By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: As Qatar goes through rapid changes, experts propose that firm steps should be taken to preserve landmark buildings and develop a wider system to archive documents.
Experts suggest that identifying important buildings, ‘listing’ them and digitising the archives would help preserve the country’s recent history.
Steps taken by Qatar Foundation and British Library to digitise documents on Arab and Qatari history and Qatar Museums Authority’s (QMA) plans to transform Doha Fire Station into an artist-in-residence programme ‘Fire Station: Artists in Residence,’ are cited as the best samples.
Mud houses, and places like the Souq Waqif were fortunate to be protected, but anything built later in the 1970s and 1980s was not really considered a historical building, says prominent Qatari Architect Ibrahim Jaidah.
“I hope that soon we can have a law as in many other countries to identify important buildings and call them listed buildings,” Jaidah told this daily.
However, he said steps taken to preserve the Clock Tower near the Emiri Diwan, the old education ministry and the present engineering office headquarters, the Ministry of Finance, the post office and Doha Sheraton — remarkable landmarks of Doha — are creditable.
“They were the first boom that happened in Qatar — designs started in the 1970s, like any history, this is what I call our early modern era,” he said.
The need to preserve or bring back the souqs, a concept unique to Qatari culture, and protect some palaces in Al Rayan was also stressed.
“There are lots of palaces in Al Rayan which need to be preserved. They were built again in the late 1970s and have to be preserved. There should be a committee to identify the buildings before it’s too late,” said Jaidah.
About roundabouts removed to upgrade roads and ease traffic, Jaidah said, “We were known by roundabouts, and they are gone now. Unfortunately, they are not documented. Roundabouts don’t work with traffic, it’s natural; but it will be interesting to document them.”
In 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage published a book with 45 photos of how life was in old Doha.
Qatari photographer Khalifa Obaidly suggests that such books and exhibitions of photo collections will help people get to know how Doha is in the present day.
“The book has photos of old Doha, especially of souqs which do not exist. Publishing books and holding exhibitions will be the best way of documenting Doha,” said Obaidly. He suggests that such photos could be collected from photographers and documented so that people in future would know more about what Doha is now.
Qatar National Library (QNL) and Qatar National Archive are responsible for documenting and maintaining the archives for the country. A special section at the new QNL has been assigned for an archive of daily newspapers.
“We are collecting each newspaper and in the future every one can see it. It was done by the old National Library and in the future this will be our task to do for the next 500 years,” said QNL’s Project Director Dr Claudia Lux.
Lux suggests that the country should develop a policy of digitising the archives for easy access. “There is also a need for a digital archive. That is something that needs developing a national archive policy. The most important is that you collect items and keep them and make sure that you can find them in 50 or 100 years.
“We have the British library archives, which we are digitising because we know there is lots of material about Qatar,” she added. The Peninsula