UCL brings Doha's living heritage under the spotlight

Dr Robert Carter, Senior Lecturer in Arab Archaeology at UCL Qatar.

24 April 2013
Doha: History, archaeology and architecture enthusiasts were treated to a special lecture yesterday evening by University College London Qatar (UCL Qatar) titled: "Doha: Past, Present and Future".

Speaking in front of a packed auditorium at the Museum of Islamic Art, Dr Robert Carter, Senior Lecturer in Arab Archaeology at UCL Qatar began the lecture by setting Doha in the context of urbanism in the Middle East:

"People have been living in towns on the Gulf coast for at least 5,000 years, and these settlements can be viewed as the beginning of urbanism. The urban landscape of towns remained largely unchanged until very recently, as before the arrival of air conditioning, dense housing and narrow alleyways provided much needed shade" said Dr Carter.

Archaeology suggests there was probably a settlement in the vicinity of Doha as long as 1,600 years ago but today's town was founded just over 200 years ago. Archaeological evidence (such as pottery) maps and photographs combine to show that Doha expanded rapidly in the 1910s and 1920s, as revenues from pearling hit their peak.

Crash followed boom, and the arrival of cultivated pearls lead to a period of decline from 1925 to 1950, with the shrinking of the outskirts of Doha visible from aerial photographs. The discovery of oil led to an explosion in Doha's size and by 1969, Doha's city limits had reached to what is now known as the C-Ring Road.

Dr Carter closed by stating that pre-oil archaeology still survives in parts of Old Doha today, and although much of it is buried underground, there is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of Doha and its inhabitants from this living heritage.

Tim Makower of Makower Architects, said that Doha's old buildings are "crown jewels," a treasure and of national importance. This architecture of the past has provided an inspiration for today's urban living and current architectural designs such as the Msheireb Project are "rooted in the past".

Photographs of traditional and pre-modern buildings in Doha show that different layers of façade, surfaces, motifs and use of space still have recurring themes, which all add up to bind the city together and create character. The designs of the Msheireb Project stress the importance incorporating this plurality, such as large and small buildings co-existing together.

Summing up, Makower stated that Doha's architectural DNA provided guidance "for new to grow out of the old".

The public lecture kickstarts a two-day workshop exploring Doha's historical urban heritage taking place today and tomorrow. The workshop brings together experts across a range of disciplines to document Doha's historical development, examine what remains of this living legacy and discuss the role "Old Doha" has to play in the future formation of the city.


About UCL Qatar
UCL, in partnership with Qatar Foundation and Qatar Museums Authority, has created UCL Qatar, a leading global centre of excellence for the study of cultural heritage, archaeology, conservation and museology.  UCL Qatar welcomed its first cohort of 32 students from 13 countries in August 2012, and is now accepting applications for places on its Master's degree programmes commencing August 2013.

Three taught Master's programmes are offered: MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World, MA Museum and Gallery Practice, and MSc Conservation Studies. UCL Qatar has also begun providing a number of specialist training courses for Qatar Museums Authority staff and mid-career professionals. Facilities include the most advanced conservation and archaeological research laboratories in the region, and an evergrowing library collection focusing on Qatari, Islamic and Arab cultural heritage and archaeology.

For media information please contact:
Zeena Kanaan
Forbes Associates
M +974 5585 3590

© Press Release 2013


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