Until the mid 20th century the city of Doha was almost entirely reliant on water drawn from numerous shallow wells around the city. While many households had private wells that provided water for washing, this water was generally brackish and unsuitable for drinking. Drinking water was obtained some distance from the town from several clusters of wells, and brought into Doha by water-carriers (kandari).
In the early to mid 20th century the main sources of fresh water were said to be located at Nu’aija, Msheireb, Muraikh, Bir al-Jadidah and Ain Walid Sa’id. Well fields and agricultural areas can be seen in early aerial imagery at Nua’ijah, Msheireb, Muraikh, Muntazah Park and an area now at the junction of Rawdat al-Khail and the B-Ring. The wells at Msheireb are now buried under the modern city, although our excavations in 2013 revealed several domestic wells in this area. The Muntazah wells are also no longer visible, buried below the Al Muntazah Park. However at Nu’aija part of the well complex survives, representing one of the last surviving remnants of old Doha’s water sources. This site contains valuable information about the provision of drinking water to the inhabitants of Doha, as well as the practice of agriculture prior to the introduction of pumps in the 1950s.
In addition to providing water for Doha, the Nu’aija site was also an agricultural area. Traditional techniques of irrigation agriculture in Qatar are not widely known or recorded; indeed agriculture is frequently assumed not to have existed at all in the country prior to the introduction of diesel water pump. Yet agricultural areas did exist, utilising traditional wells and relying on manpower or donkeys to draw the water, and a system of canals to irrigate the fields.
The Origins of Doha project are currently working with the Department of Architectural Restoration and the Department of Archaeology at Qatar Museums to undertaking a detailed survey of the Nu’aija site, to ensure this important part of Doha’s history is not lost.
Post by Daniel Eddisford, Origins of Doha Field Director