Cultural Heritage Management
Means and Methods
We engage in archaeological field work daily and are continuously excavating and conserving heritage structures across Qatar. We work in urban Doha, the coastal regions of Qatar’s north, and the remote desert areas of the south.
Beyond our heritage sites, our activities include:
Preventive Archaeological Activities
Rescue and preventive archaeology make up most of our archaeological activities in Qatar. These two disciplines are currently the most useful tools to answer the needs of a fast growing country and a thoughtful population keen to protect its heritage.
These undertakings comprise desktop studies, field surveys, recording of buildings, watching briefs, trial pitting and rescue excavations, and are performed prior to any development project. They are essential to figure out if a development project affects or alters heritage assets.
Developers in Qatar are forced to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from Qatar Museums during the design phase of their projects, a procedure that enables us to discover, record and study the heritage assets and more importantly, to manage their future protection.
Urban Fabric of Old Doha
In the first half of the 20th century, the urban fabric of Doha was largely made up of one and two story houses. These consisted of rectangular dwelling units surrounding a courtyard that might have included arcades on one or more sides. The buildings were clustered closely together, separated only by narrow alleys. The inner courtyard served as the core of the house and was open to the sky, providing ventilation and sunlight. Materials such as stone, mud and plaster were used to construct the houses, usually with a flat roof supported by danshal, mangrove beams. Many of these traditional buildings have been reused and modified to meet the needs of modern living.
In the mid-1950s building techniques changed when concrete and cement blocks were introduced to construction and, by the 1960s and 70s, buildings were almost entirely made of concrete and cement blocks. These early modern buildings often imitated the design of traditional houses, with an inner courtyard and rooms aligned along the sides, two or occasionally three stories high. Later, the urban fabric of Doha was transformed yet again, as modern and high-rise buildings were built with concrete, cement blocks, metal and glass, in a distinctly contemporary design.
Mapping Old Doha
‘Mapping Old Doha’ is a project to record the old urban fabric in and around the capital, in a consistent and comprehensive manner. The heritage assets are mainly embodied by traditional buildings from the first half of the 20th century, though representative early modern buildings (mid-1950s to 1970s) are also documented.
Mapping is a recording tool carried out through surveys. Data are gathered on the ground in a systematic, uniform manner according to specific criteria concerning building type, use and structural condition, as well as interior features and decorative elements.
The recorded data are entered in a GIS-based database and provide information about the extent of each heritage building within the urban context, its social value, function and its relationship with other buildings. It has already provided initial results in terms of establishing a framework for informed decision-making regarding the interpretation, conservation and rehabilitation and management of heritage assets in old Doha.
Old Doha Rescue Excavation
As one of the world's fastest growing cities, major infrastructure projects are being developed to fulfil the needs of a modern capital city. Doha Metro, a major rail network to be built across Doha, is one of those. It will connect different areas of the city by four main lines. One of the stations assigned by Qatar Rail covers an area at the very heart of where the city of Doha was founded, around 200 years ago.
Our archaeologists excavated in this area for a period of 4 months. We worked with the Origins of Doha Project team of UCL Qatar for part of this work, who helped us to document the evidence of Old Doha and rescue the artefacts found before the area was destructed.
Architectural remains from different periods were recovered, from the early 19th century until modern times, within a depth of 2 meters of still preserved occupation deposits. Rooms with different structures, courtyards and alleys, as well as animal bones, keys, padlocks and bangles, a large amount of coins, and imported pottery from other Gulf countries and porcelain from China and Europe. Diving weights used by pearl divers were among the finds, including a rare and particular metal weight, probably used by pearl merchants, telling us how important pearl fishing was at that time.
Doha’s Old Palace
Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani’s Old Palace was originally built in the early 20thcentury. The palace was at the centre of Qatar’s political leadership for approximately 25 years, serving as residence of the Royal Family and the seat of government.
The palace was converted into the National Museum of Qatar in 1975, which included a Museum of the State, lagoon and marine aquarium. The building won the Agha Khan award for restoration and rehabilitation of Islamic architecture in 1980. Although now closed, the Old Palace is under restoration again and will be at the heart of the new National Museum of Qatar.
Through its restoration we aim to set a new standard for the treatment of historic buildings and architectural conservation, both in Qatar and across the region.
It’s an ongoing joint-project between QM and Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure (ZRS), restoring the palace to its original fabric, using new elements where structurally necessary but without the use of air conditioning. The building will be a living gallery exhibiting a way of Qatari life of days gone by. In the past the Palace has been restored, complemented and refurbished a number of times; all of these layers facilitate the story of it's rich history.
Cultural Heritage Database - QCHIMS
In 2009 we started recording field surveys, remote sensing and marine geophysics project data through a cooperative project between Qatar Museums and Birmingham University, called the Qatar National Historic Environment Record (QNHER).
Since then, we’ve implemented and launched a system extension, Qatar Cultural Heritage Information Management System (QCHIMS), designed to manage all key datasets in a central, integrated database, easily accessible by all staff and stakeholders. It integrates the data of QNHER, which manages the major datasets about heritage areas. QCHIMS is an effective and sustainable working tool for us, across our disciplines. The database is fully bilingual (Arabic and English) and implemented in a modular way.
Our team works on several projects in cooperation with international organisations. These include:
Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project (QIAH) - created in 2009 in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, the project aims to investigate, preserve and present Islamic archaeology and the natural heritage of northern Qatar, to the public. It has a strong focus on Al Zubarah and is one of the largest heritage projects in the Gulf region involving a multitude of specialists.
Wales Qatar Archeological Project – Part of the QIAH and in collaboration with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, it's mainly concerned with research, excavation and surveys of a number of coastal sites in northern Qatar, such as Rubayqa and Ruwayda.
Qatar National Historic Environment Record (QNHER) – This is a 5 year collaboration project that involves the University of Birmingham and QM, researching the terrestrial and marine areas of Qatar. A major component of the project has been the introduction and development of a National Historical Environment Record for the State of Qatar.
South Qatar Survey Project (SQAP) - An interdisciplinary research cooperation between the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and QM initiated in 2012, it aims to undertake archaeological surveys and excavations in the southern part of Qatar and train Qatari and German students in archaeological fieldwork.
Our work extends to cultural tourism, developing the concept itself and defining the importance of it. We place a strong focus on engaging and mobilizing local communities to participate in cultural life, as well as our international visitors. As part of this work, we produce self-guided tours of various lengths that offer visitors a personalised journey through QM’s museums, galleries and heritage sites.