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Thursday, 28 March 2013 09:26

Historical Landmarks

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Old Zubara town
Rich with history of Qatar and its people, Al-Zubarah is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the state. Just two km west of the Al-Zubarah fort, the Al-Zubarah settlement shows evidence of a long-standing community where rich oyster banks and good trading connections in and beyond the Gulf ensured prosperity.
 
Surrounded by a long wall belt and guard towers, the original town was 2,000 meters long and 600 meters wide. A separate quarter and a wider, more external wall were added later, and eventually houses were built outside of the walls.
 
The old town already existed in the early 17th century. In fact, an account written by Hamad bin Nayem bin Sultan Al-Muraikhi Al-Zubari Al-Qatari in April 1638, describes Al-Zubarah as a small harbor of 150 houses and 700 inhabitants, owning several boats and livestock, with multicultural inhabitants including Naim, Hawajer, Bedouins and Al-Ma’adha.
 
By 1765, the Al-Khalifa and Al-Jalahima groups, both of the Al-Utubi tribe, moved from their homeland of Kuwait to Bahrain in search of pearls and trading opportunities. At that time, the Persians already occupied Bahrain so the Al-Utubi moved to Al-Zubarah. The local Sheikh agreed to let the tribe settle inside the town in exchange for paying ordinary taxes for trading.
 
They refused and built their own fort, Al-Murair, about two km south of the Al-Zubarah fort. Later, the Al-Utubi provided the fort with additional walls. Many believe the walls connected Al-Murair with Al-Zubarah, but there is no clear evidence. The Al-Utubi also built a seawater canal used as a harbor connecting Al-Murair and Al-Zubarah with the sea.
 
In a few short decades, Al-Zubarah and Al-Murair became flourishing centers of trade and pearling, and were recognized points of reference for the entire Arabian Gulf. But this power and prominence made the towns targets of invasions from the ruling family of Bahrain.
 
In response, the Al-Khalifa invaded Bahrain in 1783, claiming sovereignty over the island. Little by little, the Al-Khalifa migrated to Bahrain where they established a sheikhdom that endures still today. Unfortunately, this migration caused the gradual decline of Al-Zubarah and Al-Murair. When the region was fully abandoned in 1937, it became an archaeological site.
 
The traditional Qatari technique of joining coral rock and limestone with mud mortar and topping with a gypsum-based plaster was used to construct the buildings. The plaster, often decorated with geometric patterns, protected the walls from natural elements such as wind and rain.
 
Today the area consists of long walls and two excavated sites. The first site was excavated between 1982 and 1984. Excavation on the second site began in 2002 and is still going on today. Most of the artifacts uncovered during the first season are on display in the Al-Zubarah fort.
 
In the meantime, the Qatar Museums Authority plans to do more excavations and conservation work at the remarkable 54-hectare Al-Zubarah town.
 
Planning a visit
This site is always open and there is no admission fee. We recommend driving a four-wheel-drive and bringing a GPS device. Consider packing a bag and taking a swim in the sea near the ancient townPlease remember not to litter the area and to take any garbage back with you.
 
You can also visit Al-Zubarah fort, which is now a local museum offering an overview of the long history of the Al-Zubarah town. The exhibit includes coins from West Africa, pieces of pottery, Chinese porcelain, Thai celadon, jewelry made with semi-precious stones and pictures of the archaeological excavations. Public restrooms are available at Al-Zubarah fort.
 
UTM coordinates N 25° 58' 27.4" E 51° 01' 39"
 
Directions
We recommend using a four-wheel-drive vehicle to explore the site. Al-Zubarah is located at the northwest coast of Qatar, 107 km from Doha. Take the North Road to Al-Khor for approximately 50 km and make a U-turn at the Zubarah sign. Take the first secondary road on your right. About 200 meters past the Al-Zubarah fort, enter the archaeological area through the first gate on your right and follow the path towards the West until you find the excavated areas.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
 
Fishermen’s villages
Several settlements in the northwest of Qatar give a glimpse of how difficult life outside of the main cities was before the discovery of oil. These small villages had economies based largely on fishery , and lacked facilities or road access. Three of the sites, Al-Areesh, Al-Khuwair and Al-Jemail, are completely abandoned today, yet still vividly tell the story of those who once called them home.
 
All three settlements were built at the beginning of the 19th century and their names have intriguing origins. Al-Areesh comes from the Arabic “areesh,” meaning shelter made by date palm fronds, while Al-Kuwair comes from “kuwair,” meaning small seawater canal.
 
These villages were first abandoned in 1937, but daily life resumed in 1945 and continued well into the 1970s when the residents once again picked up and left.
 
Traditional Qatari mosques rest at the heart of the villages and are surrounded by a few old fishermen’s houses. This layout reflects how the social structure of Qatari communities was - and still is - centered around faith and religion.
 
The mosques have a typical plan, fenced in by high walls and open to an internal courtyard. There is a “mothawaddah,” a separate room in the courtyard for the “wudu,” or ablutions. In one corner is a minaret, which is a circular shaft with a simple rounded top and a small arched door that opens to a narrow spiral staircase. On the top of the minaret, a small room opens to the surroundings with four little windows that were used by the “muezzin” to call people to pray.
 
The prayer area of the mosques is split into two spaces: an “iwan,” or outer prayer room consisting of a portico overlooking the courtyard, and an indoor prayer area where the “mehrab” is directed towards the “Kaaba” at Mecca. Walls inside these mosques are often decorated with Quranic quotations, drawings made by fishermen and various other symbols.
 
Visiting these villages gives an idea of the traditional Qatari building technique. The thick walls, which helped to isolate the heat and keep buildings cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone, joining them with mud mortar and covering them with gypsum-based plaster.
 
The roof is made of four layers. The first consists of a series of “danchal” wood poles, often protected by bitumen. The second is a layer of “basgijl,” which are woven bamboo strips. A close net of mangrove branches makes up the third layer, and the roof is then finished with a layer of compressed mud, which provided protection from the sun during the hot seasons.
 
One of the most interesting features of this technique is the building of architraves using poles of “danchal” wood held together with a rope. This increases the adherence of the mud mortar and plaster.
 
Planning a visit
The northwest villages should be visited between September and April so you can spend time discovering the features of the deserted dwellings. While it is possible to visit these villages driving a standard car, using a four-wheel drive vehicle would be more comfortable.
 
UTM coordinates:
Al-Areesh N 26° 03' 03.42" E 51° 03' 24.57"
Al-Jemail N 26° 05' 46.89" E 51° 09' 21.94"
Al-Khuwair N 26° 04' 07.38" E 51° 05' 02.30"
 
Directions
The villages are located in the northwest of Qatar, 130 km from Doha. Take the North Road to Al-Khor for approximately 50 km and make a U-turn at the Zubarah sign. Take the first secondary road on your right. Keep going straight until you see the Al-Zubarah fort on the right. Just before the fort, turn right and go 10 km. The junctions to the villages of Al-Areesh and Al-Khuwair have a sign, and the town of Al-Jemail is visible from the road. You can also reach the sites through the north via Madinat Al-Shamal.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Al Majfar
The ruins of the ancient village of Al Mafjar are nearby on the mainland. The natural reserve of the Umm Tais island is just a few meters off-shore.
 
The Qatar Museums Authority plans to reconstruct the existing houses and mosque, as well as develop parts of the area into a visitor centre, ranger station and research area. For further information and directions, please contact one of the local tour companies .
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Murwab
Built during the Abbassid period on the foundations of an older fort, Murwab Fort is located on the west coast of Qatar and bears the marks of Abbassid architectural style. To the north of the fort, 250 houses were grouped together in an arch formation.
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Al Jassassiya
The Al-Jassassiya site is one of the most mysterious and attractive sites in Qatar. Northeast of Doha, it is one of the few places where you can find petroglyphs, which are collections of rare and amazing signs carved in stone. Carvings can be found at other sites, however those found at Al-Jassassiya are considered the most extraordinary in terms of both their quality and their state of preservation.
 
An astounding 900 glyphs can be found at Al-Jassasiya. Shapes vary from geometric patterns to representations of animals and boats found on two parallel “jebels,” which are outcrops of fossil and sand dunes.
 
Seventy-one daisy shaped patterns made up of nine small holes around a larger central hole also exist. Some believe they were used for a game called “ailah,” known as “umm al-judairah” in Kuwait and Bahrain.
 
The most common outlines are double rows of seven to nine shapes that look like cups (333 in total, 193 with seven cups). These cups are believed to have been used for another game called “haloosa” or “huwaila”. It is known in West Africa as “mandala”.
 
Similar carved rows dating back to the 15th century BC can be found in the temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, and others dating back to the 5th century BC can be found in the same place.
The total number of double rows and daisies, combined with the wide range of variations in the size of cups, casts doubt upon their use as game tables and suggests they are more likely to be symbolic representations carved by an old local culture still waiting to be researched.
 
The most unusual carvings are those of thick-finned fish fossils, boats with numerous oars, scorpions walking on the rocks, donkeys and those depicting the outlines of turtles. In total, these carvings number more than 100.
 
Mystery surrounds several deep holes that are connected by thin channels through which water can run. It is believed that these designs celebrated the rain, which is, of course, rare and precious in Qatar. There are also a few carvings that appear to be groups of stars connected by lines, representing constellations.
 
A Danish archaeological mission studied the site in 1961 and at the beginning of the 1970s. Qatari authorities are currently consulting other experts for further interpretations. Many theories exist, but there is very little compelling evidence to determine the dates of origin of these fascinating carvings.
 
Ruins of old settlements and dwellings containing local and foreign pottery dating back to the 15th century have been uncovered around the outcrops at Al-Jassasiya. Yet the carvings are believed by some to be much older. Others, however, point to the softness of the rocks on the outcrops, which can be eroded quite easily, suggesting that the carvings might be more recent.
 
UTM coordinates N 25° 57' 07.7" E 51° 24' 22.8"
 
Directions
Al-Jassassiya is in the northeast of Qatar, 75 km from Doha. Take the North Road toward Al-Khor for approximately 85 km and turn right at the Al-Huwaila sign (you will see a white mosque at the junction). Then, take the first paved road on your left and go straight; after three km you should see a large fenced area on the left side of the road accessible through several gates. This is the site of the rock carvings. The first outcrop is parallel to the road. The biggest carvings are located beside an old sign you can see from the road. The second group of carvings is further north on the other outcrop, and is accessible through a gate further down the road.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Zubara Fort
Description
Al-Zubarah fort serves as a pristine example of a typical Arab fort built using the traditional Qatari technique. The Coast Guard used the sturdy fort as a station until the mid 1980s when it was turned into a museum to display findings uncovered in the nearby Al-Zubarah archeological area.
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al Thani built the fort in 1938 on the ruins of an older castle that had been destroyed.
It was constructed with high, thick walls that would last for countless decades and would serve to protect those inside. The fort is a regular square courtyard with massive walls on each side. Three of the corners have large circular towers topped with Qatari-style battlements. The fourth corner contains a striking rectangular tower with traditional triangular-based ledges with slits called machicolations that - in the event of an attack - were used to shoot at enemies.
The one-meter-thick walls strengthened the defensive capabilities of the fort, and helped isolate the heat and keep the rooms cool. The walls were built by joining overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone with a mud mortar, then covering it with a gypsum-based plaster. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud, protecting the fort from the blazing sun during the hot seasons.
Eight rooms on the ground floor, which were originally used to accommodate soldiers, now house exhibitions of exquisite pottery and archaeological findings such as coins from the neighboring Al-Zubarah town. The ground floor also features “iwan” which are small porticos overlooking the courtyard through square arcades. In the courtyard, take a peek under the four-pillar canopy down the 15-meter-deep well that served as a reservoir for the soldiers.
A visit to the fort would not be complete without climbing one of the external staircases in the courtyard to the second floor. This level consists of a wide promenade and a few rooms tucked inside the corner towers. The walls of these rooms feature groups of gunfire holes that are angled in different directions so the soldiers could shoot enemies who were attacking from all sides. Wooden rung stairs that are still in the towers enabled the men to climb up to the roof and patrol the surrounding area with a clear view.
This fort, and the town in which it sits, are extraordinarily important pieces in the early development of Qatar, and ones that shouldn’t be missed.
Planning a visit
The Al-Zubarah fort is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and closed on Friday mornings. Look for Khayal, the guard at the small house next to the fort. He will be happy to let you in to explore the fort on your own. There is no admission fee.
UTM coordinates N 25° 58' 34'' E 51° 02' 43''
Directions
Al-Zubarah fort is located at the northwestern coast of Qatar, 107 km from Doha. Take the North Road to Al-Khor for approximately 50 km and make a U-turn at the Zubarah sign. Take the first secondary road on your right. Keep going straight until you see the fort on your right. The road is fully paved all the way to the fort.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Al Shagab Fort
Located on the northwest part of the country, approximately 110 km from Doha, Al Thugab Fort is rectangular with four towers – a common design for desert forts erected between the 17th and 19th centuries.
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Al Rekaya Fort
Restored in 1988, Al Rakiyat Fort was constructed sometime during the 17th and 19th centuries. Made of mud and stone, this fort, as with many others in Qatar, is shaped as a rectangle with four corner towers. It’s located on the northwest part of the country, two kilometers away from Al Shagab Fort.
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Al Koot Fort
Description
Deep in the heart of the city of Doha stands Al-Koot fort. Built in 1927 by Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al-Thani, who governed Qatar between 1913 and 1949, the fort was created to protect the nearby Souq Waqif  from would-be thieves. The courtyard mosque is one of the massive fort’s most interesting features, mostly due to what it is missing: walls and a roof.
Since the mosque was often used by prisoners, its plan had to be modified so guards could keep a watchful eye on them, even during prayers. Despite the lack of physical structure, the “mehrab” still faces the “Kaaba” in Mecca.
Al-Koot fort has a square courtyard surrounded on all sides by a high wall. Circular towers are found in three corners and a rectangular one in the fourth. The towers are crowned with traditional Qatari-style battlements and triangular-based ledges with slits called machicolations that guards used to shoot at enemies.
Around the courtyard, a number of doors lead to prison cells. One significantly larger door leads to a high-security, windowless cell that was reserved for the most dangerous criminals.
The north and south sides of the fort have wide “iwan”, which are porticos overlooking the courtyard through square arcades. In the southern portico there is a deep well that was used as a water supply for cleaning.
External stairs on the corners of the courtyard lead to the first floor which consists of a wide promenade. The walls are peppered with groups of gunfire holes, each one angled in a different direction so that soldiers could shoot at enemies attacking from any side.
Planning a visit
The Al-Koot fort is open by appointment. To schedule a visit, call 4442 4143. Do not miss a visit to Souq Waqif, where you can find anything and everything. It is located behind Al-Koot fort, on Grand Hammad Street.
UTM coordinates N 25° 17' 12.47" E 51° 31' 52"
Directions
The Al-Koot fort is located in the center of Doha, not far from Al-Corniche and Waqif souq.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Barzan Towers
Description
Stretching into the Arabian sky, the Barzan towers loom above the surrounding landscape and provide the perfect place to gaze out to sea. They have been used as a platform to keep a watchful eye on pearl divers, as a look-out for approaching ships and as an observatory to scrutinise the moon’s phases.
The name Barzan comes from the Arabic for “high place,” quite appropriate for towers measuring 16 meters in height. Built in 1910 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani, they are located at the southern side of the defensive system established in the late 19th/early 20th century to protect the “raudah,” the valley where precious rainwater collects from adjacent higher ground. They link with two other fortified buildings towards the west and another tower towards the north.
Keeping track of the moon was essential. The “Hejry” calendar which is used in Islamic countries is based on the moon’s phases, with each month starting when the crescent appears after the new moon. Ramadan is the most important of these months, marking the time when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him). To ensure accuracy, two observers would climb to the top of the towers, viewing the new moon and agreeing when the crescent appeared.
The towers were built for strength. The walls are one meter thick at the base and further strengthened by buttresses. These were constructed as cones in one tower and as massive staircases in the other.
Besides the two Barzan towers there is a “majlis,” a room to receive guests, built as an L- shaped pavilion with small windows for ventilation. Moreover, there is a mosque containing a simple prayer room which was also used as a “madrassa,” a school for teaching the Holy Quran to children.
On the top of the “majlis,” and the mosque, traditional “marazims” protect the walls’ surfaces. These wooden channels stretch out from the roof to drain rainwater away during the desert’s rare but heavy storms.
The pavilion provides an excellent example of traditional Qatari building methods and techniques. Thick walls helped to keep the buildings cool. They were constructed by first overlapping raw pieces of coral-rock with limestone and cementing the two with mud mortar. Once dry, this was subsequently covered with a gypsum-based plaster. The roof was built in four layers, starting with a series of “danchal” wood poles. These were sometimes painted with bitumen for protection. The “danchal” wood poles were then covered by a layer of “basgijl,” woven bamboo strips. A closely constructed net of mangrove branches was added followed by a layer of compressed mud to protect the buildings from the sun during the hot seasons.
Another interesting feature of this technique is the use of poles of “danchal” wood held together with a rope in the construction of architraves. This increased the adherence of the mud mortar and plaster.
The Qatari Authorities carried out wide-ranging restoration works in 2003.
Planning a visit
Visitors can enter the building 24-hours a day. We suggest also taking time to view the additional towers found in the same area, namely the Umm Slal Mohammed fortresses. They are private property, so you cannot enter them, but their well-preserved and genuinely important historical character make them one of the most interesting and notable heritage sites in Qatar. A unique oasis full of green trees, animals and palm trees is nestled behind the towers. UTM coordinates N 25° 25' 07.66" E 51° 24' 48.05"
Directions
The Barzan and surroundings towers are in Umm Slal Mohammed, 20 km north of Doha. Take the North road and make a U-turn at the first sign to Umm Slal Mohammed. Turn right onto Umm Slal Mohammed Road and right again into Barzan Street immediately after the roundabout.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Umm Slal Mohammed Fort
The Fortified House of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Al Thani was used by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Jassim Bin Mohammed Al Thani and his brother, Sheikh Abdullah, in the winter months; in summer, they used the nearby Barzan Tower. Both the fortified house and tower, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, have undergone extensive renovation. The castle was built using local limestone plastered with local gypsum. It has two towers, with one upper room on the eastern tower and two on the western tower. Among the 14 other rooms were a ladies’ sitting room, a grain store and the madbasa, a room for pressing dates.
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Zekreet Fort
Description
Located close to Dukhan on the west coast of Qatar, the Zekreet area boasts an astonishing landscape with prehistoric sites and remnants of old settlements. One such destination site is the 18th century fort and early date press found on the beach. The fort has a very distinctive layout that allows seeing the two different phases of construction.
Originally, the fort was built as a simple square without towers in each corner. In a second phase of development, towers were added at the outer four corners of the fort. However these towers were never completed. Because they were added at a later date, their shape is incomplete. Actually, only three-quarters of their plans were built.
On the fort’s coastal side, the ruins of “madabes” can be found. These rooms were used to produce “debis”, which is a traditional date-based food. The rooms have parallel channels 10 cm deep into the floor that are linked together by a perpendicular canal near the entrance that funnels into an underground pot in the corner.
During the process of making “debis”, palm fronds were laid on the channels, creating a smooth, flat base. The dates were then put in sacks made of palm leaves and laid on top of each other in piles that could reach two meters high. The weight of the upper sacks often squashed the dates in the lower sacks and their thick juice ran into the channels and eventually into the underground pot.
Planning a visit
We suggest taking a walk on the beautiful sandy beach next to the site and enjoying a swim in the sea. Please remember not to litter the area and to take any garbage back with you. The site is always open and there is no admission fee.
UTM coordinates N 25° 29' 24.31'' E 50° 50' 40"
Directions
Zekreet fort is on the west coast of Qatar, 90 km from Doha. Take the road to Dukhan for 80 km and turn right at the Zekreet junction. Drive through Zekreet, turn left when you reach the limits of the village and drive towards the sea. It is possible to drive from Zekreet village in a standard car, however a four-wheel-drive vehicle would be more comfortable.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Al Wajba Fort
With its high towers and thick walls, Al Wajbah Fort was the site of a famous battle and is considered the oldest fort in the country. In 1893 A.D., the people of Qatar, under the leadership of Sheikh Qassim Bin Mohammed Al-Thani, defeated the Ottoman forces.
 
From Qatar Museum Authority
 
Simaisma
 
Description
Mosques have always been the heart of villages in Qatar. The one in Simaisma, a town built in the 19th century by fishermen and pearl divers, dates back to 1938. It served as a place for prayer, but also a center for education. In front of the prayer room, a pavilion housed a “madrassa”: a school used to teach the Holy Quran to children.
The prayer room stands on the west side of the courtyard. Before entering it, Muslims must perform a long sequence of body cleaning actions called “wudu,” or ablutions. Visitors of other religions are encouraged to do the same, as a form of intercultural respect and to learn one of the oldest Islamic traditions. Islamweb (link to the page where the movie is found) features a movie explaining this sequence of steps.
Normally the ablutions take place in the “mothawaddah,” which is a pool filled with water from a spring or a well. At Simaisma mosque the “mothawaddah” is located at the southeast corner of the courtyard.
After the “wudu,” the ablutions, worshipers and visitors may enter the prayer room. In front of the prayer room’s entrance is an “iwan,” or portico, with nine squared arcades overlooking the courtyard.
The prayer room is a long, carpeted corridor discreetely lit by narrow windows. The “mehrab,” in front of the entrance, indicates the direction of the “Kaaba,” the Holy Stone at Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In this mosque, the “mehrab” consists of two arches, one of which houses a “minbar,” or podium.
Normally the “imam,” who is responsible for leading prayer, stands facing the congregation in front of the “mehrab”. On Fridays, he usually gives a religious speech from the podium.
In front of the prayer room, a pavilion houses a “madrassa,” which is a school used to teach the Holy Quran to children. The old Quranic school stands at the northeast corner of the “sahn,” or courtyard. No longer functioning as a school, the structure has been used most recently as a residence for the “muezzin,” who is responsible for the call to prayer.
The pavilion consists of a small room cooled with “badjeer,” traditional Qatari air traps, instead of ordinary windows. This system features two parallel walls: one standing from the floor to halfway up and the second hanging halfway down from the ceiling. The walls overlap by 10 cm, with breathing room left between. Although this method shelters the room from external view, it allows wind to enter without bringing in sediment. When necessary, the space between the two wall panels can be closed with a wooden shutter.
Besides the Quranic school, a steep staircase climbs up to the minaret, which was built on top of the school. The top of the minaret is shaped as a “khodha,” a traditional Arabian helmet. A few examples of this fascinating helmet can be found at the Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al-Thani Museum.
The thick walls of the mosque, which help keep the mosque cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud, which further protects the mosque from the sun during the hot seasons.
Aware of the importance of this traditional building, Qatari authorities took steps to preserve it in 1985 and 2004.
Planning a visit
The mosque is usually open from sunrise to late afternoon. Visitors are advised not to enter the mosque or take pictures during prayer time. If you walk south, and the tide is low, you can see the “hadra,” which are traditional intertidal fishing traps. These square traps have stones on three sides with an open side toward the shore. As the tide rises fish swim inside, and as the tide goes back out they become trapped.
UTM coordinates N 25° 34' 28.78" E 51° 29' 16.08"
Directions
Simaisma is approximately 45 km north of Doha. Take the North Road or Lusail Street 30 km out of the city. Both roads have signs directing you to the town.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
Abu Manaratain
 
Description
A huge tree that looms over the building distinguishes the Abu Manaratain mosque from all other mosques in Qatar. Located in Al-Wakra, one of the oldest cities in the state, this mosque was constructed in 1940. In addition to the tree that rests as its close neighbor, this mosque has several other eccentricities. First is its name. “Manaratain” means “two minarets” yet the mosque only has one.
This and other clues may indicate that the building had a different shape at some point in its past. A second peculiarity is that the rectangular area were the mosque is built lacks the high walls that are typical of Qatari mosques.
The “mothawaddah,” which is where ablutions take place, is situated in the southern end of the courtyard. It consists of a small pool accessible by a staircase. This pool used to be filled with water from the well in the courtyard. It is at the “mothawaddah” that Muslims perform the “wudu,” which is a long sequence of body cleaning steps completed before entering the mosque for prayer. Islamweb (link to the web page where the movie is found) features a movie explaining the sequence of steps.
At the north end of the courtyard stands a 10-meter-tall minaret, made up of a squared base and a cylinder-shaped structure. Inside it, a narrow spiral staircase allowed the “muezzin” to climb to the top where he could call people to prayer through four small arched windows. Next to the minaret, a small room housed the “imam,” who is the religious authority in charge of leading the prayers.
A third unusual aspect of this mosque is the prayer room. Unlike other mosques in Qatar, it does not have the typical portico overlooking the courtyard. Inside, there is a very simple “mehrab” showing the direction of the “Kaaba,” which is the Holy Stone at Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The thick walls of the mosque, which helped to isolate the heat and keep the space cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud, which helped shield the mosque and those praying from the heat of the sun.
It is possible to see these building techniques in greater detail either through a visit to the fishermen’s villages in the northwest or by viewing the 3D model of the Qatari mosque.
This mosque was restored by Qatari authorities in 2004, and is one of the most unique sites in Qatar.
 
Planning a visit
The mosque can only be visited externally. Besides visiting Abu Manaratain mosque, we recommend going to the wonderful fish market nearby, where you can buy different kinds of fresh fish and have them cooked for you in one of the shops.
Traditional Qatari fishing boats called “dhows” bring the catch to the nearby harbor early each morning. Additional nearby attractions are the House of Sheikh Ghanim bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Al Wakra Sealine Market. 
UTM coordinates N 25° 10' 11.51" E 51° 36' 32.13"
Directions
The mosque is located in Al-Wakra, 13 km south of Doha. Go to Doha International Airport and take the road to Mesaieed. When you reach Al-Wakra and the Shells Roundabout, go to the next roundabout and make a U-turn. Take the first wide road on your right, called Al-Mathaf, and turn left at the roundabout into Al-Seef. Turn left again at Al-Baladiya, the first road. Drive a few meters until you see the mosque on your left.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
House of Sheikh Abdullah bin Thani Al Thani
 
Description
To see a remarkable example of a traditional Qatari home, look no further than Al-Rayyan. The residence of Sheikh Abdullah bin Thani Al-Thani is very peculiar because of its two “majlis” to receive guests. One of them is an external room adjoined to the house while the other is an open-air platform in the courtyard, used during the hot season.
Location and access to the “majlis” rooms were carefully thought out to balance the welcoming character of Qataris and the privacy of their family. The indoor “majlis” is located outside of the wall surrounding the house so the owner could receive guests any time without disrupting the family.
To further protect the privacy of the family, all ground floor rooms only have windows that look inward toward the courtyard, and first floor rooms have colored glass windows to prevent people from seeing inside.
The house features a large courtyard in the middle with pavilions and high walls around the perimeter. This internal area served as the hub of the family’s domestic life and each pavilion had a specific purpose, with separate rooms reserved for women.
When this residence was built in 1935, Al-Rayyan -which is just on the outskirts of Doha - was considered a separate village from the capital city. The house was built on a site rich in underground water, enabling the residents to use a well to supply the building with water and to irrigate the vegetables.
The pavilions of this traditional residence give its visitors an idea of the traditional Qatari building technique. The thick walls, which help isolate the heat and keep the house cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone, joining them with mud mortar and covering them with gypsum-based plaster.
The roof is made of four layers. The first consists of a series of “danchal” wood poles, often protected by bitumen. The second layer is made up of “basgijl,” which are woven bamboo strips. A close net of mangroves branches comprises the third layer and the roof is finished with a layer of compressed mud that protects the house from the sun during the hot seasons.
Another interesting feature of this technique is the use of poles of “danchal” wood held together with a rope in the construction of architraves. This increases the adherence of the mud mortar and plaster.
On the top of the building, traditional “marazims” protect the surfaces of the walls. These wooden channels stretch out from the roof to drain rainwater away during the desert’s rare but heavy storms.
Qatari authorities performed significant restoration work at this site in 2005.
 
 
Planning a visit
You can visit the outside of this residence. For more information about its future opening, call the Restoration Department at 429 17 11, Sunday through Thursday, from 8:00 to 13:00 hrs. When visiting the site, we suggest a visit to Education City, where you can enjoy examples of excellent contemporary architecture. If you have time, drive around outside the campus where you will discover other traditional houses featuring exquisite decorations and layouts.
 
UTM coordinates N 25° 19' 18.20" E 51° 26' 33.15"
Directions
The house is located on Al-Luqta Street, which turns into the road to Dukhan. While approaching the roundabout at Education City, you will see the house on your right.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
House of Sheikh Ghanim bin Abdulrahman Al Thani
 
Description
Majid bin Saed Al-Saed, one of the most important pearl merchants in Al-Wakra, built this beautiful and unique house at the beginning of the 20th century. Used to produce “debis”, which is a traditional date-based food, and also to sell and store merchandise, the residence was purchased by Sheikh Ghamin bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in 1960.
It was in the four rooms on the ground floor that the “debis” was produced. Called “madabes”, these rooms have parallel channels sunk 10-centimeters deep into the floor. These channels are linked together by a perpendicular canal near the entrance that connects to an underground pot in the corner.
In the process of making the “debis”, palm fronds were laid on the channels to create a smooth, flat base. The dates were then put in sacks made of palm leaves and stacked in piles up to two meters high. The weight of the upper sacks squashed the dates in the lower sacks, and their thick juice ran into the channels where it was collected and funnelled into the underground pot.
In Bedouin societies, “debis” is mainly used as a dressing for rice and fish. A few small shops still sell them today.
The rooms in the house that were not used to make “debis” were used to sell a diverse range of merchandise, including pearl diving equipment.
The house’s water supply came from a well in the courtyard. This large space was also used to store merchandise for sale. One of the corners of the courtyard has a staircase to a wide terrace on the upper floor that features a spectacular view of the nearby seashore, where mangroves form the basis of a fascinating ecosystem.
A “majlis” that was used by the first owner to receive guests and business partners is situated on the south side of the terrace. The “majlis” rooms were carefully planned to balance the welcoming character of Qataris with the privacy of their family. For this reason, the building has a separate entrance to the “majlis” on the south side that kept visitors from walking through the ground floor and disrupting the privacy of the owner.
“Badjeer,” or traditional Qatari air traps, were used to provide the house with natural air conditioning. The system was based on the construction of two parallel walls: one standing from the floor to halfway and the second hanging halfway down from the ceiling. The walls would overlap by 10 cm, with breathing room left in between. Although this method shelters the rooms from an external view, it allows wind to enter the house without dragging in any sediment. When necessary, the space between the two wall panels can be closed with a wooden shutter. On the top of both the “majlis” and the mosque, traditional “marazims” protect the walls. These wooden channels stretch out from the roof to drain rainwater away during the desert’s rare but heavy storms.
The thick walls, which help isolate heat and keep the house cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud, further protecting the house from the sun during the hot seasons.
It is possible to see these building techniques in greater detail either through a visit to the fishermen’s villages in the northwest or by viewing the 3D model of the Qatari mosque.
Many older residents of Al-Wakra remember when Majid bin Saed Al-Saed fitted the “majlis” with the first radio in town. Often people would gather together in the room and listen to the news.
Planning a visit
Visitors can enter the house 24-hours a day. Just ask the guard, who will be happy to let you in and explore the site on your own. To double check the opening hours, call the Restoration Department at 429 17 11, Sunday through Thursday, from 8:00 to 13:00 hrs. Besides visiting the house of Sheikh Ghanim, we recommend going to the nearby fish market, where you can buy different kinds of fresh fish and have it cooked for you in one of the shops. Traditional Qatari fishing boats called “dhows” bring this catch to the harbor early each morning.
Additional nearby attractions are the Abu Manaratain mosque and Al Wakra Sealine Market .
UTM coordinates N 25° 10' 20.48" E 51° 36' 39.93"
Directions
The building is located in Al-Wakra, 13 km south of Doha. Go to the Doha International Airport and take the road to Mesaieed. When you reach Al-Wakra and the Shells Roundabout, go to the next roundabout and make a U-turn. Take the first wide road on your right, called Al-Mathaf, then turn left at the roundabout into Al-Seef, and drive along the coastline for approximately 100 meters until you see the house on your left.
From Heritage of Qatar
 
House of Nasser bin Abdullah Al Misnad
 
Description
This house in Al-Khor is where Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned was born and raised. Her Highness is one of the most active contributors to the educational development and worldwide visibility of The State of Qatar. A high wall, embellished with Qatari-style battlements on its top, protects the house. These unique decorations evoke traditional incense burners or stylized leaves and flowers.
The house was built by her father Nasser bin Abdullah in the early second half of the 20th century. Its layout follows the traditional Qatari model for private residences. The family’s domestic life took place in several pavilions built around the perimeter of a central courtyard. Each pavilion had a specific purpose, and there were separate rooms for women.
The external wall and each unique pavilion provide an absorbing insight into the traditional Qatari building technique. The thick walls, which helped to isolate the heat and keep the house cool, were built by overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone, joining them with mud mortar and covering them with gypsum-based plaster.
The roofs of the pavilions are made up of four layers: The first is a series of “danchal” wood poles, often protected by bitumen. The second is a layer of “basgijl”, which are woven bamboo strips. A close net of mangrove branches makes up the third layer, and the roof is topped with compressed mud that serves to protect the house from the sun during the hot seasons.
One of the most interesting features of this technique is the building of architraves with poles of “danchal” wood held together with rope. This increases the adherence of the mud mortar and plaster.
A visit to the fishermen’s villages in the northwest as well as the 3D model of the Qatari mosque clearly shows the features of this building technique.
Qatari authorities are currently developing a detailed master plan that will best preserve the site. It will then be handed over to the Qatari youth, so that the heritage of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned will be remembered for years to come.
Planning a visit
You can also visit the “dhows” by the harbor and either enjoy a picnic at the playground by Al-Corniche or have lunch in one of the restaurants found in the city. On your way back to Doha, drive 15 km south to visit the old Simaisma mosque.
UTM coordinates N 25° 40' 56" E 51 30' 37.9" Directions
The site is located in Al-Khor, which is 55 km from Doha via the North Road or 45 km via Lusail Street. On Al-Khor Main Street, turn right at Al-Owaina and then left at the second street. You will see the house a few meters down on the right.
From Heritage of Qatar
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