Al Zubarah (Qatar) : excavations in named World Heritage Site

University of Copenhagen

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This image shows conservation work on excavated remains in Al Zubarah, Qatar. Credit: University of Copenhagen

"I am very proud that University of Copenhagen can contribute to inscribing Arabian cultural heritage on the UNESCO World Heritage List. To an archaeologist, Al Zubarah is an extraordinarily challenging and interesting excavation because the Qatari climate demands that we develop new conservation methods to preserve the old city structures," explains Near Eastern Archaeologist and project manager Ingolf Thuesen from the University of Copenhagen.

The Pompeii of the Persian Gulf

Al Zubarah, which was founded in the late 18th century, based its economy on trade between the Asian, African, and European continents as well as pearl fishing. The city had a population of 5,000 citizens, was well-planned and consisted of streets, quarters, market places, palaces, and mosques. It was protected by a mile long city wall with towers.

"In 1811, Al Zubarah was attacked and destroyed by troops loyal to the Sultan of Muscat from what is now known as Oman - and it never recovered. Its buildings and installations were buried under the desert sand, and today it stands as the Gulf's version of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Like Pompeii, the Al Zubarah excavations provide us with unique insights into the period's city planning and social and economic conditions, says Ingolf Thuesen.

Fragile archaelogical remains

One of the challenges of the Al Zubarah excavations is that the building materials used to construct the houses are very fragile. Archaeologists and conservation officers have therefore had to develop new conservation methods to preserve the old building structures. And they have written a 100 page long conservation guide as well as a management plan for the coming Al Zubarah archaeological park.

The Al Zubarah archaeological park, which will be open to the public and offer tours of the site, is expected to open 18 December 2013 when Qatar celebrates its national day.


Read more about the Al Zubarah project on the University of Copenhagen website