Traditional industries are among the aspects of popular heritage in Qatar. Although most handicrafts and traditional industries have disappeared, some managed to survive, thanks to the support rendered by the government.
This industry existed for centuries in Qatar and the Gulf region, but almost disappeared following the discovery of oil in the early decades of the twentieth century. It used to rely on materials imported from India, such as teak and pine wood that resist humidity, certain types of cotton wicks, nails and oil extracted from dolphins to be used as water insulator. The carpentry tools used in shipbuilding were traditional too, like Al-Mejdah (the drill), the adz and the saw. The ship-builder was called “Al-Gallaf”. There used to be different types of ships and each type had a different name such as Al-Bateel, Al-Mashuh and Al-Jalboot. Today there is only one shipbuilding workshop in Qatar, the Emiri Shipbuilding Workshop.
Al Sadu (warp industry)
Al sadu is a general term describing the traditional craft of hand spinning and weaving. It is still practiced in the Bedouin desert communities, as it is closely associated with the availability of raw materials such as sheep wool, camel and goat hair and cotton. The Sadu is exclusively a female activity. The same ancient tools are still in use: the spindle, the loom and Al-minshazah. Sadu products include tents, and other accessories used in Bedouin communities such as Al-Katea, Al-Odul, As-sakayef and sacs.
Goldsmithery and trading in jewelry and precious stones is one of the oldest traditional handicrafts in Qatar.
There are families whose names have long been associated with these crafts which are passed from generation to generation. The tools used are hammers of different sizes, the anvil and flat, rough and smooth rasps, files, and the smelter. The main products are the anklet, the eardrop, bracelets, necklaces and head ornaments such as Loah As-Saâd and Kursi Jaber in addition to rings.
This is the art of embroidering men’s and women’s traditional clothes, and it is one of the oldest professions in the region. A tailor works with a needle, colored threads, silver and gold cane threads, using what’s locally known as An-naqdah. Recently semi automatic and electric sewing machines were introduced. Women’s clothes like the jubbah, the robe, the shawl, the cloak are sewn as well as men’s clothes like cloaks, Ad-dakala and trousers.
One can find gypsum ornamentations in many old houses. Gypsum was locally produced and used instead of clay for coating the walls of houses, forts, castles, towers and mosques because of its ability to withstand severe climatic conditions. It was also used for making architectural and plant ornament molds which were used to decorate many traditional houses in Qatar. It is also used for making censers which are still in high demand for decorative purposes.
Traditional architecture in Qatar falls into three categories:
• Religious architecture like mosques.
• Civil architecture like castles, palaces, houses and markets.
• Military architecture like forts, towers and fencing walls.
The topography and climate of the country determined the style and the shapes of various buildings. Thus materials such as non-polished stones that were available in almost all parts of the country were used.
Clay was used as mortar to bond stones together or to coat surfaces of external and internal walls and ceilings. Clay bricks were also used in areas where stones were not available. With the passage of time Qatari architects managed to adopt new and modernistic building techniques, tools and materials. Gypsum replaced clay in coating walls and wooden frames were used in ceilings.
The roofs were level and horizontal with parts of them protruding in the facades to lessen the impact of heat on the insides of buildings. To avoid glaring sunlight, windows were small compared to walls, and were usually rectangular overlooking courtyards. In the sitting rooms and the upper rooms, windows overlooked both the courtyard and the street. There were also ventilation and lighting grills, called Badjirs, only in the upstairs rooms.
Since ancient times the sea has played a vital role in the daily life of the citizens of the peninsula of Qatar. Fishing is thus one of the ancient trades that the people of Qatar practiced to earn a living in the pre –oil era. There were different methods of fishing, such as Al-Maskar and Al-Hadhrah. Al hadhrah is an enclosure made form palm fronds and robes made of plant fiber. It was used in shallow waters to catch certain kinds of fish such as Assafi. Almaskar is a stone structure of various sizes in the sea. Al maskar method relies on the tide movement. During ebb an iron bar with a sharp end called the Nira, or the Sahila which is a net fixed with two pieces of wood on each side are used to catch fish entrapped in al maskar.
Pearl diving is one of the oldest professions in the Gulf region. It was one of the main sources of income in the pre-oil era. There were two diving seasons: the big dive, a two-month journey, and the small dive, a forty-day journey. Both seasons fell between June and September. Among the tools the divers used were the scuttle, Al-futam, Al-falakah and stones. With the discovery of oil in the 1930’s and the introduction of Japanese artificial pearls, pearl diving became unprofitable and people turned to earn their living from other less demanding activities.
Falconry is one of the most important hobbies of the Qatari people. Obsession with falconry as a hobby is passed on from fathers to sons as people believe it encourages the values of chivalry, courage, patience and diligence. This hobby is practiced in winter when people start hunting falcons to train them at a later stage. Falcon hunting techniques differ from hunter to hunter depending on experience.
Falcon raising and training is also done by the hunters themselves. Training is carried out in various ways such as waving a mock prey or a rabbit tied to a thread, or a pigeon tied to a thread and allowed to fly. The most important tools of falconry are the veil that covers the bird’s face; the leg tie and the gauntlet (Al-mankalah) on which the falcon sits while carried by its trainer, and the feed bag in which all tools and preys are put. The most famous types of falcons are the lanner, the peregrine and Al-wukri.