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Saturday, November 27, 2021

The ghost cities left behind by Qatar’s oil growth

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Doha (CNN) — Previous the small arched door, a slim spiral stair leads as much as the highest of the windswept minaret, nonetheless standing tall at the same time as nearly the whole lot round it has crumbled.

Contained in the tiny room atop the round shaft, 4 little home windows divulge heart’s contents to the long-abandoned environment. On the one aspect, the tumbling ruins of previous fishermen’s homes — most with out a roof, doorways or home windows — stretch alongside the turquoise shoreline. On the opposite, the Qatari desert.

That is Al Jumail, certainly one of a number of forsaken villages dotting the northwest coast of Qatar. The remnants of those little-known “ghost cities” supply an enchanting glimpse of life in ages previous, earlier than Qatar’s spectacular oil- and gas-fueled financial growth started pulling individuals away from its small, conventional villages and into its increasing fashionable capital of Doha.

Whereas not a lot is thought about its origins, Al Jumail dates again to the second half of the nineteenth century, in accordance with Qatar Museums. The intensive stays of homes and different buildings level to the importance of the village, one of many oldest settlements within the space that remained populated effectively into the earlier century.

Fishing and pearl diving

The townspeople’s livelihoods have been tied to the ocean.

Dimitris Sideridis

Nearly all of the financial exercise of Al Jumail’s inhabitants, in addition to of these in different totally deserted villages close by, was anchored to the ocean.

“These are fishing villages, which is why the homes are constructed simply above the excessive tide line,” Ronald William Hawker, an professional on Gulf structure, tells CNN.

“The intertidal flats in entrance of the villages are full of fish traps which might catch the fish when the tide goes out. The encompassing waters have been shallow, so that they doubtless used smaller boats that would navigate via the shallow waters and across the numerous reefs, rocks and rip tides,” he provides.

Most individuals within the Gulf had a number of key seasonal methods of incomes a dwelling, with pearl diving — certainly one of Qatar’s main income streams earlier than the invention of oil within the Nineteen Thirties — happening throughout the 4 months of summer time.

“Their lives have been all concerning the sea,” Jumaan Basheer Al Hamad is seen saying in a video displayed on the spectacular, newly constructed Nationwide Museum of Qatar, a part of a sequence of clips that includes aged Qataris documenting points of the nation’s historical past.

“We began work from the primary star of the morning till the maghreb prayer (sundown),” remembers Ahmed Mohammed Srour.

“We by no means rested or napped. There was no breakfast, and even lunch. The one meal was at time for supper” — often rice and fish, if the latter was accessible.

Natural neighborhood design

Many of the town's inhabitants would leave for desert encampments during the winter.

Lots of the city’s inhabitants would go away for desert encampments throughout the winter.

Dimitris Sideridis

67At the time, most residents of coastal cities would transfer to the Qatari desert throughout the winter, organising camp with their animals in numerous oases throughout the peninsula. Within the summertime, they might return to their homes by the water alongside the west, north and east shorelines, in villages corresponding to Al Arish, Al Khuwayr, Al Ghariyah and Al Mafjar, to call a couple of.

The format and organizational rules of those cities and villages have been largely guided by the setting and Islamic traditions, with mosques taking part in a central function.

In Al Jumail, most dwelling areas have been courtyard homes and oriented inwardly. That they had comparatively excessive partitions and staggered entrances, geared toward blocking visible entry to the internal courtyard and personal household areas. Meals have been cooked on wooden fires, with individuals’s food regimen consisting primarily of rice and fish whereas dates have been used as an alternative to sugar.

“Folks clustered collectively in accordance with their prolonged household,” says Hawker. “[They] weren’t allowed to construct in such a manner that they might see into their neighbors’ courtyards. This offers the general neighborhood design a extra natural format compared with the grid techniques most popular by Western architects.”

The development of those northwestern coastal settlements exhibits a number of phases and contains methods that each predate and observe the period of oil concessions. The older constructing strategies mix a beach-rock or coral core with a lime-based plaster for the partitions.

“Each are typical of the area,” says Hawker, noting that Al Jumail has additionally been altered through the years by its periodic use as a movie set.

“These [villages] are the final gasp of an previous constructing system earlier than life revolved fully across the oil and gasoline industries and embody Islamic regulation and its conception of the bodily association of society,” he provides.

Free to entry, the ruins of Al Jumail and its surrounding villages are clearly indicated with indicators on the principle highway resulting in Al Zubarah, Qatar’s solely UNESCO World Heritage Website and probably the most essential pearling and buying and selling hubs of the area within the 18th century.

Whereas it’s doable to go to them on a regular automotive, utilizing a four-wheel automobile is suggested for the few kilometers off-road.

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