Mapping the Growth of an Arabian Gulf Town: The Case of Doha, Qatar

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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This paper is based on research undertaken for the Origins of Doha Project. It is a unique attempt to interrogate the construct of the Arab city against rigorously collected evidence and meticulous analysis of historical urban geography. We have found that Doha in its urban layout, physical development, architecture, and pre-oil demographics, combined its disparate cosmopolitan elements into a blend that probably typified the historic Gulf town, simultaneously encapsulating aspects of the generalised “Arab and Islamic town.” We have found strong structural principles at work in both the traditional and the early modern town, many of which correlate strongly with tribal social organisation, although the historic population of Doha was neither overwhelmingly tribal in character nor entirely Arab in origin. Rather, these constituted prevailing ideologies, social structures, and identities in a diverse and cosmopolitan population

Mapping the Growth of an Arabian Gulf Town: The Case of Doha, Qatar

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient



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    1947 aerial photograph of Doha and the digital map of Doha in 1952, images of the final manifestation of the traditional town.
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    Original map of Bidaʿ and Doha in 1823, by lieutenants J.M. Guy and G.B. Brucks. Source: British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections.
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    Original map of Bidaʿ and Doha in 1860. (Constable and Stiffe 1862, Inset Bidd’a Harbour). Source: British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections.
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    Districts of the conurbation (then known as collectively as Bidaʿ) in 1860 and their present location on satellite imagery. The name and outline of Doha al-Saghir (Dawḥat al-Saghīra) is supplied by Constable and Stiffe’s verbal description that accompanies the map shown on the previous figure. Source: Constable and Stiffe 1989: 105.
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    Districts of the Doha conurbation in 1908, derived from Lorimer’s written descriptions (Lorimer 1908: 488–9) and inferred from later sources and maps. The Sulutah district includes a southern extension that may have once been known as Bani Malik, although the term probably simply indicated the presence of members of the Salaitah tribe.9
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    Districts of the Doha conurbation in about 1937, derived from a 1937 sketch (ior/r/15/1/370/344), a Royal Air Force aerial photograph of 1937 (ior/r/15/2/203), Lorimer’s earlier written descriptions, and archaeological work at the Radwani House in today’s Mushayrib Heritage District. A district that existed as some barrack-like buildings at this stage later took the name Muḥammad bin Jāsim.
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    Districts of the Doha conurbation in 1947, derived from aerial imagery of that year, and (for the eastern districts) reading back from the first detailed maps of 1952 by Hunting Survey.
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    Districts of the Doha conurbation in 1956, derived from 1952 maps by Hunting Survey.
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    Districts of the Doha conurbation in 1959, derived from 1956 maps by Hunting Survey.
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    Districts of Doha today (2015), according to the Centre for GIS, Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, Qatar.
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    Population estimates for Doha 1860–1960. 1860: 5,000 (Constable and Stiffe: 1989 [1864]: 105); 1872: 4,000 (Kurşun 2002: 15–16); 1893: 6,000 (Kurşun 2002: 17); 1907: 12,000 (Lorimer 1908: 489); 1917: 10,000 (Tuson 1991: 5: 355); 1933: 12,000 (Tuson 1991: 701); 1941: 10,000 (letter from W.R. Hay, Tuson 1991: 6: 560); 1950: 16,000 (Burdett 1994: 389). 1960: 47,000 (Qatar Statistics Authority).
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    Commercial and residential separation in 1952. The central souk area is in purple, with covered lanes shown as dark lines.
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    1959 map of Doha showing location of Doha’s “central point” in 1947, 1952, and 1959.
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    1952 map of Doha showing the district known as Ahl Najd. Mosques are shown in green here and in subsequent figures. The separation of districts is easily discerned in the same way that Lorimer describes Fuwayrit “communities are divided from one another by well-marked streets” (Lorimer 1908: 556).
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    Hot/cold access map of Doha in 1952.
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    Density of housing in 1952.
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    Combined communication and accessibility to resources in 1952, by district. The lighter colours indicate better access, that is, better places to live, according to these criteria.
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    New planned districts in 1959 (Mushayrib, Farīj Abdel Aziz, Doha al-Jadeeda, Al Ghānim and Al-Rifa’a). Note that some new unplanned districts also sprang up between 1947 and 1959, shown in blue, for example, Najādah and parts of Mushayrib, Rumayla, and Al Ghānim. Transliterations on map follow local usage.
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    Doha al-Jadeeda in 1959 (right), contrasted with the layout of the traditional firjān of central Doha (left). Aerial imagery indicates that work on Doha al-Jadeeda had begun in 1953. Mosques in green.
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    Part of Doha Al-Jadeeda in 1959, showing the variation in construction in each family compound or block. Construction began in 1953.
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    Road growth during the post-oil period, in 1956-1965, and 1972. The central sūq is shown in blue.
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    Distribution of ʿarīsh /barasti housing and ruined areas in 1952.
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    City Walls of Doha. From top left: a) Overlay of walls from the 1860 map (fig. 3) in 1947 aerial photograph. b) Same, but with hypothetical location of walls (1860 red line, additions in 1904 dotted), the shoreline, and Doha fort, using the 1947 street plan. c) Mohammed Ali Abdullah is seen with a cross section of city wall found during the reconstruction of Sūq Waqif. d) 2015 street plan also showing city wall and outline of town in 1904 (dotted).
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    Expansion of Doha, 1823-1959, showing initial extension along the coastline, followed by inland expansion after the coming of oil.
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    Average distance of buildings from the shoreline, 1923-59.
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    Freshwater wells within four kilometres of Doha overlaid on a digital elevation map, showing that wells are found in low ground.
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    Watersheds and wells for freshwater wells close to Doha, showing their exclusion from the footprint and drainage of the town.
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    Cost-distance to the sea in 1952.
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    Cost-distance to the mosques, the sea, the sūq, and wells in 1952.
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    Close-up views (from fig. 28, using the same key) of Najāda and al-Ghānim (the central, oldest parts of town) in 1952, showing the cost-distance maps for access to the sea.
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    Access to mosques in 1952.
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    Access to mosques, by district, in 1952.
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    Access to mosques from Najāda and al-Ghānim, 1952.
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    Cost distance to wells in 1952.
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    Combined access-map of Doha in 1952.
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    Prevailing winds (Walters and Sjoberg 1988).
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    Shade at 3 p.m. Midsummer shade at 3 p.m. in Najd. Midsummer shade at 3 p.m. in al-Ghānim.
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    Named mosques in 1952, with graveyards shown, derived from the Hunting Survey map of 1952 and using the transliteration of that source.
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    Ground area per mosque in each farīj, in square metres per mosque. The higher the value the less well provided with mosques is the district.
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