Qatar unveils the Zubarah archaeological site


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Under the patronage of Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, Board of Trustees member HE Abdulla bin Khalifa al-Attiya launched Al Zubarah Archeological Site on Thursday, in the presence of a number of VIPs.

Qatar unveils the Zubarah archaeological site
An aerial view of the remnants of the town of Al Zubarah
[Credit: University of Copenhagen]

The occasion was marked by the unveiling of the UNESCO plaque, noting Qatar’s debut on the World Heritage List, along with the opening of the visitor centre and temporary exhibition space.

Over the weekend, a large number of people visited Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, one of the largest and best preserved examples of an 18th-9th century traditional pearl fishing and merchant town in the Gulf.

The inscription to the UNESCO World Heritage List is described as a unique opportunity for a country to build local and international awareness for the site and the values of the World Heritage Convention.

There are 981 natural and cultural properties on the World Heritage List. Other sites include the Yellowstone National Park in the US and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

The new visitor centre is open within five rooms of Al Zubarah Fort and features rotating photo exhibitions that will tell the story of this World Heritage Site’s excavation and natural environment.

A temporary exhibition, featuring objects from Al Zubarah and other sites in the North of Qatar, focusing on themes of sea faring, pearl diving, trade and defence, is on display in a portacabin outside the fort.

A historic coastal town now abandoned, Al Zubarah site lies on Qatar’s northwest coast 85km from Doha. Founded in the 18th century, the town developed into a centre of the pearling and international trade and rose to become the country’s largest and most important settlement.

The success of Al Zubarah attracted the attention of other Gulf powers, and after several attacks the town was eventually burned to the ground in 1811. It never fully recovered and was abandoned by the mid-20th century.

Qatar unveils the Zubarah archaeological site
A traditional music and dance performance in front of Al Zubarah Fort after
the launching ceremony [Credit: Gulf Times/Jayaram]

Al Zubarah Archaeological Site covers an area of 60 hectares with remains of houses, mosques, large fortified buildings and a market.

Faisal al-Naimi, head of archaeology, QMA, stated: “The opening of Al Zubarah is a very significant moment for Qatar’s heritage as it allows us to tell our story to the public in a very tangible way.

Visitors are encouraged to experience and engage with the excavation and history of this site through photos, displays and walking tours, which we hope will raise awareness of the value of this site, to Qatar and the Gulf.”

Al Zubarah was first reported as an archaeological site by a Danish-led team of archaeologists in the 1950s, and then excavated by Danish and Qatari teams. As a result of the studies conducted at the site, a large number of archaeological finds from the 18th-19th centuries are now part of the National Museum of Qatar’s permanent collection, and will be featured in the galleries when the museum opens in its new premises.

At present, the visitor centre inside Al Zubarah Fort is open between sunrise and sunset. The archaeological site, a five to 10 minute drive from the fort, will be open daily between 9am and 4.30pm.

Visitors have to follow a marked route and par on the edge of the site. A walking track, 30 minutes in duration, guides visitors through the remnants of the historic city; from buried neighbourhoods to excavation areas where a palace and a courtyard house have been investigated by archaeologists and currently being conserved.

There are 15 information boards along the trail, providing information on the history of the site, archaeological features and the natural environment.

To reach Al Zubarah, take Junction 59 on Al Shamal Road and continue west towards Al Zubarah Fort for 37km. The site lies on Qatar’s northwest coast 85km from Doha and 25km south of Al Ruwais.

Source: Gulf Times [December 15, 2013]



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