The cultural heritage of Qatar is heavenly influenced by the traditional Bedouin culture, with influences from India, East Africa, and the Persian Gulf. The harsh climate of the peninsula compelled the inhabitants to turn to the sea for sustenance. Hence the sea is emphasized in local culture. Literature and folklore of the region often surround sea-based activities.
Historically, oral arts like poetry and singing were more prevalent than figurative art. It was due to restrictions imposed by Islam on depictions of sentient beings. Several visual arts, such as calligraphy, architecture, and textile, were practiced and promoted. Calligraphy and architecture were historically the most dominant forms of Islamic visual expression. Calligraphy is the most prized possession in society due to its close connection to Islam. The oil era caused the assimilation of figurative arts into the country’s culture.
The cultural history of Qatar dates back 50,000 years. Islam was first introduced in Qatar, contributing to its cultural influence on the world.
Qatar is one of the leisure destinations in the world, but its heritage and culture aid its beauty. Qatar has several assets which form the cultural heritage of the country.
Al Zubarah Archaeological Site
The Al Zubarah Archaeological, was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 2013. The site consists of archaeological remains of Qatar civilization from 1760, including the fort, the houses erected by the locals, and the synagogue. Al Zubarah Fort is one of the well-preserved remains of the past. It was built in the year 1938 to protect the inland of Qatar.
Al Khor Towers
The three watchtowers of Al Khor city, were built in 1900. It was built for the defense to protect the city harbor from the invading ships at the port and Ain Hleetan Well. The Ain Hleetan well, was known for its therapeutic properties and was the source of sustenance for the people of the area. The fort walls are 60 cm thick and made of mud and stone, and approximately 26 feet tall.
Dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, Freiha is known as the oldest settlement of Qatar. The abandoned village consists of wrecks of a mosque, middens, houses, and a barren shore, signifying human settlement. The region spreads over 50 hectares, where the evidence of the history remains undiscovered.
It became a tourist attraction and was declared a heritage site in 2005. Qal’ at Freiha, a fortified structure in the village, is one of the main tourist attractions which was built with an Islamic touch.
Sheikh Mohammad Bin Jassim Al Thani built these towers as watchtowers to monitor the region and predict dates according to the lunar calendar. They were constructed in 1919 and 1960, and are now listed as heritage sites of Qatar and are open to the public.
Materials used in construction include clay and mud, common during early settlement. The towers are 14 meters tall and are cylindrical and rectangular. It has several floors, hence the name Barzan.
Ruwayda is one of the largest heritage sites of Qatar, covering an area of 9 hectares. The items discovered during the excavations include ceramics, earthenware, granite mortar, porcelain cups, etc., that originated in Europe, Iran, and Africa. The site was identified for its archeological importance in 1970.
The area is believed to be the urban settlement of the past. It consists of courtyard houses, warehouses, and the fort, rebuilt over time. The settlement was abandoned in the 18th century with no evidence of settlement later on.
Al Jassiya Rock Carvings
These unique rock carvings were discovered in 1957, resembling distinct patterns and shapes of animals, ships, stars, etc. The existing theories couldn’t explain the meaning, or motives behind them. Around 874 unique carved rocks are present here with the shapes of rows or rosettes and some letters that are believed from the ancient games of Al Haloosa or Al Huwai.
There are strict rules in place for visiting the carvings. No one could touch these carvings to prevent them from wearing off.
Jazirat Bin Ghanam / Purple Island
The Jazirat Bin Ghanam, also known as The Purple Island, is a small island close to Shqaiq Bay, earlier used as a trading port by Bahrain. The island was always a ground for traders, fisherfolk, and Pearl divers in 1000 BCE. During the Sassanian Era ( 400 – 600 CE), a pearling camp was organized on the island.
During the 1400-1200 BCE, the red-purple dye was manufactured on this land, hence the name purple island. The crushed shells and ceramic vats collected during excavation revealed that around 9 million shellfish and mollusks were used to produce the red-purple dye.
The island also houses the rare Mangrove around the shore and shattered wildlife, including herons and flamingos, including migratory species.
- Qatari Heritage. (n.d.). Qatar Museums. https://qm.org.qa/en/stories/qatari-heritage/
- Bisht, A. (2023, January 13). page title. Myholidays Blog: Your One-Stop Destination to Travel Tips, Tricks & Experiences. https://www.myholidays.com/blog/qatar-and-its-heritage-the-best-ten-heritage-sites-to-visit-in-qatar/