QATAR: retaining a sense of days gone by

Qatar Museums (QM) will host cultural programmes at two key heritage sites

For many young Qataris, life before the discovery of massive natural gas reserves in the country’s North Field, is ancient history – and yet it is a history that spans only a few decades.

The Qatari government has worked hard to keep the essential culture of the emirate alive in the imagination of its younger citizens. Once one of the Gulf’s sleepy desert backwaters, most Qataris over the age of 45  can remember the time before Doha’s  streets were paved with gold, before the discovery of the massive natural gas reserves in the North Field in the early 1970s.

The  recreation of Souk Waqif is perhaps the most obvious example. Although the site of the souk dates back at least a hundred years, Souk Waqif was renovated in 2006 to conserve its traditional Qatari architectural style. Surrounded by skyscrapers in concrete and glass, Souk Waqif is often perceived to be the only area in Doha that retains an authentic feel.  The area is very popular with locals and expatriates alike imbibing, as it does, an authentic flavour of the Doha of yesteryear.

Redeveloped to create a sense of Qatar’s past Souk Wakif is one of Doha’s most popular areas with locals and visitors

The Souk  is one of many projects  testament to the efforts that have been exerted to this end. Qatar Museums (QM) is currently getting ready to launch a series of engaging and educational cultural activities at Al Zubarah UNESCO World Heritage Site and the newly restored Al Ruwais police station. The Zubarah Cultural Fair will offer participants hands-on experience of traditional practices, while the “Window to the Past” exhibition at Ruwais is designed to inform visitors about traditional life in Qatar.

Starting on Saturday, 15 December and running through until March, visitors can admire traditional craft exhibits in a series of tents, participate in a number of exciting hands-on workshops, enjoy camel rides and sample food and refreshments. The aim of the workshops is to educate the local community about the traditional crafts and materials that played a significant role in the country’s history, which will help participants appreciate their ancestors’ skills, wisdom and heritage. The activities will take place at the newly re-opened Museum and Archaeological Site at Al Zubarah from 9am-5pm and entrance is free.

The old Police Station at Al Ruwais, located only a 15 minutes’ drive north of Al Zubarah, has been restored and now serves as a permanent exhibition space with an onsite café. The “Window to the Past” exhibition, on show at the police station, will feature objects found during excavations at nearby sites and encourages visitors to explore historical buildings in the neighbourhood, such as the recently restored, oldest mosque in Qatar. The exhibition will open on December 15 at 11am with free traditional Qatari food, which will also be served on Qatar National Day.

Today, Doha bears little resemblance to the city of the pre-1980s

The onsite café will operate on weekends from 10am-5pm through March, while the museum will be open all year 9am-5pm and is free for visitors. The initiative comes as part of QM’s continued efforts to increase awareness of Qatar’s history, develop youth appreciation and respect for heritage, and put local communities, young and old, in touch with their past.


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