Al Zubarah Archaeological Site – World Cultural Heritage in Qatar

The walled seaside town of Al Zubarah in the Persian Gulf flourished as a center of pearl trade and fishing in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, before it was destroyed in 1811. and abandoned in the early 1900s. Founded by merchants from Kuwait, Al Zubarah had trade links throughout the Indian Ocean, Arabia, and Western Asia. A layer of sand blown from the desert protected the remains of palaces, mosques, streets, courtyards and fishermen’s huts; its harbor and double defensive walls, a canal, walls and a cemetery. Excavation took place on only a small portion of the site, which provides striking evidence of the pearl-diving and urban trading traditions that sustained the region’s major coastal towns and led to development. of small independent states that flourished outside the control of the Ottoman, European, and Persian empires and eventually led to the emergence of present-day Gulf states.

Accreditation year: 2013
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Area: 415.66 ha
Buffer zone: 7,196.4 ha

Outstanding global value

The walled seaside town of Al Zubarah in the Persian Gulf flourished as a center of pearl trade and fishing for a short period of about 50 years in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Founded by Utub traders from Kuwait, its prosperity was related to its involvement in the trade of high-value items, most notably the export of pearls. At the height of its prosperity, Al Zubarah had trade links with the Indian Ocean, Arabia and Western Asia.

Al Zubarah was one of the prosperous, fortified trading towns around the coast in present-day Qatar and in other parts of the Persian Gulf, having flourished since the early Islamic period, around the 9th century AD. AD, onward and established a symbiotic relationship with inland settlements. These trading towns individually probably competed with each other during the centuries during which Indian Ocean trade took place.

Al Zubarah was nearly destroyed in 1811 and finally abandoned in the early 20th century, after which its surviving stone and mortar buildings collapsed and were gradually covered by a protective layer of sand. blown away by the desert. A small part of the town has been excavated. The property includes the rest of the town, with its palaces, mosques, streets, courtyard houses and fishermen’s huts, harbor and double defensive walls, and on the mainland part of the town. it’s a canal, two retaining walls and a cemetery. Not far away are the ruins of the fortress of Qal’at Murair, with evidence of how the desert’s water supply was managed and protected, and another fortress built in 1938.

What sets Al Zubarah apart from other Persian Gulf trading towns is that it lasted for a relatively short period of time, secondly it was deserted, thirdly it has been mostly untouched since when it’s covered with desert sand, and fourth, it’s wider. Context can still be read through the remains of small satellite settlements and the rest of nearby competing towns along the coast.

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Al Zubarah’s layout has been preserved under the desert sands. The entire town, still within the desert hinterland, is a vivid reflection of the development of an 18th and 19th century commercial society in the Gulf and its interaction with the surrounding desert landscape. around.

Al Zubarah is not exceptional because it is unique or different in some way from these other settlements, but rather because it can be seen as an outstanding testimony to the tradition of the urban trade. Township and pearl diving have sustained the region’s major coastal towns from the early Islamic period or earlier to the 20th century, and to illustrate the urban background sequence has rewritten the political map. and demographics of the Persian Gulf during the 18th and early 19th centuries and led to the development of small independent states that flourished outside the control of the Ottoman, European, and Persian empires. and eventually led to the emergence of present-day Gulf states.

Criterion (iii): The Abandoned Settlement of Al Zubarah, the only complete urban plan remaining of an Arabian pearl trading town, is an exceptional testimony to the tradition of the pearl trade and merchant of the Persian Gulf during the 18th and 19th centuries; the near-final flourishing of a tradition that sustained the region’s major coastal towns from the early Islamic period or earlier until the 20th century. 20.

Criterion (iv) region as a trading channel. Thus, Al Zubarah can be seen as an example of small independent states that were established and flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries outside the control of the Ottoman, European empires. and Persia. This period can now be considered a pivotal moment in human history, when the Gulf States that exist today were established.

Criterion (v): Al Zubarah is unique evidence of human interaction with both the sea and the region’s harsh desert environments. The weight of pearl divers, imported ceramics, descriptions of sailboats, fish traps, wells, and agricultural activity suggest that the town’s development was driven by trade and commerce, and also by habitation. How closely the town’s inhabitants are connected to the sea and their desert hinterland.

Al Zubarah’s urban landscape and relatively intact seascapes as well as desert hinterland are essentially unremarkable or unique among the settlements in the Persian Gulf, nor do Unusual land management techniques. What makes them special is that the evidence they present is the result of complete abandonment over the past three generations. This allows them to be interpreted as fossil reflections of how coastal commercial towns extracted resources from the sea and from their desert hinterland at a particular time.


Al Zubarah became ruins after its destruction in 1811. Only a small portion of the original site was resettled in the late 19th century. Thus, Al Zubarah’s 18th-century urban layout is close to as it is preserved.

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The property contains the entire town and its immediate hinterland. Boundaries include all attributes representing positions and functions. The buffer zone includes part of its desert landscape and context.

Physical monuments are very susceptible to erosion, both intact monuments and those that have been excavated. However, detailed research and testing has been conducted over the past few seasons and is still continuing to address the optimal protection and stability methods. The entire property is in a strong hedge. The integrity of the wider installation is fully protected.


Only a small portion of the town was excavated in three phases: the early 1980s, between 2002 and 2003 and from 2009. Restoration work carried out during the 1980s included the reconstruction of several paintings. walls and, in some cases, cement. had a destructive effect. The lack of maintenance during the 25 years prior to 2009 also resulted in significant decay of the exposed walls. As a result, the authenticity of the remains revealed by the initial excavations was to some extent compromised. But since this involves only a very small percentage of remains, the overall impact is limited.

Since 2009, new dug holes have been filled. Starting in 2011, a project began to stabilize the walls using methods devised after extensive testing and research, and using the latest information and technology available. These methods will allow the consolidation of parts of the excavation site for visitors to view.

Protection and management requirements

Al Zubarah is designated as an archaeological site under the Antiquities Law No. 2, 1980, and its amendment, Law No. 23, 2010. Thus, this is a property protected by law.

The buffer zone has been legally approved by the Qatar Ministry of Urban Affairs and Urban Planning. This ensures that no permits will be issued for any economic or real estate development in the Buffer Zone.

The Al Reem Biosphere Reserve and the National Heritage Park of Northern Qatar, including the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, are legally protected areas. These help to effectively extend protection to a broader context, the Madinat Ash Shamal Structural Plan as approved in 2013 will ensure the protection of the site from any urban encroachment. town from the northeast.

The Qatar National Master Plan (QNMP) states that the protection of cultural heritage sites, of which the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site is the largest in the country, is of vital importance throughout Qatar (Policy BE 16) ). A ‘Conservation Area’ was established to ensure this protection, and policy actions state that this includes the northern coast of Qatar (Coastal Protected Area) and the area between Al Zubarah and Al Shamal (Al Shamal Conservation Area). The plan also states that such growth will be constrained by protected areas and the planned road network will avoid the Buffer Zone.

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The site management unit for the site will be operated until 2015 by the Qatar Islamic Archaeological and Heritage Project (QIAH) and the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). The site manager appointed by the QIAH works in collaboration with the Deputy Site Manager appointed by the QMA. A National Property Committee comprised of representatives from various stakeholder groups, including the local community, various Ministries and the Universities of Qatar and Copenhagen, chaired by the QMA Vice-Chair. Its purpose is to facilitate dialogue and advice to the QMA on asset protection and supervision.

An approved Management Plan will be implemented in three phases over nine years. The first phase (2011-2015) focuses on archaeological investigation, conservation and preparation of a tourism development master plan, including the planning and design of a visitor center that will open in 2015, and enhance high capacity; the second phase (2015–2019) is a medium term strategy for presentation and capacity building but will include further archaeological investigations and the development of a hedging strategy, while in the second phase third (2019 onwards), the QMA will take full responsibility for the management of the property which up to this point should be preserved and presented.

The Qatar Islamic Archaeological and Heritage Project (QIAH) was jointly launched by QMA and the University of Copenhagen in 2009. This 10-year project aims to study the property and its hinterland as well as its hinterland. preserve its fragile ruins.

A Conservation Strategy was developed, tailored to the features of earthen architecture and devised to meet the needs of the Al Zubarah ruins. It aims to protect and strengthen urban monuments so that they are preserved for future generations; to have a certain number of visitors every year; and allow them to understand when explaining the history of the town. It is acknowledged that due to the environmental conditions and composition of the historic buildings, conservation work cannot completely prevent deterioration and a regular program of maintenance and monitoring is planned.

A group of experts called the Heritage Conservation Strategy Group meets regularly to monitor conservation activities and optimize the implementation of the conservation strategy. A training program in conservation techniques has been initiated which aims to create a skilled workforce specially trained to carry out all restoration activities at the site.

The challenges to conserving highly fragile remains in extreme climates are enormous. The methods put in place for surveying, analysis and conservation, as well as visitor management, aim to be exemplary.

Map of Al Zubarah . Archaeological Site

Video about Al Zubarah . Archaeological Site

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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