Al Jumail Village
On the northwest coast of Qatar lies the small traditional but ruined village of Al Jumail. It was inhabited by the Al Kubaisi family. It is a favourite weekend destination for local families, since it represents their heritage, history, the roots and origin of their ancestors.
The village comprises a set of important traditional buildings, including a small mosque with its minaret still intact. This village dates back to the second half of the 19th century and was inhabited until the beginning of the 20th century.
Al Ghuwair Castle
The ruins of this 19th century rectangular fort lie 85 km northwest of Doha.
Al Huwaila Fort
Prior to the development of Al Zubara (also written as Al Zubarah) and Doha, Al Huwaila was Qatar’s principal town and is 29 km north of Al Khor. The fort was built during the early Islamic period and was occupied by Al Musallam members of the Bani Khalid family in the 18th century.
Al Khor Tower and Museum
The tower can be seen overlooking the corniche at Al Khor. It was built in 1900. Nearby is the museum – learn about the myth of Ghilan and Mae, the region’s first female pirate, and see the displays of marine life.
Al Koot Fort
Al Koot means both fort and jail. The building is on Jassim bin Mohammed Street. It was built in 1880 as a police station, became a jail in 1906, and is now a museum. It was renovated in the 1970s and many of the original features were lost.
Al Rakayat Fort
A one-hour drive northwest of Doha you’ll discover an area of forts, traditional architecture and old villages. Al Rakayat is one of several desert forts dating back to the 19th century.
Located on the road between Al Zubara and Madinat Al Shamal, it is one of the few forts that were renovated in the 1980s. The restoration was done carefully so that the fort resembles the original structure. The remains of the original fort can still be seen in the courtyard.
Al Rakayat means ‘well’ in Arabic, therefore it is believed that the fort was built to protect the essential sources of water. The existence of a freshwater well in the fort itself and the scattered remains of a village close to the fort support this assumption. In addition, the fort was a secure place for the nearby population in case of potential conflicts between tribes.
The Al Rakayat Fort has three rectangular towers and a round one. Around the three sides of the large central courtyard are aligned narrow rooms without windows, but with doors that open to the courtyard. The only entrance to the fort is located in the southern front wall.
Al Thaqab Fort
Al Thaqab Fort lies about 10 km from Al Zubara, on the eastern side of the road. With finds such as fragments of pottery and Indian glass bangles, the fort could possibly date back to the 19th century. However the houses that surround it may indicate an earlier date.
Thaqab means the ‘water in the bottom of the valley after rain’. Al Thaqab fort is one of the forts that was renovated in the 1980s but unfortunately, not authentically and carefully enough. In proximity to the fort, towards the west, there is a deep well that has been in use since 1911. The water is pumped out rather than hauled up in buckets, the latter representing an old and traditional custom still in practice today. Al Thaqab is a desert fort built of rough limestone blocks or flat slabs of beach-rocks (faroush), with three round corner towers and one rectangular tower. The inside of the fort, typically, was used by villagers to store food and water in case they were besieged.
Al Wajbah Fort
One of Qatar’s oldest forts; it was the site of a famous battle in 1893 when Sheikh Qassim bin Mohammed Al Thani defeated the Ottomans.
Al Zubara and Al Zubara Archaeological Site
A historic coastal town that is now abandoned, Al Zubara is situated approximately 100 km northwest of Doha. Founded in the mid-18th century, the town developed into a centre for pearling and international trade, and rose to become the country’s largest and most important settlement. The success of Al Zubara attracted the attention of other Gulf powers, and after several attacks the town was eventually burned to the ground in 1811. It never fully recovered and was abandoned by the mid-20th century.
Al Zubara Archaeological Site is Qatar’s largest heritage site. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be one of the best-preserved examples of an 18–19th century merchant town in the Gulf region. Al Zubara Archaeological Site covers an area of 60 hectares with remains of houses, mosques, large fortified buildings and a market.
With the help of an international and local team of archaeologists and scientists, the site of
Al Zubara and the visitor centre in the nearby fort offer a key to understanding Qatar’s cultural identity and a model to explain the history of the pearl trade – a significant factor in the development of the modern Gulf region. Open to the public, daily 9 am – 5 pm.
Abraj Barzan (Barzan Towers) or Umm Slal Mohammed Fort, and Al Sharqi
Two towers built in Umm Slal Mohammed. Borj Barzan (burj meaning tower, abraj towers) was built during the late 19th century in a unique ‘T’ shape, a rectangular construction with three levels and an external staircase. Both towers have been completely restored. 20 km north of Doha and built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the fort was designed to combine civilian and military functions.
Zikreet desert is about 50 miles from Doha, and offers unique exerience for explorers.
Bir Zekreet and Ras Abrouq
The Ras Abrouq area is on the west coast, north of Dukhan, and is fascinating with its unusual landscape of white cliffs sculpted into strange shapes. This formation is known as hofuf, fine‑grained to pebbly coarse‑grained fluvial sandstones of the Late Miocene to Pliocene eras.
This area of Qatar never experienced permanent erected housing, however one proof of life is the fort at Bir Zekreet, which is also one of the only forts in the west. It is thought to have been built between 1809 and 1812. Around the remains of the fort is a settlement of small houses and archaeologists have discovered the remains of a building between the fort and the sea, housing three date‑presses. Here you will also find Richard Serra’s public art installation – ‘East-West/West-East’.
Jabal Al Jassasiya Petroglyphs
Al Jassasiya is one of a dozen rock-carving sites in Qatar. Rock carvings, so called ‘petroglyphs’, can be found around the coasts of Qatar as well as on Bahrain’s Al Hawar Island. But the greatest number of carvings can be found at this major petroglyph site, north of Doha, on low limestone hills (jebel).
First discovered in 1957, the site was systematically studied in 1974 when 874 carved single figures and compositions were catalogued. These rock carvings consist mainly of cup marks in various arrangements, including rows, rosettes and stars, but also of carvings, such as boats, footprints and enigmatic symbols and signs. It is believed that the cup marks are used for playing ancient board games. One of these board games may have been mancala. The game was known in Qatar as Al Haloosa or Al Huwaila. While it has previously been suggested that the earliest might date back to the Neolithic period, new evidence makes it likely that they are not more than a few hundred years old. To get there you will need a four‑wheel‑drive. Arrange a tour with a local tour operator or call Qatar Museums, 4452 5555.
Jazirat bin Ghannam Island (Purple Island)
Excavations at this site 40 km north of Doha in the Al Khor area have brought to light several hearths and rectangular structures. Layers of shells have also been found – the shellfish (thais savigny) lives under rocks and produces a bright dye in contact with an enzyme and light. The site may have been used during the Bronze Age to produce dye. If true, it is the only documented dye production site in the Arabian Gulf, and the only one outside of the Mediterranean, where it was usually produced.
The island is also known for the mangrove trees, tolerant tropical trees that survive in salty, inter‑tidal, shallow lagoons where other plants rarely grow. There are almost 50 species of mangroves, but in Qatar there is only one, known as Grey Mangrove. Jazirat bin Ghannam is perfect for birdwatching, as a large number of migratory birds stay in the area during the winter. This is an open site with off‑road access, approximately 5 km from the main road.
Murwab archaeological site
Murwab is the only sizeable Islamic settlement in Qatar not located on the coast. Dating back to the 9–11th century, Murwab used to be a settlement of some 250 houses, constructed in groups, a residence and two mosques. Excavations have revealed also a group of tombs scattered around the groups of houses.
The Murwab palatial residence is known to be the oldest discovered Islamic palace in Qatar. The excavated foundation walls overlaying each other show clearly that the structure was rebuilt in the same place by reducing its size. This is a closed site.