Doors from India and East Africa demonstrate the long-distance trade connections at the height of the pearl trade in the early 20th century. This large simple door is said to be from Lamu in East Africa. It was installed in the Bu Jadoom House in Doha, which was a large and well-appointed residence built in the 1920s or 1930s. It has a smaller door within it, or wicket gate, known in Arabic as al khokha, which would have been used as the entrance for family and visitors. It is so small that those entering would have had to crouch to enter, forcing them to look down and thus helping to preserve the privacy of the house’s residents. Therefore, this example is useful to illustrate transition from public to private architectural spaces. Remarkably, the horizontal support bars on the inside contain the remains of marine wood-boring shells, showing that these elements had been salvaged from a ship.
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.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
Barker Langham. 121104 SR 0604 Life on the Coast - Private + Public. (NMoQ report)