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BENEATH QATAR’S WAVES

BENEATH QATAR’S WAVES: the country’s first underwater archaeology study.

As told to Luciana Cunha Franca

Qatar Museums leads a research project on Qatar’s underwater archaeological environment in partnership with Qatar University, York University, and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities, and Tourism in Italy.

Under the patronage of its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar Museums (QM) has signed agreements with Qatar University (QU); York University, a highly established organisation in the field of marine research; and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism in Italy.

A first for Qatari research The agreements will allow the organisations to collaborate in a comprehensive study on Qatar’s marine features and underwater archeology.

QM will lead a research project with a team of local and international marine archeology experts. The first of its kind in the region, the research will explore the archeological characteristics of Qatar’s underwater environment.

In addition to the team of specialised experts, QM will invite relevant community members such as Qatari divers to participate in and benefit from this significant social and scientific project. There will also be several workshops and training programmes organised in collaboration with local schools and universities.

This research project, which is due to start in the middle of this year, will run for almost five years. Through this project, QM aims to explore Qatar’s underwater environment to help reveal and understand how its marine history has contributed to the country’s social and economic behaviours.

QM expects that this study will make new discoveries that will reveal many hidden secrets from the bottom of the sea, which was the region’s first source of income and a major route for commercial vessels.

Diving into the past Describing the importance of this project, Mansour bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, Chief Executive Officer and Special Advisor to H.E. the Chairperson, Qatar Museums, said: “This project perfectly reflects the leading role that QM is playing in protecting and promoting Qatar’s heritage.”

Al Mahmoud highlighted the uniqueness of this project, which is looking at underwater archeological sites instead of the usual on-land sites. He also said that QM continues to support collaboration with high caliber institutions, such as York University and Qatar University, to help encourage knowledge transfer.

Describing the benefits of the project, Al Mahmoud added: “This study will help provide information and images of Qatar’s underwater ecosystem. It will build capabilities for those who are interested in working in the underwater archeological field, as it will contribute to world-class educational programmes.

“The research will be able to shed light on Qatar and the region’s history, and on the habits and traditions of our ancestors. This partnership brings QM closer to its goal of honouring the traditions of the past while embracing the future.”

Exploring Qatar’s culture and its love for the sea Dr Hassan bin Rashid Al Derham, President of Qatar University, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Qatar Museums and York University for this important initiative that seeks to preserve a significant part of the country’s heritage, which will ultimately connect the future generations with the history of their country.

“Our experts at Qatar University, with their scientific capabilities and deep knowledge of Qatar’s history and heritage, are able to support this unique project to comprehensively research Qatar’s underwater archeology. The project will also enable us to find out more on Qatar’s marine environment, exploring an important aspect of the lifestyle of our ancestors, especially their connection to the sea, which they loved so much.”

Al Derham added: “Over the years, our QU Research Vessel ‘Janan’ has played an important role in conducting studies on the marine environment in Qatar. We expect this five-year project to be of great value to researchers and students. It will also be a strong addition to Qatar’s heritage.”

Expected outcomes and benefits The final report of this research study will include recordings on all the underwater archeological sites in Qatar, with their locations, access limits, and benefits. This will help build a foundation for studies on Qatar’s marine history and underwater archeology.

The findings of this study will also lead to establishing a digital archive on underwater cultural heritage sites, by carefully mapping the sites using the most advanced remote sensor technology. This will help establish a digital library on underwater heritage sites and will support the development of marine heritage tourism.

Besides the heritage aspect, the study will also provide information related to the nature of the current marine life in Qatar’s sea. This includes the distribution of coral reefs, identifying the most important fish and shells, as well as detecting the breeding and fishing seasons.

QM works hard to support its heritage pillar by cooperating with international experts, hosting international conferences, leading international partnerships and much more. This brings QM closer to its aim of preserving Qatar’s history and heritage and connecting today’s young generation with their great ancestors.

About Qatar Museums Qatar Museums connects the museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites in Qatar and creates the conditions for them to thrive and flourish. It centralises resources and provides a comprehensive organisation for the development of museums and cultural projects, with a long term ambition of creating a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure for Qatar.

Since its foundation in 2005, QM has overseen the development of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Al Zubarah World Heritage Site Visitor Centre.

QM also manages the QM Gallery at Katara Cultural Village, the ALRIWAQ DOHA Exhibition Space and the Fire Station: Artists in Residence. Future projects include the launch of the highly anticipated National Museum of Qatar and the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum.

About Qatar University Qatar University is one of the leading institutions of academic and research excellence in the GCC region. It provides high quality undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare competent graduates primed to shape the future of Qatar. Website: www.qu.edu.qa

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