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Qatif Oasis: The historical Gate of Persian Gulf
واحة القطيف - 6 / 8 / 2009م - 5:47 ص
Qatif on The Map
Qatif on The Map
Qatif or Al-Qatif (also spelled Qateef or Al-Qateef is a historic, coastal oasis region located on the western shore of the Persian Gulf in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. It extends from Ras Tanura and Jubail in the north to Dammam in the south, and from the Persian Gulf in the east to King Fahd International Airport in the west. This region includes the town of Qatif as well many smaller towns and villages.

History


The historic oasis area shows its first archeological evidence of settlement beginning about 3500 BC. It was known by other names, such as Al-Khatt, immortalized in the poetry of `Antara ibn Shaddad, Tarafa ibn Al-`Abd, Bashar ibn Burd (in his famous Ba'yya), and others.

The word «Khatty» became the preferred «kenning» for «spear» in traditional poetic writing until the dawn of the modern era, supposedly because the region was famous for spear making, just as «muhannad» ("of India") was the preferred kenning for «sword».

The older name also survives as the eponym of several well-known local families («Al-Khatti», spelled variously in English).

Qatif functioned for centuries as the main town and port in this region of the Persian Gulf. In fact, it was called Cateus by the Greeks, and some early European maps even labeled the entire present-day Persian Gulf as the «Sea of El Catif». Qatif oasis and the nearby island of Tarout are some of the most interesting tourist and archeological sites in the Kingdom, which reflects the importance of the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the past.

Until 1521 and Ottoman rule, Qatif belonged to the historical region known as the Province of Bahrain, along with Al-Hasa and the present-day Bahrain islands.

In 899 the Qarmatians conquered the region with the oases of Qatif and Al-Hasa. They declared themselves independent and reigned from al-Mu'miniya near modern Hofuf until 1071.

The Buyids of western Persia raided Qatif in 988. From 1071 until 1253 the Uyunids ruled the region first from the city of "al-Hasa" (predecessor to modern Hofuf) and later from Qatif.

In 1253 the Usfurids rose from Al-Hasa and ruled during the struggle of Qays with the Hormuz for control of the coast. Probably at about this time Qatif becam the main port for the mainland surpassing 'Uqair in importance for the trade and thus became the capital of the Usfurids.

Ibn Battuta, visited Qatif in 1331 and found it a large and prosperous city inhabited by Arab tribes whom he described as «extremist Shi`is» (rafidiyya Ghulat).

Power shifted in 1440 to the Jabrids of the Al-Hasa oasis. In 1515 the Portuguese conquered Hormuz and sacked Qatif in 1520, killing the Jabrid ruler Muqrin ibn Zamil.

The Portuguese invaded the island of Bahrain and stayed there for the next eighty years. The ruler of Basra extended his power to Qatif in 1524 but ultimately in 1549 the Ottomans took over the whole region, building forts at Qatif and 'Uqair, though they could not expel the Portuguese from the island of Bahrain.

In 1680 the Al Humayd of the Banu Khalid took the by now weak garrison of the Ottomans in Hofuf. In a battle at Ghuraymil, south of Qatif, the Banu Khalid lost their rule to the new «First Saudi State» in 1790.

In 1818 the Saudi State was destroyed in the Ottoman-Saudi War and the commander of the mostly Egyptian troops, Ibrahim Pasha, took control of Hofuf, only to evacuate it the next year and return to the west coast.

The Humayd regained control until the Banu Khalid were finally defeated in 1830 by the «Second Saudi State» who now took control of the whole region. The Ottomans moved in again in 1871 not to be expelled until 1913 when Ibn Saud finally established the Saudi rule in the Eastern Province.

Climate


Qatif enjoys a continental climate with temperatures approaching 49 degrees Celsius (120.2 F) in the summer and an average humidity of 75%. In winter, temperatures range between 2 and 18 degrees Celsius (64F and 77F). During the months of May and June, warm seasonal winds called albwarh affect the region. The rest of the year, the moist southern winds, or alcos, bring humidity. There is little rainfall.

Demographics


The Qatif region is the largest center of Shia Islam in Saudi Arabia. Since 2003, the community is allowed to observe the Ashura ceremony and other Shia days of remembrance in open, lively manner.

As of 2004, the total population of Qatif was 474,573; ranking as one of the ten most populated counties in Saudi Arabia. Qatif has one of the lowest numbers of non-Saudi residents in the kingdom (only 59,808).

Districts


List of towns and villages forming Qatif county:
Qatif City
Tarout Island
Umm-Sahik
Saihat
Safwa
Al-Awamiyah
Al-Jish
Al-Qudaih
Al-Jaroudiya
Umm Al-Hamam
Al-Taubi
Al-Khuwailidiya
Hellat-Muhaish
Enak
Al-Awjam
Al-Malahha

Economy


Traditionally reliant on agriculture, Qatif has become famous in the oil industry recently, mainly due to the giant Qatif project, which produces 800,000 barrels of oil each day, making Qatif possibly the most oil-producing city in the world.

Other petroleum industries within the city include gas separator plants and pipeline facilities. Pipelines are distributed around Qatif area which had been an obstacle for urban expanding that resulted in removal of farms or building artificial lands on the sea.

In addition to its involvement in the oil industry and commerce, the Qatif region has a thriving agricultural sector, producing a wide range of crops, including dates (especially the khlass, khunaizi, maji, hallao, and khsab al-asfour varieties), limes, bananas, grapes, pomegranates, figs, tomatoes, okra, radishes, and onions. Qatif is also the main supplier of fish to the kingdom as well as the largest fishing center in the Persian Gulf region.

Qatif is well-known for its traditional markets (suqs) such as the weekly Thursday Market «Suq Alkhamees» and «Suq Waqif».

The Qatif coastline is rich with shrimp and many varieties of fish, especially the safi (Siganus species), kan`ad (Scomberomorus commerson), hamoor (grouper), shi`ri, badeh, and mayd varieties. It has the largest fish market in the kingdom and the Persian Gulf region. It has the largest fish market in the western Asia, not only in the Persian Gulf region.

Transport


Qatif enjoys excellent connections with other Saudi urban centres by highways mainly the Dhahran-Jubail Highway which runs across Qatif; it is also close to the causeway that connects the kingdom with the nation of Bahrain. Air service is provided at the near by King Fahd International Airport.