Posted on November 21, 2014

The restoration of a mid-sea archaeological site was one of the highlights of Katara's fourth Traditional Dhow Festival on Thursday, said Qatar Tribune. The restoration process of 'Al Mafras'buoy (known as Burj Al Mafras) located north of Raas Abu Aboud was carried out by a team of Qatari volunteers in the old fashioned way, using gravel and a cohesive agent. The buoy was originally built around 1920 to prevent ships from hitting mid-sea sand.

"Al Mafras buoy, which was built by founding father Shahin al Asiri upon the British's suggestions, is still regarded as Doha's official entrance by sea. Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim al Thani approved Asiri's request to build the buoy", the festival's Director Ahmed al Hitmi said. He added,"Around 20 years ago, when the four-metres-high buoy was damaged, fortunately we decided to follow father Majid bin Mohammed al Kuwari's suggestion to restore Al Mafras. And. it was because of him that the buoy could be restored to its original pristine state."

Hitmi noted that the restoration process took around two weeks and was done in coordination with the Qatar Coast Guard and the Customs and Ports General Authority. According to the festival's Director, restoring 'Al Mafras'encouraged Katara to repeat the process with other buoys. "Next year, we plan to restore another buoy at 'Halet Umm al Khayfan', known as 'Burj Al Asiri'. The buoy was also built by father Shahin Ahmed al Asiri", Hitmi announced, adding that the buoy's inauguration will take place at the next edition of the Dhow Festival.

Among the most notable guests of the festival was a delegation of 250 people from the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds (IFSWF), who also toured the rest of the Cultural Village to learn about its landmarks. Katara's General Manager Dr Khaled Ibrahim al Sulaiti also received a member of the Omani Shura Council and took him on a tour of the festival. Meanwhile, the Pearl Diving Competition kicked off with 'Al Dashah'Operetta; a traditional celebration held in the old days when sailors entered the sea, heading to the diving vessels before launching them into the pearl banks (Al Hayrat). Ten participating teams sailed off Katara's beach including Qatar's 'Al Ghariyah'and 'Balhaneen', alongside two teams from each of Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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The contest will last for three days, with the ten teams returning to Katara's seashore on Saturday. Upon arrival, 'Al Qafal'heritage festival, which embodies the return of the divers to their homeland, will celebrate the return of the boats. Besides, the sailing competition concluded on Thursday, with Raslan team winning first place. The second and third places were secured by Al Khor and Al Maha teams respectively. The crowning ceremony for both, the sailing and the pearl-diving competitions will be held on Saturday, with the conclusion of the Traditional Dhow Festival. 

Furthermore, nearly 30 artists from different countries participated in the Fine Arts Competition. The participants have been assigned to different locations at the festival site, according to their preference and artistic vision. The competition is organised in association with the Qatar Fine Arts Society to raise awareness of maritime heritage among school kids. Meanwhile, the festival's efforts to raise awareness of maritime heritage among school kids continued, with hundreds of students visiting Katara's beach to learn about the country's ancient customs and traditions. Organised in collaboration with Qatar Museums (QM), the visits include 7 workshops about drawing and colouring, as well as guided tours in Arabic and English on board a traditional dhow. 

Schools visiting the festival include Qatar Independent Primary School, Mesaieed Independent Primary School for Girls, Newton International School and Doha College, among many others. While on Thursday, Katara launched a booklet about Dhows in the Gulf region, in celebration of the festival, the festival's Director Ahmed al Hitmi said that visitors should expect a number of surprise events and activities, starting Friday evening.