Brass mortar and pestle used to grind grains, especially coffee beans
18th-20th century
Object Name: Mortar and pestle, al hawan
Period: 18th-20th century
Date: 1700-1999
Provenance: Qatar
Dimensions: 16cm x 13.5cm: Mortar 23cm x 39cm; Pestal 26cm x 19cm x 3.5cm; total weight: 2.897kg
Medium: metal
Registration Number: QNM.2014.380
Place Of Discovery/Findspot:  Qatar
Used to grind coffee and spices, this brass pestle and mortar is a typical example of traditional life in Qatar. The mortar is the bowl-shaped component while the pestle is the heavy rod used for smashing and grinding. The making of coffee was a socially important event as coffee was, and still is, an important indication of hospitality. To this day visitors are served Arabic coffee and dates when they arrive.

The process of making coffee was rhythmic and relaxing: first the beans were lightly roasted over a fire in a wide metal spoon; next they were ground in a mortar; and, finally, they were boiled in a coffee pot, with cardamom added for extra flavour. The clinking of the metal pestle and mortar was said to be like an invitation, calling others to come and participate in the host's hospitality.
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.