Silver ring worn on the index finger, known as shahid
20th century
Object Name: Ring, shahid
Period: 20th century
Date: 1930
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 2.35cm x 2.11cm x 30cm, weight: 4.57g
Medium: silver,gemstone
Registration Number: QNM.2012.407.1
This type of ring was known as shahid, meaning ‘witness’. It was worn on the index (first) finger, which could be raised to symbolise the oneness of God. This example is in silver with an almond-shaped motif, edged with beaded decoration and inset with a green stone or glass. Silver jewellery was common before the export of oil began in 1950, after which greater wealth allowed for more gold jewellery to be purchased.
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.