards [provide information] and bring the place to life. "