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Al `Arish: an abandoned fishing village in pre-oil Qatar.

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We are in Qatar. Abandoned villages once inhabited by fisherman and pearl drivers speckle the northern coast. They’re usually small, and at times boasting no more than five or six houses. Al `Arish (sometimes spelled Al-Areesh, in arabic العريش ), is one of the largest, with about 40 buildings in all. Despite its name, which comes from the Arabic word “Arish”, for “palm trees”, this abandoned village is far from a verdant oasis. However, it seems it was named so after palm trees once in the area which shaded the entire village.


Very few of the village’s buildings have survived the test of time. A random walk through the village ruins reveals locally sourced pieces of coral rock and limestone held together by mud mortar to make thick walls built to protect against heat and windstorms. Some buildings are still capped by roofs made of closely knitted mangrove branches stacked atop bamboo poles, all slathered in another layer of mud mortar.
The minaret is the best preserved ruin. Though badly cracked, it still stands tall among the rubble of the surrounding buildings. Its spiralling staircase still exists, making a winding climb to the top possible (even if definitely not advisable). The clearly identifiable remains of the demolished walls of the mosque, the room for ablutions, and the outer wall of the mosque yard are scattered around its base.


Al Arish was among the villages occupied by Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani’s forces in July 1937 during his military expedition against the kubaisi tribe of Zubarah and its supporters, whom he considered to be defectors to Bahrain.
Historically, It seems that Al `Arish and other similar villages were alive and well up to the 1970s, when the first oil reservoir was found under Qatari soil. This discovery revolutionized the economy that sustained people in Qatar for centuries. As people no longer had to face the daily hardship of fishing and diving, proximity to the sea became irrelevant. The coastal villages were abandoned, forgotten, and left to face the desert’s fury.



All photos from Wikipedia

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