Al-Zubarah Fort

Coordinate: 25° 58′ 34” N 51° 02′ 43”E

Following a night camping at Fuwairit Beach, the next morning we paid a visit to Al-Zubarah Fort. We went back to Al Shamal Road from Fuwairit and followed the road all the way to Madinat Al Shamal, and then followed the road to Zubara town.

Quoted from Heritage of Qatar website:

Al-Zubarah fort serves as a pristine example of a typical Arab fort built using the traditional Qatari technique. The Coast Guard used the sturdy fort as a station until the mid 1980s when it was turned into a museum to display findings uncovered in the nearby Al-Zubarah town. H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Qassim Al-Thani built the fort in 1938 on the ruins of an older castle that had been destroyed.

It was constructed with high, thick walls that would last for countless decades and would serve to protect those inside. The fort is a regular square courtyard with massive walls on each side. Three of the corners have large circular towers topped with Qatari-style battlements. The fourth corner contains a striking rectangular tower with traditional triangular-based ledges with slits called machicolations that – in the event of an attack – were used to shoot at enemies.

The one-meter-thick walls strengthened the defensive capabilities of the fort, and helped isolate the heat and keep the rooms cool. The walls were built by joining overlapping raw pieces of coral rock and limestone with a mud mortar, then covering it with a gypsum-based plaster. The roof was finished with a layer of compressed mud, protecting the fort from the blazing sun during the hot seasons.

Eight rooms on the ground floor, which were originally used to accommodate soldiers, now house exhibitions of exquisite pottery and archaeological findings such as coins from the neighboring Al-Zubarah town. The ground floor also features “iwan” which are small porticos overlooking the courtyard through square arcades. In the courtyard, take a peek under the four-pillar canopy down the 15-meter-deep well that served as a reservoir for the soldiers.

A visit to the fort would not be complete without climbing one of the external staircases in the courtyard to the second floor. This level consists of a wide promenade and a few rooms tucked inside the corner towers. The walls of these rooms feature groups of gunfire holes that are angled in different directions so the soldiers could shoot enemies who were attacking from all sides. Wooden rung stairs that are still in the towers enabled the men to climb up to the roof and patrol the surrounding area with a clear view.

This fort, and the town in which it sits, are extraordinarily important pieces in the early development of Qatar, and ones that shouldn’t be missed.

 

Zubarah Fort
Zubarah Fort

 

 

 

Inner Court Zubarah Fort
Inner Court Zubarah Fort
Zubarah Fort
Zubarah Fort
A detail of Zubarah Fort
A detail of Zubarah Fort

 

Look for Khayal, the fort watchman, at the small house near the fort. He will be happy to let you in to explore the fort. Officialy no entrance fee, but you'd be expected to give gratuity 10QR to Khayal
Look for Khayal, the fort watchman, at the small house near the fort. He will be happy to let you in to explore the fort. Officialy no entrance fee, but you'd be expected to give gratuity 10QR to Khayal
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Laffan Refinery Starts Production

Doha, Qatar – 26 September 2009: Qatargas has started production from the Laffan Refinery, the first condensate refinery in Qatar. The refinery’s production reached commercial quantities and specifications on 23 September for all products.

The new refinery has a total processing capacity of 146,000 barrels per stream day (BPSD). It consists of process units including utility systems, distillation units, naphtha and kerosene hydrotreaters, a hydrogen unit and a saturated gas plant producing naphtha, kerojet, gasoil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Mr. Faisal M. Al Suwaidi, CEO and Chairman of Board of Directors of Qatargas Operating Company, said: “The Laffan Refinery brings together a number of effective technologies and synergies from multiple ventures. The refinery adds value for end customers as well as the State of Qatar. This start-up represents a historic milestone for Qatar and Qatargas especially as this is the first time some of these technologies are being used in the country.”

“We have also focused on safety at the refinery and implemented critical safety systems throughout the construction phase. The same Qatargas safety philosophy has also been applied in the commissioning and start-up phases as well. We are aiming for safe and stable operations,” said Mr. Al Suwaidi.

The Laffan Refinery is a key part of the strategic vision for Qatar as it will process and add value to the field condensate produced from the Qatargas and RasGas facilities.  The condensate will be refined and turned into products such as naphtha, kerojet (otherwise known as jet fuel) and gasoil.

The refinery’s production capacity will be 61,000 bpsd of naphtha, 52,000 bpsd of kerojet, 24,000 bpsd of gasoil, and 9,000 bpsd of LPG.

From inception, the refinery has been planned as an environmentally friendly facility and it has been built in line with stringent environmental standards to reflect this concept in every detail.

One of such systems is the gas recovery system which captures and compresses gases generated during normal operations and recycles them as fuel gas. Furthermore, the refinery’s waste water treatment system enables reuse of treated water in various operations of the refinery. Under this system, as much as 40 per cent of the effluent water is treated with the overall treatment capacity of the plant being 40 cubic meters per hour.  Emission levels at the refinery are also low because of advanced environment control programmes introduced within the facility that meet European Union standards.

Salman Ashkanani, Venture Manager, Laffan Refinery said, “Like all Qatargas projects, the Laffan Refinery has also embraced the “Incident and Injury Free” approach from day one.  The excellent safety performance demonstrated by the project throughout the construction, commissioning and start up phases reflect our commitment to safety.  One of the unique aspects of the start-up was the combined involvement of people from the Commissioning, Start-Up, Expansion Start-up, and Project teams who brought with them different areas of expertise, ensuring a flawless and safe start-up for the refinery.  Our focus now is on the safe and reliable long term operation of the refinery.”

In terms of manpower, it was a challenging task to recruit highly skilled people from different parts of the world to build and operate the refinery. Some 30 different nationalities are represented in the construction and operations workforce. For the operations personnel an advanced competency development programme has been completed and involved extensive class-room and simulator training as well as simultaneous on-the-job training.

The Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor for this project was a consortium of GS Engineering & Construction Corporation and Daewoo Engineering & Construction Company who were awarded the contract in May 2005. The plant foundation stone was laid in April 2006 by His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Heir Apparent.

Qatargas operates the refinery on behalf of the shareholders: Qatar Petroleum (51 per cent), Total (10 per cent), ExxonMobil (10 per cent), Cosmo (10 per cent), Idemitsu (10 per cent), Mitsui (4.5 per cent) and Marubeni (4.5 per cent).

Source: Qatargas.com

Al Jassasiya Rock Carving

Update from a reader that:

the place is not easily accessible. Pre-permission is required from Archaelogical and Antique Department.

———

The Al-Jassasiya site is one of the most mysterious and attractive sites in Qatar. Northeast of Doha, it is one of the few places where you can find petroglyphs, which are collections of rare and amazing signs carved in stone. Carvings can be found at other sites, however those found at Al-Jassasiya are considered the most extraordinary in terms of both their quality and their state of preservation.

An astounding 900 glyphs can be found at Al-Jassasiya. Shapes vary from geometric patterns to representations of animals and boats found on two parallel “jebels,” which are outcrops of fossil and sand dunes.

Seventy-one daisy shaped patterns made up of nine small holes around a larger central hole also exist. Some believe they were used for a game called “ailah,” known as “umm al-judairah” in Kuwait and Bahrain.

The most common outlines are double rows of seven to nine shapes that look like cups (333 in total, 193 with seven cups). These cups are believed to have been used for another game called “haloosa” or “huwaila”. It is known in West Africa as “mandala”.

Similar carved rows dating back to the 15th century BC can be found in the temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, and others dating back to the 5th century BC can be found in the same place.

The total number of double rows and daisies, combined with the wide range of variations in the size of cups, casts doubt upon their use as game tables and suggests they are more likely to be symbolic representations carved by an old local culture still waiting to be researched.

The most unusual carvings are those of thick-finned fish fossils, boats with numerous oars, scorpions walking on the rocks, donkeys and those depicting the outlines of turtles. In total, these carvings number more than 100.

Mystery surrounds several deep holes that are connected by thin channels through which water can run. It is believed that these designs celebrated the rain, which is, of course, rare and precious in Qatar. There are also a few carvings that appear to be groups of stars connected by lines, representing constellations.

A Danish archaeological mission studied the site in 1961 and at the beginning of the 1970s. Qatari authorities are currently consulting other experts for further interpretations. Many theories exist, but there is very little compelling evidence to determine the dates of origin of these fascinating carvings.

Ruins of old settlements and dwellings containing local and foreign pottery dating back to the 15th century have been uncovered around the outcrops at Al-Jassasiya. Yet the carvings are believed by some to be much older. Others, however, point to the softness of the rocks on the outcrops, which can be eroded quite easily, suggesting that the carvings might be more recent.

Petroglyphs can also be found at Al-Jassasiya, Al-Wakra, Simaisma, Fuwairit, Al-Ghariah, Freha, and Al-Jemail. 

(Source: Heritage of Qatar website)

Fish figure is one of the carvings can be found in Al Jassasiya
Fish figure is one of the carvings can be found in Al Jassasiya
Mancala Boards (two parallel lines of cup-shaped depressions) dominate the 900+ carvings in Al Jassasiya. Did ancient people like to play?
Mancala Boards (two parallel lines of cup-shaped depressions) dominate the 900+ carvings in Al Jassasiya. Did ancient people like to play?
Basin rock carving is thought used for food preparation
Basin rock carving is thought used for food preparation
159 carvings of system of connected holes are found at site
159 carvings of system of connected holes are found at site. Wonder what was it used for?
71 rosettes are found at site. Rosette is a cricle of between 5-9 cup-marks surrounding a single central mark
71 rosettes are found at site. Rosette is a cricle of between 5-9 cup-marks surrounding a single central mark
Is it animal figure?
Is it animal figure?

Direction

Al Jassasiya Coordinate: 25 57’07.7″N 51 24’22.8″E

Take Al Shamal Road towards north. Let’s assume you start at Landmark Mall, drive 64 km along Al Shamal Road, then turn right at the Al Huwaila sign. Follow 8.4 km before you reach an intersection to the left. Turn left for another 3 km until you find chain-link fenced areas on your left. This is the site of the rock carvings. The first outcrop is parallel to the road. The biggest carvings are located beside an old sign you can see from the road. The second group of carvings is further north on the other outcrop, and is accessible through a gate further down the road. Park near fence where you can find gaps to enter.

If you continue driving down this road for another 1.5 km you will find the big building complex by the sea. Continue driving offroad 10km from this building toward North will bring you to Fuwairit beach. However, 4WD is necessary for driving beyond this building to Fuwairit.

Some portions of Al Shamal Road are temporary roads while the main is being upgraded. Seen here dust storm in August 2009
Some portions of Al Shamal Road are temporary roads while the main is being upgraded. Seen here dust storm in August 2009
On your left, the fenced area is Al Jassasiya site
On your left, the fenced area is Al Jassasiya site
Al Jassasiya area; view towards sea. Park you car outside chain-link fence and walk to jebel
Al Jassasiya area; view towards sea. Park you car outside chain-link fence and walk to jebel
Jebel at Al Jassasiya where carvings can be found. The jebel elevation is around 4-6 meter
Jebel at Al Jassasiya where carvings can be found. The jebel elevation is around 4-6 meter
Another view of Al Jassasiya Area
Another view of Al Jassasiya Area

Al Jemail Ghost Town

Al Jemail
Al Jemail

 

UPDATE: THE AREA IS NOW ACQUIRED BY ARCHAEOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF QATAR. A PERMISSION TO ENTER IS REQUIRED FROM QATAR MUSEUMS AUTHORITY (QMA)

It is not a ghost town per se, but rather an abandoned fishing village.

This fishing village might be abandoned in the 1970’s. No formal explanation, however,  for the migration away from the village. Probably villagers left the little village when natural gas boom swept Qatar.

Direction – Coordinate: N 26° 05′ 46.89″ E 51° 09′ 21.94″.

To get here, take Al Shamal Road (North Road ) all the way to Madinat Al Shamal at the northern tip of the peninsula, then take the road to the West and South leading to Zubarah. This ghost town is visible from the highway and there is a quite good dirt track to this village. From the first roundabout at Madinat Al Shamal, it’s 6.5 km to Al Jemail. The village is located 600m off the road.

Road to Zubarah
Road to Zubarah
Dirt track leading to Al Jemail
Dirt track leading to Al Jemail
Al Jemail ruins
Al Jemail ruins
Al Jemail ruins near the beach
Al Jemail ruins near the beach

Besides Al Jemail, there are two other most prominent settlements along the north coast of Qatar: Al Khuwair and Al Areesh. Both of them can be found down the road to Zubara from Al Jemail.

Al-Areesh N 26° 03′ 03.42″ E 51° 03′ 24.57″
Al-Khuwair N 26° 04′ 07.38″ E 51° 05′ 02.30″

Camping in Qatar

Unlike UAE and Oman, Qatar does not have mountain areas that can provide wonderful opportunities for camping. Yet, camping is a popular option for weekend breakers in Qatar. Camping gives you the chance to explore new places, to explore and assess the quality of friendship (if you want to know the quality of friendship and the true characteristic of your friends, ask them to join in travelling and camping!).

In Qatar, you’ll find many great camping spots are around beaches such as: Fuwairit beach (including area near Al Ghariya), Zikreet beach (and Ras Abrouq), Inland Sea, though you can opt to set up a tent in the middle of desert. Camping around the beach is preferred as you have alternative for activities i.e. fishing, swimming, snorkeling(?), you have a source of water, and of course sea view.

Camping at Fuwairit
Camping at Fuwairit

 

Camping at Fuwairit Beach
Camping at Fuwairit Beach
Fishing is one of the advantages of camping at the beach
Fishing is one of the advantages of camping at the beach
Spending the night with friends is always enjoyable, particularly when you are sitting on your favorite chair. Dare to move?
Spending the night with friends is always enjoyable, particularly when you are sitting on your favorite chair. Dare to move?

When I say camping, I’m not talking about big Arabic tent with generators such that you can temporarily install air conditioning units. A big no no for me. That’s not the true camping for me.

Camping Guide

What to prepare for camping? The following is an unedited camping guide that I copy and paste from Qatar Natural and History Group (http://www.qnhg.org/Rambles/Camping_Guide).

Sleeping: We recommend you bring a tent and sleeping bags or blankets. Self inflating mattresses or sleeping pads will make it more comfortable; same for pillows (or you can fold some of your clothing to make a pillow). A groundsheet is nice to put under your tent for extra protection. The standard nickel plated tent pegs or aluminum that come with most of the tents these days are good for soil only and useless in rocky or sandy ground. In soft sand, long rebar pegs can be useful. If desired, rock pegs can be found in several shops in the old souk, but are of a larger diameter then needed for the typical tents we all have (they are made for the large canvas tents used by the locals; 12-mm and larger rebar). If you can find some 6-mm or 9-mm rebar cutoffs (300-mm lengths) in a local construction site, they would be more useful, but remember to bring a heavy hammer to drive them into the ground (or precut and preshape them at home with loops on the end, or a 120º bend at the top 5 cm). Bring thin nylon rope or twine to tie your tent to these pegs (if they are too big to fit the loops of your tent tie-downs; better to check these dimensions at home to avoid any surprises onsite), and possibly to a local tree or handle of your nearby car for stability. We tend to put our bags and things into the tent (which is a typical simple self-supporting tent) to provide ballast and not bother with the pegs, which does fine as long as a strong wind doesn’t come up. To each their own; prepare to your own comfort level!

Food/ Cooking: Plan your meals/snacks according to what you have to prepare it with: stove, cookware, etc. Keep it as simple as possible. Sandwiches are fast and easy. Disposable BBQ units available at Carrefour or charcoal and a grill are other good choices. LPG cookers can be bought in a number of varieties; some use re-fillable tanks, others are single use. If planning to buy a re-fillable version, remember to find out where to get it filled before coming.

Precooked meals, salads, tomatoes, carrots or celery sticks are great. Fruit or fruit bars, crackers, cheese, chips, nuts, dates, etc.. If you have items that need to be kept cool then you will need some form of cooler with frozen icepacks or ice (ice too can be a bit more difficult to find in Doha, but is available). It’s nice to eat off the ground, so camping chairs (table as you wish) will add to your personal comfort (we do not recommend sitting on the ground at night). Don’t forget your firelighter blocks, BBQ starter fluid, lighter or matches as appropriate. Cheap kettles are available in the souk for boiling water. Cooking implements are handy, but stick to the basics.

Water: Very important! Bring a minimum of 1.5 L water/person/day. Add some pop or soda to provide glucose. 10-L and larger plastic water jugs are available in the souk, and are great for drinking and wash-up water.

Protection: The sun is already hot and you will be exposed for many hours. Bring sunscreen, hat, sunglasses. Loose tops with long sleeves offer great sun protection.

Night Visibility: Bring a flashlight, rechargeable camping light, or LED headlamps – the latter are nice to keep your hands free for other functions. If you have a gas lantern, bring it, but we wouldn’t recommend running out to buy one unless you plan to do frequent camping.

First Aid kit: In addition to the basics, remember your own medications, contact lens care, etc..

Bathrooms: There will be no public bathrooms or running water, so bring toilet paper or wet wipes and the means of proper disposal (maybe a small shovel to dig a hole – paper only please).

Clothing: Midday Heat: Light loose cotton or natural material is best for sunny days. Long sleeves, long pants provide easy protection when the sun gets hot. The sun burns and you may not feel it as easily with a breeze.

In winter it gets cold at night. Carrefour sells inexpensive fleecy blankets that are handy to line your lighter-weight sleeping bags with. Bring sweaters, hats, or whatever will keep you warm at these temperatures, as it can be damp at night.

Footwear: We recommend closed shoes. Sometimes you do not see the threatened desert creature that attacks out of self-defence. If someone gets hurt, it will spoil the experience. A little common sense and prevention can go a long way. Bring walking shoes if you plan to roam outside the camp site.

Campfire: There may be a bit of dried shrubs, but not enough for a campfire. Do your bit to conserve Qatar’s fragile biomass and not touch the local vegetation. Everyone should bring a bit of wood to add to a communal fire (non-painted, non-laminated please). Again, visit the local construction sites, remembering that hard wood will burn longer.

Garbage: Bring empty grocery bags to take your personal garbage back home. Leave the desert as you found it or cleaner

Final Notes: Carrefour has a decent selection of camping gear, as does The Giant store in the Hyatt Plaza. Some interesting gear, most of which has been imported from Saudi, can be found in the hunting shops in the old Souk.

–end of quote

Making Eid Holiday Enjoyable

With 5-8 calendar-day holiday (some companies give straight one week off including Wed & Thurs although the official holiday is 3 days starting the first day of Eid), everyone seems wonder how to spend it. Qatarliving is full of questions on how to spend the holiday or if any programs are being planned in Doha/Qatar on those festive days. Some plan to reconnect the links with relatives and friends, some plan to fly to home countries, or drive to Dubai or Bahrain, and some just simply spending time with sleeping and laziness. Doha itself is not quite friendly to fun-filled activity seeker or entertainment goers. Not so much to do in here, except if you have social life or have planned it properly.

So here what I have planned for Eid Holiday:

Day 1 – Eid praying at Indonesian Embassy. Call parents and family members in Indonesia. Attend and be a host of gathering with Indonesians at Al Wadi complex, when not-to-be-missed Ketupat awaits for. Watch English Premier League Super Sunday. In the evening, attend – again – gathering with Indonesians at Regency Residence, continued with as-usual fun card playing, scrabble, dominos etc.

Day 2 – Head to Al Khor Community for another gathering. Possible detour to Madinat Al Shamal. Spend evening at City Center Mall to watch The International Troupe Show (dancing shows from Asia, Europe, America and Arabia) and have a dinner there.

Day 3 – Lounging at home in the morning. Plan to visit Dukhan and back afternoon.

Who said Doha is boring?

Ketupat

Ketupat is one of the not-to-be missed culinary items during Eid ul Fitr open houses.  Ketupat is traditionally served by Indonesians with chicken curry, accompanied with spicy soy powder, and fried liver and tempe sambal. In normal occasions, Ketupat is usually eaten with rendang (a type of dry beef curry) or served as an accompaniment to satay.

Ketupat (Source: Wikipedia)
Ketupat (Source: Wikipedia)

Ketupat (not to be confused with Lontong) is a type of dumpling from Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines made from rice that has been wrapped in a woven palm leaf pouch which is then boiled. As the rice cooks, the grains expand to fill the pouch and the rice becomes compressed. This method of cooking gives the ketupat its characteristic form and texture of a rice dumpling. In Indonesia, ketupat sometimes boiled in thin coconut milk and spices to enhance the taste.

Local stories passed down through the generations have attributed the creation of this style of rice preparation to the seafarers’ need to keep cooked rice from spoiling during long sea voyages. The coco leaves used in wrapping the rice are always shaped into a triangular form and stored hanging in bunches in the open air. The shape of the package facilitates moisture to drip away from the cooked rice while the coco leaves allow the rice to be aerated and at the same time prevent flies and insects from touching it.

 I remember the days when my mother prepared Ketupat. About a week before Eid, street vendor or seller in the market started to sell young yellow-greenish palm leaf to be used for Ketupat pouch. There was even vendor or seller who sell ready-to-use Ketupat pouch. For some reasons, my mother always bought palm leaves and made Ketupat pouches by herself. To be honest, I was never successul in making Ketupat pouch.

Ketupat Weaving Part 1
Ketupat Weaving Part 1
Ketupat Weaving Part 2
Ketupat Weaving Part 2
Ketupat Weaving Part 3
Ketupat Weaving Part 3

The real ketupat making was started one day before Eid. Ketupat pouch filled in with rice was cooked in very big pot. All those Ketupat were enough for at least three days food supply! Even after we shared with our neighbours.

In this modern day or when such palm leaves are hard to get (i.e. abroad), ketupat is cooked within a plastic bag. It makes then ketupat is more like lontong. This Eid, we are planning to make ketupat with all traditional companions such as chicken curry, soy powder, fried liver and tempe sambal. If this is not enough, I have been accepting Eid open hosues from many Indonesian friends who will also serve this not-to-be-missed Eid culinary.

Will update you soon with pictures and reports from open houses!