Qatar’s Zubarah Site is Appointed UNESCO World Heritage List

Qatar is a country that holds a dear place in my heart. As a graduate I spent months driving all over the country to record and protect its heritage and eventually grew fond of its desert landscapes, and of its ability to spring archaeological sites upon visitors in the most unexpected of circumstances.  When I read that Qatar’s archaeological site Zubarah had been inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, I felt this appointment was well-deserved. Having visited Zubarah several times and learnt about its history in relation to the rest of the world, the rarity of sites like this meant it urgently needed further investigation and preservation for the posterity of history. I was fortunate enough to visit Zubarah back in 2011, and you can read about my experiences visiting the site at Vagabondish magazine.

A two hour drive north from Qatar’s capital city Doha brings you into a region known as Al Shamal, where the clay-hued fort of Zubarah suddenly rises out of the horizon against the backdrop of the flat desert landscape. Once a central role in the pearl-diving industry from 1811 to the early 19th century, Zubarah faced a steady decline following the introduction of the Japanese pearling industry and the discovery of oil off of Qatar’s coast until the site was eventually abandoned in the early 1900s. Today archaeologists are excavating a small portion of the Zubarah town, and have already discovered an expansive complex of houses, streets, and mosques that denote a thriving trade industry. Over the decades a natural blanket of sand blown from the coastal winds has perfectly preserved this area, allowing archaeologists and historians alike a rare archaeological glimpse into the everyday life of the Bedouin who called Zubarah home. The fort however continues to stand resolute against time and weather erosion, a testament to Qatar’s early trade links stretching across the Indian Ocean, Western Asia, and Arabia.

With Zubarah making it onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup in 2022, this country’s tourism is set to rocket in the next few years. Now is a better time than ever to beat the crowds and explore the country’s heritage for yourself while it is still quiet. Zubarah is only one of Qatar’s treasures, there are still several listed below waiting to be explored…



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