Saturday, February 23, 2008

Al Zubarah Fort

So this was technically a trip from last weekend but I found myself waiting for my computer, camera, internet and free time to all be in the same place at the same time. Considering it's already the end of another weekend, I had better hop to it.

A group of 6 of us headed out a week ago to go visit 'the forts in the desert', supposedly ones you didn't need a SUV to visit. This was good as most of us have sedans and were too cheap to spring for the extra 500 US a month to rent a SUV instead. We piled into a sedan and a station wagon and headed out.

Our main destination was Al Zubarah fort in the NW corner of the country (we literally drove half-way across the country!) Supposedly it had been used as a fort until the 1980s and now contained a little museum inside. Other remains and forts were nearby as well. Our directions were a little lacking and encouraged us to either have GPS or a compass- thankfully one car did have GPS. The drive only took us an hour, past a lot of very flat and partially developed sand. Not much to see.

Turns out, overall, the forts weren't much to see either. Al Zubarah was nicely preserved (should be- as it was reconstructed in the 1930s!) but simple. It was four walls, 4 towers, surrounding a 2 story courtyard. The "museum" was a few faded photographs and some dusty glass cases of some rusty old coins found in the nearby Al Zubarah town. The towers had either bird dung or dead birds but one did allow you to crawl up the wood rung ladder and view the sea to the North. That was fun but the wind was so strong that day it threatened to blow you away.

As long as we were up North we wanted to see something else for our travels, so we headed to the remains of the Al Zubarah town. There wasn't much there- some town and building walls sticking out of the sand. However, the sand itself was the most fascinating part to me- it was thoroughly filled with tiny shells- some clam shape, some conch-esque. I had to walk very carefully so not to fill my sandals with the rough forms.

Not quite satisfied, our group decided to try another fort, hoping this one would really round out the afternoon. As we drove back West and closer to the water- we noticed this huge plum of black smoke in the distance, wind moving it away at a rapid pace. Turns out it was a dump burning garbage and my heart sank to just think of what might be in that rubbish and now in the air.

This second fort lay over an unpaved road of rocky and sand. We temporarily abandoned one sedan to pile into the 4x4 station wagon for the rest of the way to the fort. This one was supposedly older than Al Zubarah but for my money, looked even newer! I wonder if by newer they meant reconstructed in 1930 as opposed to 1935... It supposedly at one point guarded natural springs nearby and we did see farming. (Along with some interesting farm/barn architecture and solar panels!) This fort was the exact same shape as the other one and even more covered in bird dung. By this point I had had about enough of the forts and sand in my mouth, so I opted to head back early with Zaher, CS PhD candidate . The rest decided to find the third fort. Zaher and I had the last laugh when the other group phoned to say they went to the GPS coordinates for the third fort and found practically nothing there! (In seeing others photos of the third fort- it appears something is there-but nothing we had not seen already).

I'm glad I went out and saw more of the country but I don't think I'll need to head back up that way until they complete the Friendship Bridge between Qatar and Bahrain.

*Few of my photos from the trip
*Check out photos of the trip from fellow explorers:
Justin & Marjorie

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