Posted on November 06, 2016

More than 50 young volunteers from Qatar and around the world have begun a 20-day project to conserve the historical Al Zubarah heritage site, Qatar’s largest heritage site, recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best-preserved examples of an 18th century merchant town in the Gulf region.

The project, which runs from 5th – 25th November, forms part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) ‘Together for Heritage’ campaign, an initiative that sits within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Education (WHE) Programme, aimed at increasing awareness and reinforcing the importance of conserving and protecting world heritage. The initiative helps to develop youth appreciation and respect for heritage and cultural diversity, creating a positive attitude towards heritage preservation.

During the project, volunteers, who have arrived from all over the world from countries including Spain, Nigeria, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Mexico, Egypt, UAE as well as 12 volunteers from Qatar, will take part in a series of both awareness raising and hands on activities at Al Zubarah fort and other parts of the site, all focused on preventive conservation and preservation techniques. Workshops and conservation activities, organised by Qatar Museums, UNESCO and the Qatar Tourism Authority will include learning about techniques used in conservation and traditional building techniques in Qatar, how to dismantle weak parts of buildings, how to conserve excavated areas of the site, how to apply and remove plaster, and how to write documentation and conservation reports about the site. Volunteers will also have the chance to immerse themselves in learning about the day-to-day life in a World Heritage property and engage in intercultural exchanges and activities with local communities, including storytelling, lectures and competitions. All work undertaken by volunteers will support the masterplan of protecting and preserving Al Zubarah heritage site.  

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To celebrate the commencement of the project in Qatar, volunteers attended a welcome reception, held at Al Zubarah on Sunday, where they met with other volunteers. The event was also attended by Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, Acting CEO and Advisor to H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Chairperson at Qatar Museums. Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, Acting CEO and Advisor to H.E. the Chairperson at Qatar Museums said: “We are delighted to welcome this hugely talented group of volunteers to take part in this unique and exciting initiative, to play their part in conserving and protecting this spectacular World Heritage Site. Al Zubarah is of huge importance to Qatar and at Qatar Museums we are committed to preserving this historical site, that is recognised for both its human legacy and its significance to many Gulf nationals.

“Preserving our cultural heritage and honouring the traditions of the past whilst also embracing the future is a vitally important part of our work at Qatar Museums. We recognise the need to balance progress and heritage, which is why we are focusing our efforts to restore and protect the Al Zubarah Heritage site. The ‘Together for Heritage’ campaign is a wonderful initiative by UNESCO and we are hugely grateful for our volunteers, who will learn not only about Qatar’s heritage, but also learn new skills, express new ideas and help to protect and preserve this historical site to the highest standards for future generations of visitors to enjoy.”

The Al Zubarah Volunteers Program is sponsored by Ali bin Ali Group, Seashore Group and Ooredoo. Mr. Adel Ali Bin Ali, Chairman of Ali Bin Ali Group, said: " The Ali Bin Ali Group is unwaveringly committed to the elevation of Qatar's national heritage. Qatar's Al Zubarah site offers an outstanding testimony to our thriving urban trading and pearl-diving traditions from centuries ago. With UNESCO rightly recognising the importance of this historical site, Al Zubarah deserves the highest commitment from us all to protect, preserve and showcase this national treasure. As a private sector organisation that is deeply proud of the historical roots of our nation, we consider it a privilege and an honour to step forward as a sponsor of this initiative in order to preserve its significance for future generations.”

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Salem Saeed Al Mohannadi, Vice-Chairman of Seashore, added: “Sea Shore Group is proud to be a part of this international campaign “Together for Heritage”, for the preservation of the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site, which it considers as one of the most important community programmes for youths. The Group considers youth development programmes one of its most essential priorities on which the Qatar Vision is built, in order to contribute to enhancing the private sector’s role in Qatar’s economy as well as to create opportunities and challenges to drive the wheel of development forward. Additionally, it is our role to shoulder our social responsibility and hence, our participation in this campaign comes as a realisation of this concept practically in the field. Further, through this opportunity, we seek to support youths and urge them to volunteer in such programmes so that they will be capable of exploring the history of their country and to create better opportunities through cultural and social exchange. This is together with encouraging all private firms and institutions to contribute in such activities and help display the name of Qatar high in the international arena.”

Waleed Mohamed Ebrahim Al Sayed, Chief Executive Officer at Ooredoo Qatar, said: “Ooredoo is a major supporter of Qatari culture, traditions and education, and this project to preserve Al Zubarah heritage site has our full support. We look forward to working with Qatar Museums and UNESCO World Heritage Centre in helping to raise awareness and encourage people to get involved in protecting our common heritage.”  Al Zubarah is a historical coastal town, situated approximately 100 km north-west of Doha. Founded in the mid-18th century, the town developed into a centre of pearling and international trade and rose to become the country’s largest and most important settlement.

Now it’s Qatar’s largest heritage site, with its impressive city wall, ancient residential palaces and houses, markets, industrial areas and mosques. It is managed, conserved and protected by Qatar Museums, under the leadership of its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The site of Al Zubarah offers a key to understanding Qatar’s cultural identity and a model to explain the history of the pearl trade – a significant factor in the development of the modern Gulf region. The ‘Together for Heritage campaign’ is part of the World Heritage Volunteers initiative, now in its ninth consecutive year, and seeks to mobilise and involve young people aged 18-30 and youth organisations in World Heritage preservation and promotion. Since its launch in 2008, 3500 volunteers have participated, and 219 projects have been held in 46 countries at some of the most outstanding sites in the world.

This is the first time that Qatar Museums has participated in the project, which aims to raise awareness among young people, volunteers and the local community of the need to protect and promote this stunning World Heritage Site and preserve the architectural remains at Al Zubarah, particularly against the harsh desert and coastal conditions.