In the past thirty years, Qatar’s skyline has been in a constant race, with the skyskrapers competing between each other for first prize in height and elaborate nightime displays of flashing lights and decorations. It is difficult to believe that only a short time ago, the Sheraton hotel was the tallest building in the capital city. Indeed, there are residents in Doha that can still tell you about a time before all the skyscrapers existed, when Qatar was better known for its pearling industry than its status as a cosmopolitan city crowded with luxury hotels.
While Doha’s skyline has been rocketing, many of the country’s traditional pearling and fishing villages in the north are crumbling. Abandoned in droves by those looking for the promise of wealth in gas money, driven by necessity after freshwater sources ran dry, or forced out to look for work elsewhere after Qatar’s pearling industry declined, the village architecture and location offer an insight into an earlier and more traditional way of living in Qatar that is unseen in Doha.
In truth most of Qatar’s inhabitants reside in Doha, with only a small population living in suburban developments in the northern area called ‘Al Shamal’ and communities just outside of Doha in Al Wakra, or to the far west of the peninsula. Today many of these villages, like Al Jumale, Al Khuwair and Al Areesh, are now designated archaeological sites under the protection of the Qatar Museums Authority, and they continue to act as a rest stop for many people that drive up the coast to Zubarah.