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Barzan Towers

Umm Salal Mohammed Town, Qatar
Barzan Towers, also known as the Umm Salal Mohammed Fort Towers, are watchtowers that were built in the late 19th century and renovated in 1910 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani.
Stretching into the stunning Arabian sky, the Barzan towers emerge above the neighbouring landscape and provide the wonderful place to gaze out to sea. Formerly built as watchtowers, Barzan Tower is erected in the Umm Salal Mohammed municipality and this Tower was built in “T” shape.

The tower is a rectangle building with three levels as well as an external staircase which is considered an exceptional architectural style in the Gulf region. There are huge, modern houses stand on one side of the towers while on the other, makeshift shacks exist. There is a castle or sometimes referred to as a fortified house of the Qatari Emir is located beside the towers. A unique Oasis full of greenery, palm trees, a brook and animals can also be found behind the towers.

Alborj Alshargi (The East Tower) is also now entirely restored and has three levels –upper, middle and basement. The Barzan Towers, "High Place" in Arabic, is quite appropriate for a tower measuring 16 meters (52.49 ft) in height. This is built in early 20th century by the Qatari Emir to keep a vigilant eye on pearl divers, as an observatory to inspect the moon's phases and as a look-out for the ships approaching the coast. The 'Hejry' calendar which is used in Islamic countries is based on the moon's phases, with each month starting when the crescent appears after the new moon. Ramadan is the most important of these months, marking the time when the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. So Keeping track of the moon was essential. At present the Barzan Towers are restored, especially with some internal features such as modern air-conditioners.

The Barzan Towers were constructed in 1910 by then Emir of Qatar to act as watchtowers against the attacking Ottoman soldiers. He still had some unknown reasons to be apprehensive although he had defeated the Ottomans a few years earlier. Besides being watchtowers, they were also used by the Qataris, to inspect the new moon during the holy month of Ramadan for accuracy, since keeping track of the moon was essential. Two observers would climb to the top of the towers to ensure accuracy viewing the new moon and agreeing when the crescent appeared.

How to go?
The Barzan Towers are located in the town of Umm Saalal Mohammed 20 km north of Doha and is about 10 km from the coast.

From Doha, drive through the North road and at the first road sign to Umm Slal Mohammed town take a u- turn.

Take right into the Road to Umm Slal Mohammed and immediately after the roundabout take right once more into Barzan Street.

Inside of the Barzan Towers
The Barzan Towers have walls which are one meter broad, particularly in the base and are further armoured and reinforced by buttresses. One tower has enormous and massive staircases and the other has cones. These walls were built similar to the construction of the walls of the Zubarah fort by initially blending and merging raw pieces of coral stones with limestone and after that cementing the two with a mud Mortar. After drying, the walls were then covered with a gypsum-based plaster.

The roof of Barzan towers was built with four layers starting with several "danchal" wood poles and for protection they were painted with Bitumen. "Basgijl", a stratum of woven bamboo strips covers the "danchal" wood poles. A thoughtfully compressed layer of mud and a net of mangrove branches were added to shield the towers from sun during the hot seasons. Another noteworthy feature of this technique is in the construction of architraves, the use of 'danchal' wood poles held together with a rope increased the adherence of plaster and the mud mortar.

For those who need the greater details of these building techniques, they can either view the 3D model of the Qatari mosque or visit to the fishermen's villages in the northwest. In addition to the two Barzan towers, there are some external features such as "majilis", a room for receiving visitors, which was built as an L-shaped pavilion with small windows for aeration. Furthermore, there is a mosque which has a prayer room that was also used as a 'madrassa,' a school for teaching the Holy Quran to children.

Traditional "marazims" were built on top of the "majilis" and the mosque to shield the walls' surfaces and were constructed as wooden channels that sprawl from the roof to drain rainwater just in case intense, but odd, heavy showers and thunderstorms strike the desert.

Things to Remember
Barzan tower is open to visitors 24 hrs and they just need to sign in at the gate.
Several nearby landmarks like the Umm Salal Fortresses, the Muhammed bin Jassim Al Thani residence and other additional towers of the forts are closed for visitors since they are private properties.
Snacks and Refreshments are available for purchase nearby.
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