This leather jar, with a gypsum lined rim and a body made of a triple layer of rawhide, was used to store date syrup (dibs tamer). It has a large wooden stopper with a knob, roughly carved from a single piece of wood. The jar was waterproofed with several layers of natural resin varnish. Painted on rather sloppily, the varnish is not original to the object as it appears to have been applied after the jar was attacked by insects and rodents.
Date syrup was an important resource and a by-product of storing large quantities of fresh dates. It was drained off from large piles of sacks of dates in an installation known as a madbasa, and then sold separately. Dibs was used to sweeten various foods, including rice dishes.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT QATAR
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.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT - REGION/GULF/WORLD
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.