Doha Fort, Qatar

Doha Fort (also known as Al Koot Fort) is a historical military fortress in Doha, the capital of Qatar, located in the center of the famous Souq Waqif, the site of the old down town. It is a favorite landmark and tourist spot.

It is not as old as other forts in Middle East but is definitely a significant link in the history of Qatar and offers an insight into the cultural and architecture style that existed during the turn of a seismic cultural shift. During the Turkish rule over Qatar in 1880, Al Koot Fort was built and was used as a defensive military barrack in its earlier years.

This Moorish-style relic now has museum inside it and exhibits Qatari traditional handcrafts, gold work, artwork including oil paintings of craft workers and historical photographs. The museum also houses exhibitions detailing many Bedouin handicrafts, namely Sadu weaving and other Bedouin practices including fishing equipment, wooden ornaments, and gypsum-burning techniques, boat-building and rope-making. This having been a military fort, it also exhibits weaponry and arms.

It has a square shaped courtyard enclosed on all sides by a towering wall. There are Circular towers in three corners and the fourth one has a rectangular tower. The towers are capped with customary Qatari-style ramparts and triangular-based ledges with slots called machicolations that guards used to fire at enemies. The number of doors in the courtyard leads to prison cells. There is one larger door which leads to a windowless high-security space that was reserved for the most terrifying criminals.

The south and north areas of the fort have extensive "iwan", which are porticos of square arcades overlooking the courtyard. There is a deep well that was used as a water supply for cleaning in the southern portico.

The first floor consists of a spacious promenade and outside stairs on the corners of the courtyard lead to first floor. The walls are infused with many gunfire holes, each one angled in a different direction so that soldiers could fire at the adversaries attacking from any side.

The courtyard mosque is one of the distinct features of the Doha Fort which has neither roofs nor walls. It may seem odd but this was deliberately constructed as it was mostly used by prisoners who needed regular supervision. The "mihrab" still faces Kaaba in Mecca despite the lack of physical structure.

The best thing you can say for the fort at present is that it is one of the few parts of old Doha left standing and so worth walking through the Souq Waqif nearby Doha Corniche to see the fort. It opens daily from 9:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 19:00. Closes on Fridays, Saturday afternoons, and in public holidays. Entrance is free.