Home Gulf Tour 2009 The start of a new Gulf tour
The start of a new Gulf tour
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Monday, 30 March 2009 10:52

Archeologists Dr Alan Walmsley and Anne Mette


We started the latest leg of the Friendship Tour on Saturday, March 28, driving from Bahrain through Saudi Aradia to Doha. After an uneventful drive we spent the rest of the day in Doha City enjoying the sights. 

In the evening we met our friends Denis and his wife Malou who live in Qatar. On Sunday morning we met the Charge d'Affaire of the Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia in the State of Qatar, Shaban Jashari who kindly invited us to go to Macedonia in this summer and we thanked him for his great hospitality and his assistance on Ali's visit to Macedonia last year.

Later in the day, we visited the ancient city of Zubarah on the northwestern coast of the Qatar Penninsula, about 105km from Doha, where we were shown around a fascinating archelogical site by Dr Alan Walmsley, Associate Professor of Islamic Archeology & Art at The Carsten Niebuhr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Dr Walmsley heads an international team of 12 archaeologists and their assistants in a major project, supported by the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA), to excavate the city with the central aim of discovering what life was like in the 17th and 18th century in this important Islamic city. Dr Walmsley told us that Zubarah was an important trading city between, for example, Europe, Iraq and Bahrain in the West and Malaysia, Japan and China in the East. In fact, they have already found fragments of pottery from Holland and ceramics from China. 

At work on site at Zubarah

The site is huge, stretching some 1.5 km north to south, 600m east-west; it represents a major undertaking on the part of the team and the QMA. Through the project, the team wants to show Qatar from a different historial perspective, connecting the new with the old and promoting positive images of the region and its people. Over a phased 5 to 10 year project, they aim to improve the site as a tourist destination where visitors can learn how people lived in the 17th & 18th centuries (what they ate, how they got their food and water etc). 

Ultimately they want to ensure that Zubarah is recognised as a site of regional importance and work towards UNESCO world heritage status with the QMA. To this end, an important part of the project is to train local people in heritage management so that the site is managed responsibly and not destroyed by visitors.

Al Hilla FortThe team at Al Khandaq Fort

Later in the afternoon, we drove across the UAE to Abu Dhabi and on to Al Ain, crossing the border into Oman at Buraimi late Sunday night. After some much needed rest we had a delicious breakfast at Aroos Damascus (the Bride of Damascus) in Buraimi. We then headed to the suq and nearby forts Al Hilla and Al Khandaq, two of the more than 500 forts remaining in Oman. 

The modern central covered market, also designed to look like a fort with impressive wooden doors on all four sides, was a pleasant place to explore. 

From Buraimi, we drove through the mountains on the recently improved Route 7 to Sohar; the colours of the rocky mountains were stunning in the late afternoon sunlight. After a late lunch in a local restuarant, Arab World Restaurant, it was then a straight two-hour drive to Muscat where we checked into the Qurum Beach Hotel.

Ali and Taha at Doha Hotel