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An analytical study of mosque identity in Qatar



An analytical study of mosque identity in Qatar


The purpose of the essay is to understand the evolution of mosque architecture in Qatar. Qatar is one of the rich oil countries in the Middle East with a majority of its population being Islam. The strong Islamic culture in this country has facilitated the building of mosques to house worshippers since time immemorial. One of the oldest mosques in Qatar is the Al Ruwai that dates back to the 17th century. Throughout the century, the art of mosque building has advanced to what can be seen today around Doha, home to one of the most magnificent mosques not only in Asia but the world at large. An example of the latest piece of this art is the Imaam Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab mosque found in Doha. With this in mind, this paper aims at assessing the transformation of architectural designs in Qatar from the 17th century to the 21st century. The research paper will assess five mosques namely; Al Ruwais Mosque, Fuwairit Mosque, Al Shamal Mosque, Imaam Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, and Al Fozan mosque in Msheireb. The paper will evaluate the mosques in connection to their local styles and vernacular architecture, both the exterior and interior as well as record information such as the architectural style of the mosque, the historical period they associate with, materials used in construction, possible constructors, and builders of the mosque. The current condition of the buildings will also be analytically assessed. Each mosque is discussed individually.

  1. Al Ruwais Mosque

Al Ruwai is a port town located 79 miles north of Doha, Qatar. The port is located 48 miles northwest of Al Khor, 17 miles northeast of Zubarah, and 16 miles northwest of Fuwayrit. The coastal town is a tourist attraction because of its lush vegetation. It is among the most important ports in Qatar. Historically, it was one of the most crucial fishing centers ever to exist along the peninsula. Interestingly, the port town is home to one of the oldest mosques in Qatar known as Al Ruwais mosque shown in photograph 1 below. According to historical facts, the mosque was built and established in the 17th century.

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Picture 1: Al Ruwai mosque in Qatar (exterior)

The building materials used for the construction of this mosque were determined by the design attributes as well as the mosque layout. It is worth noting that the building materials at these particular materials differed from one region to the other. Generally, materials commonly used included coral, mud, and stone. Wood was largely used for decorative and structural purposes. The mangrove poles were also put to use to determine the room widths. Other materials included the palm trees for thatch and wood. The coral panels were used for construction to enhance privacy especially at the upper part of the mosque. The decorations have been done using geometric patterns. These decorations form a stepped pattern due to the intersecting rectangles.

Nevertheless, it is clear that a dome is missing in this particular mosque. The domes are common in mosques even today but the absence of this structure in al Rawais mosque could be attributed to limited knowledge on how to install these pieces of art on the top of the building. This makes the mosque different from the majority of mosques in Qatar. However, it should be noted that the mosque is the first of its kind in Qatar and it was built during a time when building technology in this area had not evolved to greater and advanced levels. Meanwhile, the minaret was built with a small opening on top of it. It also forms a conical shape at the topmost part. Besides, the structure is cylindrical with an octagonal base. The minaret is separated from the mosque where it stands strong. Also, the minaret exhibits devoted craftsmen’s skills and builder’s imaginations though its size is not proportional to the rest of the mosque. In other words, the minaret seems too big than the mosque itself indicating building flaws witnessed during this time when technological innovations had not evolved, unlike today.

The path leading to the mosque is wide enough to allow easy access to the mosque. There is only one main door that leads to the prayer area (picture 1). The door is surrounded by seven large windows like openings that might have been added as a result of beauty or aesthetic purposes. The upper end of these openings resembles dome-like shapes with rectangular patterns or decorations on the edges (Richtzenhain et al., 2008). Meanwhile, the door is wooden and is firmly supported by thick supporters on each side. Notably, the mosque many rectangular windows on all the sides, and it is worth to deduce that they were installed to allow in fresh air especially during scorching heat from the sun. Also, they might have been installed to allow proper lighting for the worshippers as they devote their prayers and conduct meditations. There is an indication of Islam education to have taken place in this mosque as there is an area secluded to host the students who came from the local community to learn the principles of Islam.

In 1940, the Al Ruwai mosque was reconstructed to give it a new look as well as to preserve it. the mosque has an open courtyard that is rectangular and can hold approximately 100 worshippers. However, the mosque was abandoned in the 1970s as religious-related activities were transferred to modern mosques that had the latest architectural design features such as air conditioning (Mazzetto & Petruccioli, 2018). Because of this relocation, unfavorable climatic conditions deteriorated its condition. The foundation’s structural settlement caused cracks that extended to all masonry parts. The saline concentration that is high around this area further damaged the external plasters. The atmospheric agents caused exfoliation and erosion, hence affecting the walled enclosure.


Picture 2: interior view

To prevent further damage to the historic building, reconstruction works commenced in the 21st century and were completed in 2015. The walls became structurally consolidated and all the parts of the building that had deteriorated were done away with and reinstated as seen in picture 2 above. A technological system was employed to monitor the state of wall cracks including the load-bearing roofs and walls. Efforts were also made to monitor and control the foundations and ground’s coherence and planned maintenance was offered to prevent negative impacts of seawater. The base was also restored as upper layers of mortar and concrete blocks were also rebuilt.

Additionally, the professionals used man-made materials and the latest methods to restore the significant structural damage witnessed following years of neglect. Local construction procedures to repair the roof’s collapsed wooden parts were used. The repairs were done using top plaster of compressed mud, mangrove mesh, successive layers of plaster, and bamboo. A mixed cementitious mortar was used to bond and cord irregular danchal wooden sticks. Also, the rainwater gargoyles or marazim and new internal windows and doors were installed. Modern air conditioning electrical systems were also put in place to allow religious activities to resume upon completion. A new parking area was built and the pedestrian access route was also renewed.

  1. Fuwairit mosque

Fuwairit mosque is one of the oldest and historical mosques found around 80 kilometers north of Doha, Qatar. The mosque was first built and established in the 1920s. The Fuwairit mosque was rebuilt later in the 1960s to reserve the first structure and maintain the traditional design. The structure was originally built using wood, mud, and stone. The rehabilitation and conservation project included the removal of waterproof layers as well as destroyed plaster layers. The wooden areas were treated to prevent termites from attacking them. Besides, the plaster was applied using waterproof and traditional materials. The damaged areas of the ceiling were also removed and restored to avoid further deterioration. The wall stone structure was reset and adjusted to reserve the historical place of worship. The purpose of these repairs was to reserve the rich Qatar cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations and the outcomes are depicted in photograph 3 below.


Picture 3: exterior view

From the look of the eye, the mosque is rectangular. It also has a minaret as seen in the diagram above. The windows at the top of the minalet are visible. Typically, the minalet used to call and summon believers for prayers. Also, it is obvious that the structure was used for defence purposes. The minaret could have been developed from cornerstones and it served as a lighthouse or local landmark in those times. However, its purpose has been said to be of less religious importance as it has been said to be separate from the mosque. The minaret were mainly used by the crier or muezzin. The minaret in this case is different from the rest. It seems that these towers did not have the same designs, heights, and shapes. This can be attributed to the reason that the local communities had varying architectural environment, building materials, and religious traditions. Additionally, the minaret in this case is cylindrical and has five balconies.

The building was built using stones. Following the reconstruction, the pavement that leads to the main door was designed to match the 20th-century techniques. The technique used to build the main door reflects the one used in traditional Qatar as the framework is large, rectangular, wooden, and taller (Carter & Eddisford, 2016). Apart from that, the pavement has been well marked using physical lighting thanks to the incorporation of modern technology.

The mosque embodies several unique Islamic architectures related to the culture of Qatar people. Outside the holy building, there is a section where people especially men meet before and after the religious rituals have taken place. This designated place is referred to as the dikka and it has a water tank meant for traditional ablutions referred to as wudhu. The door’s design and that of the over panel resembles the style commonly used around the peninsula regions.

The reconstructions carried out in this particular mosque have further prevented it from the deterioration that almost damaged this historical structure. The small deteriorations seen can be attributed to the wind and rain attacks prevalent in this region. It is worth noting the simple but beautiful rhyme of the columns was meant for decoration and demonstration of impressive art. Around eight steps link to the interior while the surrounding walls form a square base. The restoration did not interfere with the key features of the building that offers a powerful link to peninsula history.

As of now, the mosque has been preserved using modern methods. This is important considering the historic relevance associated with the holy building. In what looks like the prayer room, the globe lights were installed in the openings during reconstruction to enhance better visibility. An item of interest noted on top of the dome-like structure is the star with the usual five points. The star sits on the recumbent crescent moon held up by a rod.

Since the minalets played a critical role in the Qatar civilizations as well as pre-Islamic civilizations at large, their interior surfaces were decorated using the aesthetic designs that are in different patterns and styles (Khattab, 2002). These patterns seem to be strongly linked to the Qatar cultural heritage. Besides, the interior depicts symbolic abstract decoration that includes muqarnas, ornamental motifs, and geometrical patterns as shown in the photograph below.


Picture 4: interior view

As mentioned above, the bigger player room is located on the ground floor. An individual can use one of the four doors to access this area. Apart from that, the area has been divided into sections for both men and women. The visible window openings were installed to let the light in during the day while the worshippers held their daily prayers. The windows are meant to maintain a divine, peaceful, and calm environment to facilitate the worshipper’s performance in terms of concentration and meditation prayers. The niche of the mihrab is placed just next to the minbar and it acts as a spatial space that is incorporated into the interior space of the mosque. The mihrab seems to be pointed towards mecca and so it has a great religious meaning. Also, the mihrab forms a flat formation or a concave space and it exhibits meaningful decoration that still uses various patterns and designs. Notably, the concave space forms at the qibla wall’s center.

  1. Al Shamal mosque

Alshamal mosque is located in the capital city of Al Shamal known as Madinat ash Shamal. The mosque is located at an approximated 62 miles or 100 kilometers north of Doha that happens to be the capital city of Qatar. The municipality bounders Abu Dhalouf on the western side and Ar Ru’ays on the eastern side. The municipality serves as an administrative center for both Ar Ru’ays and Abu Dhalouf. The city was built as a result of the decentralization policy introduced by the government to connect the three villages in one commonplace.


Picture 5: exterior view

The Al Shamal mosque is one of the remaining traditional architecture in this country and it is around 70 years old (picture 5). The structure was built using mud, wood, and stone. Limestone masonry blocks and coral were also added to make the building more strong. Marazim which is boxed wooden was further added while the plasters were compacted using mud and soluble gypsum component (Al-Khalifa, 2017). The window and door lintels were fabricated using the local methods where irregular wooden danchal sticks were bound together using a cord. The roof was built using the mangrove sticks to form a mesh raid on top of each other to form a grid that was then placed on top of the sun-dried plaster and mud bricks. Like the other two traditional mosques, al shamal is a depiction of robust Qatar and Islamic cultural heritage. The minaret is the first structure that is visible from a distance. The minaret is about 10 to 15 meters high and has a window on the top. This opening could have been used by the crier to summon the prayers. Also, it could have been used for defense purposes considering the danger that lurks in deserts. Apart from that, it is evident that the minaret is cylindrical and it sits on an octagonal base. Also, it is notable that this tall minaret is not attached to the mosque structure.

Besides, the mosque has six doors that all head to the prayer room the doors are rectangular though arches have been attached to the uppermost corners of the doors. The arches are well decorated and the decorations are heavily based on Qatar’s rich traditions as well as the heritage. There are also strong columns to support the roof. The columns also serve as the framework for the doors. The prayer space makes up the biggest room for this mosque. It has numerous windows to let in the natural light as well as the breeze to keep the environment calm and favorable for religious activities to take place.


Picture 6: interior view

For reasons not well known, the mosque does not have a dome. However, this mosque had been abandoned for some time before reconstruction was commenced to stop it from further deterioration as a result of harsh weather experienced in the region. The Awqaf ministry was tasked with the role of bringing a new face to this historical structure. Major renovations focused on installing modern lighting as well as an electronic air conditioning system. Besides, the restoration work focused on the walls that were slowly forming cracks. However, buttresses have been added to increase and strengthen the structural stability (Eddisford, 2019). The plasters had also become deteriorated by the disintegration, exfoliation, and erosion surfaces as a result of weathering. The falling parts have been removed and replaced to prevent further deterioration of this historical mosque in Qatar.

  1. Imam Muhammad ibn AbdulWahhab Mosque

The mosque is located along Al Istiqlal St, Doha Qatar. It is one of the biggest in this Arabic country and can house approximately 11,000 worshippers. The prayer hall designated for women and can accommodate around 1,200 individuals. During the Friday prayer, the courtyard is used by an estimated 30,000 worshippers. It was built by Arab Engineering Bureau and was officially opened in 2011. The iconic building seats on a 175, 164 m2 piece of land. It is owned by the Ministry of Awqaf Affairs. The motive of building this mosque was to serve the local community in terms of religious practices. The mosque complex has major facilities that include covered and opened parking lots and gardens.


Picture 7: exterior view

Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab Mosque was built using the modern and latest materials available in Qatar (see picture 7). Notably, the mosque is unique to the eye as arcades were used. These arcades were used to support the piers or columns that form a succession of arches. The minalet can also be seen. It is cyrindrical with a dome shaped design on the top. The windows on this minalet are also visible. The ninety-nine domes were installed to offer shelter to the aisle of Sabeel, mihrab, arcades, and qibla. An arcade in this context refers to numerous succession of arches that seems to be counter-thrusting each other. These arcades are supported using piers and columns covered along the walkway. The walkway is enclosed by these arcades. The exterior arcades are used to give shelter, especially during wet or warmer climates. The arcade used in this mosque is based on the Gothic or lancet type of arches which were decorated using the gypsum (Al Khani, 2018). The arches also form domed ceiling space with multi-layered brass chandeliers.

Also, the mosque has a mezzanine, ground, and basement floors. The most crucial sections include VIP, mezzanine, and floor area. The main prayer hall consists of women and men ablution areas and is located on the ground floor. Also, the floor has a space set aside for individuals with special needs. The main prayer hall is 12,000 m2. The mezzanine consists of two classes, library, and women prayer area covering an approximated areas of around 25,000 m2 (Abdullatif Al Fozan Award, 2020). The car park can accommodate around 350 cars and it occupies an area of 2,000m2. Out of this total area, 600m2 was set aside for the VIPs.

The religious building comprises one minaret, 65 small domes, 28 large domes, and 6 in the encircling landscape. The small and large domes add up to 99 and this signifies the ninety-nine special names of Allah. The mihrab contains two domes. The internal atmosphere is enhanced using lighting lamps and many chandeliers that hand from the domes. There are seventeen doors which access the main prayer hall while the prime mosque has 3 main gates. The beautiful piece of art is unique. It is different from mosques in terms of architecture. Abdul Wahhab’s mosque reflects Qatari heritage and Qatar’s traditional architecture all in one place. The building’s site is surrounded by three secondary streets and one main street. The design and art exhibit distinctive landscape techniques to create room for car parks. The car parks are linked to the main street minor roads network.

Apart from that, the ground floor’s design is similar to that used in North Africa during the Islamic period. The air-conditioned main prayer hall is made up of four longitudinal rows. The outside courtyard comprises of four corridors serve as buffer area between the covered hall and outside open patio. Several facilities are surrounding the western and northern porticoes with stairs leading to the mezzanine floor. Notably, the external courtyard opens to the mezzanine floor from one end. The main prayer hall largely displays traditional woodwork. The mezzanine’s architectural composition enhances the vertical and horizontal connections (Abdullatif Al Fozan Award, 2020). This gives a third like dimension to the spaces of the architecture.

The minbar and mihrab are designed in such a way that they form niche(s). The player hall is also accessible through concealed stairs. Also, the simplicity of the architecture is evident in the design of sections and elevations. The facades are made up of two vertical parts. The upper part is made up of windows and narrow openings meant to let in cool and fresh air from the oitside. The Minaret resembles lighthouses and looks more agile. The base of the minaret is square in design while the top is dome shaped. the minaret and architectural design proportions seem to integrate both vertically and horizontally.


Picture 8: interior view

The interior is quiet and warm thanks to the warm colors and materials used hence creating an elegant atmosphere. It is equipped with modern air conditions to keep the air inside cool and fresh. Also, decorations have been used for the woodworks referred to as the simple motifs. The architecture design is further made unique through the use of physical lighting which makes it look more impressive. The mosque hosts Fiqh lessons, courses, and lectures throughout the year. It has now become a beacon for education and knowledge. The architecture won the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award due to the new ideas integrated into the building. The design is a piece of innovation in terms of technology, design, and planning reflecting modern and growing Arabic architecture.

  1. Al Fozan mosque

Al Fozan is located along the Wadi Musheirib street in Qatar’s capital city, Doha. The architecture was designed by John McAslan and partners in association with the Arab Engineering Bureau. The mosque was built in 2015 and project financed by the Qatar Foundation. This structure can accommodate up to 1,600 worshippers. The design of the Al Fozan mosque incorporates modernist ideas while it still depicts the historical arrangement of Islamic thresholds, spaces, and volumes. The project made use of interpretive details, craft techniques, and local stone. The engineering concept employed here has its roots in traditional Qatari heritage and it adheres to the principles of spirituality, functionality, and simplicity which are then merged with modern order and materiality (Al-Bukhari et al., 2018). The design has also integrated the Islamic religious customs where the entrances of the mosque have been designated for men and women. In other words, men and women access the mosque separately as required by the religious doctrines.


Picture 9: exterior view

The modern piece of art has dedicated halls for women and men. Apart from that, the basement has lifts and a parking area. Also, the Al Fozan mosque has a specifically developed sunlight and daylight design which creates impressive sun patches depicting Qatari motifs (see picture 9 above). The building has numerous windows to let in light and air during the day The mosque architecture embraces crucial principles of Islamic designs, geometric patterns, and art.

From the look of the eye, it is evident that the mosque is a key structure during this dynamic and new area. Like the other four mosques, Al Fozan has a minalet too with windows at the top. The purpose of the mosque is to create a sanctuary that conforms with the principles of Islamic architecture and art. The motive of the building seems to be an effort meant to preserve the religious traditions and heritage of Qatar. The mosque gives the worshippers a calm and comfortable environment where they can exercise their religious rituals. The notable attributes include Qatari architectural details and materials.


Picture 10: interior view

The design concept reflects the importance of deeper Islamic history and strong marks of the locality. The appealing cube building is comprised of white stone. The support spaces and entrance pavilion are enclosed using the patterned metal Islamic gates. The prayer hall has a patterned and perforated roof which allows the natural light to enter as seen in picture 10 above (Wiedmann et al., 2013). The light entering the prayer hall creates a harmonic environment that does not require artificial lighting. The courtyard is wrapped with a colonnade of stone on both sides depicting a precise square. At the center of the square, there is a pond that exhibits a sense of contemplation and calmness at the prayer hall’s entrance. Additionally, the design displays the configuration and form of a modern building that integrates the use of water, natural ventilation, shading, and orientation for beautification purposes. This creates a comfortable and quiet environment for believers.


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Al-Khalifa, H. (2017). The Friday mosque of the Arabian Gulf: defining its spatial and formal languages-1975-2010 (Doctoral dissertation, Cardiff University).

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Eddisford, D. (2019, August). Papers read at the Seminar for Arabian Studies held at the British Museum, London, 3–5 August 2018. In Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 303-307).

Khattab, O. (2002). A study of the design of mosques of the ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait. Kuwait J. Sci. Eng, 29(1), 135-159.

Mazzetto, S., & Petruccioli, A. (2018). Methods and techniques used in significant restoration projects in Qatar. Studies in Conservation, 63(5), 303-314.

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