Qatar gets its first World Heritage site

Story highlights

  • UNESCO names Al Zubarah as Qatar's first world heritage site
  • The coastal town provides an invaluable insight the region in the 1700s
  • The town flourished as a trading village for over a hundred years

Qatar's youthful new ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has acquired another jewel in his burgeoning crown. The archaeological site of Al Zubarah on the northern tip of the tiny Arab emirate has been added by UNESCO to its list of World Heritage sites.

The fortified ruins of the 18th century pearl fishing town will be Qatar's first world heritage site. The coastal town's exceptionally preserved remains provide an invaluable insight into the daily lives of the traders who populated the region in the 1700s.

The site in located on the north-easternmost side of the Arabian Peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf.

The town flourished as a trading village for over a hundred years prior to its ultimate destruction in 1811. It was eventually completely abandoned in the early 1900s, but remains an important artifact offering insight into how life would have looked in the region prior its rapid expansion in the twentieth century.

Qatar was once one of the poorest states in the Gulf region but thanks to oil and gas reserves is now an economic powerhouse, with an influence that far outreaches its size.

Prior to the emirate's boom -- which has seen the construction of towering skyscrapers, state-of-the-art stadiums, gleaming hotels and expansive water parks -- the people who lived in Al Zubarah traded mainly in pearls. At its height, it is thought that the 400 hectare site was home to between 6,000 and 9,000 people. Today, Qatar is home to 1.9 million people.

The archaeological treasure was one of 19 new sites to be added to UNESCO's World Heritage list last month -- the top honor for monuments, buildings, sites or natural features "of outstanding universal value."