This former pearling community is also the location of the largest archaeological site in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar.
These days Al Zubarah is a deserted coastal town but there was a time a couple of hundred years ago when the town was a thriving pearl fishing village, whose riches were so great it needed protection.
Positioned on the Qatar Peninsula, which is about halfway between the Straits of Hormuz and the western end of the Persian Gulf, the town really come into prominence during the 18th century. The town sprung up pretty quickly as it was built by merchants who were hoping to prosper thanks to the pearls that were found in the region. To protect their investment from invaders, the town was surrounded by a 2.5 kilometre-long wall.
It appears that the wall didn’t quite offer the protection the merchants had hoped for, and the town was attacked in 1811. Afterwards, the population grew smaller and the town shrunk in size, but a new town wall, this time containing protective towers, was built. Unfortunately, the town never really recovered form that attack. The townsfolk eked out a living until the town was finally abandoned by the mid 20th century.
In 1938 a magnificent fort was built near the town, ostensibly to be used as a coast guard station. Together with a series of forts along Qatar’s coastline it formed part of a complex defence system controlling the sea and the fresh water resources of the region. It is this fort and the nearby town ruins which these days attracts the majority of visitors to the area.
The fort itself, is typical of the Arab style of forts which were made popular in films such as Beau Geste. Made of local products, the walls are constructed of local pulverised coral with a roof made of compressed mud. The fort boasts three massive corners that are each peaked with impressive circular towers on top. The fourth corner is slightly different as it has been adorned with a large, rectangular tower containing exquisite triangular-based ledges with slits that were used for defensive purposes.
The site is an easy day trip from Doha, the capital of Qatar, which is just 105 kilometres to the south east. At present, visitor facilities are quite sparse but there are plans to build a visitor centre at the site. One thing that visitors can do, though, is to download a mobile application that will provide you with detailed information on some of the particular features you are facing at the archaeological site.