Necklace known as mariyyah umm hilal, referring to the crescent shape of the pendant
20th century
Object Name: Necklace, mariyyah umm hilal
Period: 20th century
Date: 1930
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 33.1cm x 10.8cm x 1.2cm, weight: 52.05g
Medium: gold,glass
Registration Number: QNM.2012.368.1
This kind of traditional necklace is known as mariyyah umm hilal, referring to its crescent moon shape. The crescent moon, al hilal, is a very common symbol in Islam and is intimately connected to the Islamic lunar calendar. It frequently features in Qatari jewellery, often alongside the star shape.

This necklace dates to around 1930 and consists of a strand of 46 small gold beads, with a crescent-shaped gold pendent decorated with a red stone, and coiled wirework joined to the chain with a thin tube. At the top of the chain are two beaded tubular pieces. Such a necklace would have been worn by both young and older women, with similar examples still worn today.
The Qatar Peninsula is surrounded by sea except in the south where it connects with its neighbours from the Arabian Peninsula. For hundreds of years people have shared the land, resources and knowledge inherited from their environment. With no fixed lifestyle in terms of time and place, people moved easily and freely between land and sea for trade, livestock, pearl diving, fishing, and hunting at various times throughout the year. This symbiotic relationship between the people and their environment was represented in the unity of their societies, including the exchange of knowledge, stories and the trading of available goods.

A distinctive characteristic of life on the Qatar Peninsula has long been the close association between the coast and the desert – al barr. Some desert tribes spent several months of the year in coastal cities, setting up semi-permanent residences to participate in pearl diving or fishing. Similarly, coastal residents occasionally moved to al barr during the winter to graze their livestock. This exchange of natural resources and the influence of different environments has contributed to the creation of a unique community.
The presence of British, French and Dutch trading companies in the Gulf from the early 1600s brought uncertainty to the region, with unstable alliances and intense competition over trade routes. As trade flourished, however, the strength of the Arab tribes increased. Many Arab tribes moved from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula to Qatar, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the major towns of the Gulf were founded. Several towns flourished on the Qatari coast, including Huwailah, Khor Hassan, Fuwairat, Ruwaida, Freiha, Al Bidda and Doha. The most notable was Al Zubara which became a hub for the Gulf pearl trade.