Qatar in the Ottoman Archives

A symposium entitled “Qatar in the Ottoman Archives” was organized by the center, where a lecture was delivered by Professor Suhail Saban. It was presented by Professor Jamal Hajar. The lecturer divided his symposium into three main parts. In the first part, he spoke about the Ottoman archive, its contents and its importance for writing history in general. He also gave information about the documents contained in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul and Turkey demonstrating their importance for writing some aspects of Qatar's political, economic and social history. He emphasized that the archive is full of documents, records and notebooks that serve to write Qatar’s modern and contemporary history. He pointed out that the importance of this archive comes from the fact that it contains about 150 million documents.

The lecturer thinks that the biggest challenge for researchers in the archive is the errors found in the names of places, tribes and people, in addition to the varying significance of terms and names; furthermore, the documents related to Qatari history are falling under many classifications because those who indexed and classified the archive were not familiar with the Arabic language as well as the topography of the region. Thus, those who wish to search the files of the archive should be familiar with the modern Turkish language and the Ottoman language as well as the geography of the region and the names of its tribes.

 In the second part, he refers to samples of the topics covered by the Ottoman archive documents, in particular the reign of Sheikh Jasim bin Muhammad bin Thani (1878-1913), the founder of modern Qatar.  He pointed out that the documents of the archive contain many letters sent by the Kaymakam of Qatar to the Grand Viziers, the Porte, and the Ottoman Sultan. He added that those documents serve to realize the social, economic, political and military conditions as they contain accounts about pearl trade, types of vessels used for diving, the number of people, their crafts and their incomes, the Ottoman administrative aspects, and other important topics. In the last section, the lecturer reviews samples of Sheikh Jasim’s correspondence with the Ottomans as well as samples from the reports of the Ottoman political envoys to Qatar. At the end, he comes to the conclusion that more attention should be given to the Ottoman archive by researchers, that extensive studies should be conducted about it, and that it is a very important source for writing the history of Qatar.

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