Doha is the capital city of Qatar and the main commercial centre of the country. Though Qatar is a small country, it exerts a substantial influence in the Gulf region and beyond. The people of Qatar value their traditions and share them with visitors who come to visit their country. One of the sights that tourists rarely miss are the tall Barzan Towers which looms over other buildings and stretches high into the sky.
The Barzan Towers are one of the heritage buildings and it was used as a platform to watch over the pearl divers and it also served as a look-out for approaching enemy ships. It also served as an observatory to watch the different phases of the moon. Visitors are allowed to enter the building 24 hours a day. You should make time to have a look at the additional towers found in the same area such as the Umm Salal Mohammed fortress. This is also one of the well-preserved heritage buildings. You are not permitted to enter this building as it is private property. There is a beautiful green oasis full of trees and animals tucked away behind the towers. If hunger pangs trouble your or if you feel thirsty after walking through the towers, refreshments, snacks and drinks are available nearby.
The Barzan Towers were constructed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al-Thani. The ‘T’ shape of the towers is a unique architectural style typical of the Gulf region. The towers have a rectangle construction with three levels and it has an external staircase. The name Barzan comes from Arabic meaning ‘high place’ which is very appropriate for the towers which measure 16 meters in height.
Keeping track of the moon was very important to the Muslims as the ‘Hejry’ calendar was based on the moon’s phases. Ramadan was very important for the Muslims and, therefore, to ensure accuracy two observers would climb to the top of the towers for viewing the new moon, and agreeing when the crescent moon appeared. The Barzan towers were built of mud and stone and the walls were one meter thick and built very strongly.
The Barzan Towers have a ‘majlis’ or a room, built as an L-shaped pavilion, to receive guests. There is also a mosque with a small prayer room which was used as a school for teaching the Holy Quran to children. On the top of the ‘majlis’ are wooden channels which project from the room. They drain away the rain water during heavy storms. The construction of these towers is a perfect example of traditional Qatari style of construction. The thick walls ensured that the building remained cool during the hot summer. The walls were constructed using coral-rock with limestone and cemented with mud mortar. The roof was built in four layers using ‘danchal’ wood, bitumen, and woven bamboo strips. A closely woven net of mangrove branches followed by a layer of compressed mud ensured protection to the building from the sun during the hot summers.
The Barzan Towers affords a good view of the surrounding area. The disparity in the wealth of the people of Qatar can be clearly seen from these towers. On one side of these towers you can see huge modern houses devoid of any beauty and on the other side you can see small makeshift poverty-ridden houses. People trudge more than a kilometer to fetch water.