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Traces of Qatar’s Agricultural Past at Expo 2023 Doha

December 14, 2023

Although it is well established that Expo 2023 Doha is a forward-looking exhibition that stresses innovation and technology to propel communities towards a more sustainable future, it is nevertheless important to appreciate the older agricultural methods, which our ancestors used to propel humanity forward.  

In a project helmed by the National Museum of Qatar at Expo House on December 14th, visitors were taken back in time to a period before the discovery of oil or technology.

Through the exhibition, visitors learn that circa 12,000 years ago, agricultural activities stemmed from Mesopotamia and ushered in the Neolithic Revolution and a shift from nomadic to settled lifestyles. Water emerged as a crucial factor for successful agriculture. Before the discovery of oil in 1940, Qatar's people were nomadic, seeking water, food, and grazing areas. Date palm trees became vital due to the arid environment, complementing Qatar's pastoral tradition.

Livelihoods depended on livestock, including camels, sheep, goats, cows, and donkeys, with reliance on non-agricultural activities like hunting and fishing. In the south, camels played a significant role in transport, lifting, and even crafting men's cloaks.

Cultivation focused on date palms, crucial to Arab civilizations, with UNESCO recognizing related practices as cultural heritage. Despite Qatar's aridity, date palms were cultivated since the Bronze Age, primarily for high-energy food, building material, and crafts. Most dates were imported due to the climate's limitations, with local cultivation confined to small groves.

Archaeological evidence, notably in Al Zubarah, reveals at least fifty date presses, demonstrating secondary production practices like dried dates and syrup. In Zekreet Fort's vicinity, three date presses built in beachrock (faroush) showcased the process of extracting sweet syrup, emphasizing the historical importance of date cultivation in Qatar.

The exhibition is a stark reminder of the great strides achieved by the State of Qatar to scale food production and food security.

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