Project director Dr. Robert Carter recently featured in an interview regarding our recent work and the history of Doha. In the interview he describes the cycles of growth that Doha has gone through, including early development in regard to the pearl trade:
The earliest cities in the world are in the Middle East, and people have been living in towns on the Gulf Coast for at least 5,000 years. But the pearling ports, with the exception of Julfar in Ras al Khaimah [UAE] and one in Bahrain, mainly developed in the 18th and 19th centuries when demand for Gulf pearls from India, Europe, and the United States created a huge industry in the Gulf. By the end of the 19th century, most able-bodied men in the Gulf were involved in pearling: it dominated the thoughts and way of life of all the coastal inhabitants.
After the pearling industry collapsed, Dr. Carter describes the contraction of Doha and subsequent boom after oil exports began:
From years of rapid expansion, Doha begins to shrink. The centre was maintained, but houses on the outskirts fell into decay as many people abandoned the city. Aerial photos taken in the 1940s show areas of ruins. Less than 10 years later, when oil exports began, the city began to expand again and has continued to do so ever since.
After the huge changes brought about by the coming of the oil era, cities along the Gulf Coast grew so rapidly that, in many cases, little or no recording took place as old buildings were pulled down to make room for the new.
Finally, he outlines his vision for the Origins of Doha Project:
The Origins of Doha Project aims to explore the foundation and historic growth of the city, and its transformation to a modern city. It will also study the daily lives of the people. We plan to trace the physical extent and urban configuration of Bida and Doha, using historical maps, aerial photos, and archaeological excavations. In addition, we’ll compile a comprehensive historical record of the settlement from both European and Arabic sources, and conduct interviews with elderly people who can remember the most recent changes taking place. This last is very important, because families that have lived in Doha for two or more generations can provide much valuable data.”
The article is available in English and Arabic. Check out the whole interview with photos here: