Sunday, 10 November 2019

Qatar Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Qatar cities.

Doha, the capital city, either comes from the Arabic Ad-Dawha or ‘the big tree’, a marker for the original fishing village and possibly used as a marker by the fishermen, or from dohat the Arabic word for ‘bay’ where the fisherman cast their nets.

Al Wakrah comes from the Arabic wakar which translates as 'bird's nest' and probably refers to the colonies of birds in the nearby hills.

Al-Shahaniya is named from the local flora, specifically the plant known here as sheeh, used as it is an anti-inflammatory. Known to science as Artemesia inculta, it can be found across the Middle East and North Africa but is quite rare in Qatar as the soils are largely unsuitable.

Mesaieed is another named from the local flora. Known as sead it is difficult to know what that plant was, and therefore its use, as it no longer grows here.

Madinat Khalifa, both North and South, refer to the Arabic madinal or 'city' with former emir of Qatar from 1972 to 1995, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani.

Nuaija comes from the Arabic word naaja meaning 'ewe' or 'female sheep'. This is nothing to do with the mammal but eludes to the water from the well hereabouts being as sweet as sheep's milk.

Umm Ghuwailina is from Arabic umm meaning 'mother' but used here in a geographical sense, together with ghuwailina, referring to a local tree, speaks of 'the mother of ghulan'. The tree is used as fodder for camels.

Al Thumama is another derived from the local flora. Known to science as Panicum turgidum (literally 'swollen foxtail'), it is welcomed in the desert as this perennial grass encourages soil formation.

As Salatah al Jadidah means 'New Salata', named after the Al-Sulaiti tribe and founded as recently as the 1970s.

Al Sadd is also named from a local plant. Sadd is the local name for a plant abundant in this region of the coast.

The Pearl is built on a man-made island begun in 2004 and an on-going project. It is named because it occupies one of Qatar's former pearl diving sites.

Dukhan translates as 'smoky mountain', for clouds are seen to gather around the summit of Jebel Dukhan.

Mebaireek takes its name from an Arabic personal name Mubarak, although just who that seemingly important individual may have been is unknown.

Fereej Abdel Aziz comes from fereej or 'district' of Abdel Aziz, he a former sheikh who governed in this area.

Umm Lekhba shares a first element with Umm Ghuwailina above, also sharing the geographical context. Here the second element is Arabic khabaa 'to hide' and a reference to the location being in a depression.

Duhail comes from dahal, the Arabic word for 'cavern' and a large cavern can be found here.

Umm Bab uses the 'mother' prefix again in a geographical sense, with the second element a reference to a passage between two hills and thus 'mother of the gateway'.

Rawdat Rashed is from the Arabic rawdat and a personal name and refers to its low-lying position where water tends to accumulate after rainfall in 'low wetland of Rashed'.

Hazm Al Markhiya takes the Arabic hazm or 'hill' and adds the tree known locally as markh. This tree, known officially as Leptadenia pyrotechnica. This 'tree' is actually a drought-resistant desert herb used for thatching huts, the plant fibre is useful in making ropes, makes a good fodder for camels, and the ripe pods used as vegetables and are said to possess some medicinal properties.

Al Ghuwariyah comes from ghar or 'cave' and not, as so often stated, a plant known as alghar as that is simply not found in the region.

Al Jemailiya comes from the Arabic jamila 'beauty' and thought to refer to the abundant vegetation in an area otherwise largely desert.

Al Karaana comes from karaa or 'fresh water' and refers to a well providing water of particularly excellent quality.

Al Bidda comes from the Arabic badaa 'to invent'. Not a technological invention but the creation of the settlement in what had been a area devoid of any true features.

Abu Samra takes the name of the Samr tree, used as fodder for camels.

Al Utouriya comes from Arabic atar meaning 'perfume, aroma'. This area lies in a rawdat or depression where the collected rainwater means aromatic herbs grow freely.

Al Nasraniya takes its name from a time when the local well, dug through particularly hard rock, became usable. Their efforts were referred to as Nasraniya or 'Christinaity' and a reminder of the victory by the Muslims over the Christians.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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