Habitats and Shelters

During challenging times, animals and humans alike find shelter in the most extraordinary places. Explore how each protects itself from rapidly changing environments and how they adapt to new situations.

Children Inside the Tent (1959) by Klaus FerdinandNational Museum of Qatar

Taking Shelter

During challenging times, such as extreme or unusual weather conditions, natural disasters and even pandemics, plants, animals, and humans alike find shelter in the most extraordinary places and ways.    

In marine habitats, animals and plants protect themselves and adapt to different conditions and threats including human activities such as land reclamation, pollution, harmful fishing methods and high temperatures. As a result of climate change, corals worldwide are suffering from high sea surface temperatures.

Corals in the Arabian Gulf were amongst the first to adapt to high water temperatures because of new clades of symbiotic algae (symbodinium) which supply the corals with nutrients and energy.

Mount Coral in Qatar

The grey or white mangrove (avicennia marina), the only mangrove species occurring in the Arabian Gulf is naturally adapted to low winter temperatures and high salinities. Most other mangrove species need a certain amount of freshwater. In a country where harsh weather conditions limit vegetation growth, these mangroves act as a sanctuary for birds, fish and mammals.

Mangroves in Qatar

Plants and animals of terrestrial habitats protect themselves and adapt to different situations and threats.These include reduction of natural habitat as a result of development, hunting and collecting, desertification accelerated by uncontrolled livestock grazing, irrigation with highly saline water increasing soil salinity, pollution from industry, sewage and solid waste.

The main challenge, however, is changing weather conditions. To avoid the highest temperatures of the day, some species are active between dusk to dawn, when temperatures are less extreme. Many desert species are nocturnal, only active at night, and hide in their burrows during the day (scorpions, a number of lizards and snakes, rüppell's fox, desert hedgehogs, lesser jerboas).

Lesser Jerboa, or Jaculus Jaculus Taking Shelter

Man Working Under a Tent (1959) by Klaus FerdinandNational Museum of Qatar

Shelter in the Desert

People that live in the desert have experienced sandstorms and other extreme weather conditions. Taking shelter in their tents is a way to protect themselves. The Bait al-sha’r could be modified and adapted in size and shape depending on the environment and the needs of the people.

Man Working Under a Tent (1959) by Klaus FerdinandNational Museum of Qatar

Bait Al-Sha’r

The Bait al-sha’r comprised of two sections. Al-shigg al-shargi or Al-raba’ al-shargia was the east section. It was the men’s section of the tent where guests might be received and was, in effect, the majlis, although sometimes there was a separate tent for the majlisAl-shigg al-gharbi was the west section, considered the women’s and family section of the tent where the majority of domestic activities were carried out.

Man Preparing Gahwa (Coffee), Unkown, 20th century, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
Woman Inside the Tent, Klaus Ferdinand, 1959, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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The two areas were divided by a curtain wall known as a gata’ or ruwaq. Usually the door of the tent is placed in the south wall to avoid the northwest winds from entering the tent. In warm weather, sections from all sides of the tent are opened to allow the breeze to enter. During the winter and rainy season, the tent becomes a tight and warm shelter, as the wool fabric of the tent expands and prevents rain from leaking into the tent.

Habitat and Shelters Artwork by Haya Al Hitmi (2020) by Haya Al HitmiNational Museum of Qatar

Human Perseverance

Humans have the ability to overcome hardships. From war to natural disasters, history has shown that humans can adapt to various conditions and overcome threats successfully. In Qatar, people have survived with the Global influenza pandemic in 1918-1919, the Sanat Al Tabah in 1925, the collapse of the pearling industry in the 1930s, and more recently the Ramadan Blockade in 2017. 

The artwork above by Haya Al Hitmi evokes emotions related to determination and inner-strength. During her experience in quarantine, the artist took shelter at home and found solace in art-making.

"Safe haven is the protective place that we run to whenever we needed. It doesn't mean necessarily a place that we hide in on the time of terror and fearsome, it embraced much more than these sentiments. It’s the shoulder that we lean on during the peak of our feeling, in happiness, sadness and even in boredom. Everyone has his own shelter. And for me, drawing was my own harbor in the time of quarantine. I used to run away from reality and find myself on the surface of drawing papers. Each sketch and line of my drawings contain a piece of myself".
- Haya Al Hitmi

Doha Skyline During Corona (2020) by Hamad Al BadrNational Museum of Qatar

Taking Shelter in 2020

Now, in 2020, we face a global threat, COVID-19, a disease that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. The Qatari government has taken various measures in alignment with global standards to protect its citizens. This time, in order to protect ourselves we simply need to take shelter within our own homes. Take a look at other people’s shelters and explore how they survive this emergency.    

Doha Skyline During Corona, Hamad Al Badr, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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Habitat and Shelters Artwork by Dr. Alexandrine Guerin (2020) by Dr. Alexandrine GuerinNational Museum of Qatar

Artwork by Dr. Alexandrine Guerin

The artwork depicts life in quarantine in color, and all that is outside in black and white. 

"All the images in the black ink squares: it is all the outside moments that I miss but that I have in my heart: the nature, the sea and the movement of the dhows, the evenings in the desert with my Qatari friends."

"The two watercolours: the inside of my house in [the] Pearl where I feel safe, where we say hello to the neighbours from the balcony"

"...And [where] the new cooking recipes [are made, and], where we mix India and fresh Breton cream with a hint of Dijon mustard." 

Dr Alexandrine Guerin's work paints the prohibited adventures monochromatically symbolizing a loss of color and life, while her depiction of the home is rich and vibrant. The work is emblematic to the emotions of longing for the external environment and the revitalization of the home.

Julie Skarratt's work, below, adds to the reimagining of the home, and the importance of shelter in times of crisis .

Habitat and Shelters Artwork by Julie Skarratt, Julie Skarratt, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"My bedroom has become my safe and happy place. I have never spent much time at home and never allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in however since Covid 19 I have realized how important a good nights sleep is. There is no TV in my room. There is a radio beside my bed that I listen to each night and morning. It tells me what is happening in the world around me. I feel safe inside these 4 walls"
- Julie Skarratt

Catherine Simon's submission focuses on the role of nature in providing peace through turbulent times.

Habitat and Shelters Photograph by Catherine Simon, Catherine Simon, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"The world is living a very difficult time with covid-19 bringing havoc to families and economy. I am very privileged to have a garden and bees that brought me peace and hope. Bees have always brought me comfort in difficult time, I remember when my father was terminally ill and I could refill with energy by visiting the bee-yard. Sitting for tea or coffee with bees naturally drifts you to meditation, their gentle buzz is like trickling water to soothe the mind".
- Catherine Simon

Nemanja Cavlovic's experience of taking shelter highlights the important the role the habitat and shelter has in providing a safe space for introspection and growth.

Habitat and Shelters Artwork by Nemanja Cavlovic, Nemanja Cavlovic, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"My safe habitat during the COVID-19 pandemic was my balcony. My apartment provided me with privacy which at this time meant isolation meaning something we all had more then we desired. However, stepping out on my balcony provided me more than just the sun on my face and the fresh breeze on my skin. it represented a dimension where I shared air with the rest of the world, the world which was in some limbo. This continuously reinsured me that I’m not alone and that we all together wish for everything to be alright again."
- Nemanja Cavlovic

The View From Within (2020) by Deborah (Amnah) KlattNational Museum of Qatar

The View from Within

Artwork and text by Deborah (Amnah) Klatt 

"Paper beige. Sand beige. Beige is clear. Beige is neutral. Beige is predictable but peaceful. Outside on sandy days I miss my visits home to the bright greens and deep oranges of the California hillsides. Covid19 keeps me inside feeling uninspired."

"I once read that Kandinsky said, 'The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.'"

"Sitting at my desk looking out at the sunset, I realize the window presents me with new opportunities to paint, and explore the rich warm colors that contrast with the cool beige sand and the pure blue gulf waters. It seems my most inspiring space is the one that surrounds me"

"I am an artist and a children's books author. I think anyone could carve out a tiny corner or nook in their house, where they can relax or simply enjoy being on their own. Here, in this space, I sometimes practice painting, and at other times I write stories. I also surrounded myself with the books I like, and the art tools I need. I do enjoy my self-quarantine very much. What about you?"
- Lina Al Ali

Amna Albuainain Distraction (2020) by Amna AlbuainainNational Museum of Qatar

Amna Albuainain

Amna Albuainain Distraction (2020) by Amna AlbuainainNational Museum of Qatar

Safe by Vanessa Almacen (2020) by Vanessa AlmacenNational Museum of Qatar

Vanessa Almacen

Herru Yoga The wall (#1) (2020) by Herru YogaNational Museum of Qatar

Herru Yoga

Herru Yoga The wall (#3) (2020) by Herru YogaNational Museum of Qatar

Mohamed Faris Stay at Home (2020) by Mohamed FarisNational Museum of Qatar

Mohamed Faris

Mohamed Faris Stay at Home (2020) by Mohamed FarisNational Museum of Qatar

Mohamed Faris Stay at Home (2020) by Mohamed FarisNational Museum of Qatar

Fatima Al-Yousef A State Of Mind (2020) by Fatima Al-YousefNational Museum of Qatar

Fatima Al Yousef

Fatima Al-Yousef Bad News (2020) by Fatima Al-YousefNational Museum of Qatar

Light vs Dark (2020) by Gerald KiharaNational Museum of Qatar

Gerald Kihara

Reflections (2020) by Rouqueya El KarkouriNational Museum of Qatar

Rouqueya El Karkouri

Imaginary Covid Garden (2020) by Khulood El KarkouriNational Museum of Qatar

Children Taking Shelter

The spread of the pandemic resulted in the closure of schools and public parks in Qatar. As a way to offset the negative impact of quarantine on kids, cultural institutions in Qatar began heavily promoting art, reading and craft activities for children to do at home.

Imaginary Covid Garden Imaginary Covid Garden, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
Imaginary Covid Garden, Khulood El Karkouri, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"Imaginary Covid Garden" is an artwork and letter by Khoulood El Karkouri.  The letter is a an enchanting first-person account on the impact quarantine had on children.  

Flowers of Our School, Rakesh Verma, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"'Flowers of Our School" is a  photograph by Rakesh Verma that  "depicts the children 'making' themselves act as FLOWERS amidst the corona pandemic lockdown and enjoying the environment of a garden indoors" 

Salah Lafoui Safe Sea (2020) by Salah LafouiNational Museum of Qatar

Salah Lafoui Safe Sea (2020) by Salah LafouiNational Museum of Qatar

Covid Days (2020) by Jawaher El KarkouriNational Museum of Qatar

First-Person Account on Life in Quarantine

"Covid Days" is a poem by 11-year-old Jawaher El Karkouri. The poem is written on painted watercolour paper using the suminagashi watercolor technique. 

The photograph below taken by 13-year-old Souhayla El Karkouri symbolizes how through the illumination and power of reading one is able to experience awe and wonder without having to leave the shelter.

Habitat and Shelters Photograph by Souhayla El Karkouri, Souhayla El Karkouri, 2020, From the collection of: National Museum of Qatar
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"Personally, I have found that reading is my way to relax and take my mind off of schoolwork and the pandemic in general. I think reading is such an important form of education as you can learn from so many people with different mindsets, opinions, thoughts, and ideas. Not only do you gain knowledge since every book has a deeper meaning, but you also gain creativity because of the contrasting word choice and thought process of the characters. Additionally, each book has its own lesson and meaning that the author is trying to portray, whether it is through quotes, thoughts, and actions of the characters or illustrations. In my mind, I think of reading as a way to tune out real-life struggles and situations, including this pandemic, and instead, truly feel the emotions and struggles of those in my book. Characters in books tend to have special charismas that lead them to stay determined no matter how tough their situation is. I like to correlate this to our pandemic and how we may be struggling now, but we will be able to get through it if we put in our efforts, as well as keeping a positive attitude and mindset along the way."
-Souhayla El Karkouri

Dohini Wears the Mask (2020) by Lyubov JalladyanNational Museum of Qatar

Our Nature and The Natural Environment

While COVID-19 has presented us with new challenges, it has also provided our planet the opportunity to breathe for a minute. However, we still need to be mindful of our actions and their impact on the planet.   

The artwork "Dohini Wears the Mask" by Lyubov Jalladyan is painted over the local newspaper clippings that have been stretched on canvas. The artwork is a call of action for viewers to be more conscious of the environment and to recognize that our habitat is a source of life not only to humans but also to animals.

"With this painting I would like to bring the message of proper utilization of disposable safe masks in Qatar. Have you noticed recently the masks and gloves on the roads? Protecting ourselves from Covid19 we add to the pollution of the environment and the marine (Gulf waters and the fish), hence bringing forward another ecological pandemic if we won"t learn proper utilization of PPE."
- Lyubov Jalladyan

Credits: Story

Habitats and Shelters includes media from the National Museum of Qatar's digital archive and special contributions from Lina Al Ali, Hamad Al Badr, Nemanja Cavlovic, Jawaher El Karkouri, Khoulood El Karkouri, Lyubov Jalladyan, Souhayla El Karkouri, Dr Alexandrine Guerin, Haya Al Hitmi, Lyubov Jalladyan,  Deborah (Amnah) Klatt, Catherine Simon, Julie Skarratt, and Rakesh Verma.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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