Qatar has transformed due to vast oil and gas reserves from an impoverished outcrop on the Arabian Peninsula into one of the richest countries in the world.
In previous years, Qatar was best known for being unknown, Qatar
had a habit of falling off the outside world's radar
Most foreign maps of Arabia drawn before
the 19th century don't show the Qatar peninsula,
and most people in the West don't even know where
it is. Fewer still can pronounce it (somewhere in
between 'cutter' and 'gutter,' rather than rhyming
Previously not among the world's hottest tourist
destinations, it only began issuing tourist visas
in 1989, but after a slow start Qatar has begun
to reap the benefits of its new openness. Though
it's still a far cry from the tourist centres of the Middle East, Qatar is definitely worth a look. It's
considered safe and secure for foreigners although
demonstrations and other political gatherings are
sq km (4416 sq miles)
Population Density: 50.6 per
Independence: Gained independence from the UK in 1971
Ethnicity/Race: Most Qataris are Arabs; some have Iranian or African
ancestry. Large foreign communities of Indians,
Iranians, Pakistanis, and Egyptians. Other groups
include Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Sudanese, Afghans,
other Arabs, Sri Lankans, and Westerners, mostly
is the official language of Qatar and Islam is
the official religion with both contributing greatly
to the Nation’s cultural identity. The Arab
heritage and the Islamic religion are present
in the local modes of dress, culinary styles,
architecture and art.
English is widely used in everyday life and a
majority of businesses are capable of completing
transactions and services using English.
Riyal (QR) = 100 dirhams. Notes are in denominations
of QR500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations
of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 dirhams; however, only
the 50 and 25 coins are in wide circulation, minting
of the rest ceased in the 1970s.
Mosques are located all over the country for daily worship, from which calls to prayer are announced throughout the day.
Qatar is an oil-rich peninsula jutting
out into the Gulf between Bahrain and the United
Arab Emirates. There are hills in the northwest,
but the rest of the country consists of sand dunes
and salt flats, with scattered vegetation towards
Qatar occupies 11,437 square kilometers on a peninsula
that extends approximately 160 kilometers north
into the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Peninsula.
Varying in width between fifty-five and ninety
kilometers, the land is mainly flat (the highest
point is 103 meters) and rocky.
include coastal salt pans, elevated limestone
formations (the Dukhan anticline) along the west
coast under which lies the Dukhan oil field, and
massive sand dunes surrounding Khawr al Udayd,
an inlet of the gulf in the southeast known to
local English speakers as the Inland Sea. Of the
islands belonging to Qatar, Halul is the most
important. Lying about ninety kilometers east
of Doha, it serves as a storage area and loading
terminal for oil from the surrounding offshore
fields. Hawar and the adjacent islands immediately
off the west coast are the subject of a territorial
dispute between Qatar and Bahrain.
The capital, Doha, is located on the central
east coast on a sweeping (if shallow) harbor.
reefs and shallow coastal waters make navigation
difficult in areas where channels have not been
Qatar shares its land border with the United
Arab Emirates (UAE), with which in 1993 it continued
to have a dispute in the Khawr al Udayd area.
The boundary with Saudi Arabia was settled in
1965 but never demarcated. Qatar's northwest coast
is fewer than thirty kilometers from Bahrain.
Doha is the capital of the country and the major
administrative, commercial, and population center.
In 1993 it was linked to other towns and development
sites by a system of about 1,000 kilometers of
Doha's international airport has
an approximately 4,500-meter main runway, capable
of receiving all kinds of aircraft.
The long summer (June through September) is characterized
by intense heat and alternating dryness and humidity,
with temperatures exceeding 55° C. Temperatures
are moderate from November through May, although
winter temperatures may fall to 17° C, which
is relatively cool for the latitude.
is negligible, averaging 100 millimeters per year,
confined to the winter months, and falling in
brief, sometimes heavy storms that often flood
the small ravines and the usually dry wadis. Sudden,
violent dust storms occasionally descend on the
peninsula, blotting out the sun, causing wind
damage, and momentarily disrupting transport and
The scarcity of rainfall and the limited underground
water, most of which has such a high mineral content
that it is unsuitable for drinking or irrigation,
restricted the population and the extent of agricultural
and industrial development the country could support
until desalination projects began. Although water
continues to be provided from underground sources,
most is obtained by desalination of seawater.
country has a hot desert climate with temperatures
ranging between 25 and 46 degrees Centigrade during
the summer, with high humidity in coastal cities
and towns. The months of April, May, October and
November tend to be the most temperate.
generally consists of flat rocky surfaces. It
does, however, include some hills and sand dunes
which reach an altitude of 40m above sea level
in the western and northern parts of the country.
Qatar is characterized by a number of geographical
features which are peculiar to the western side
of the Arabian Gulf. These include rainwater-draining
basins found mainly in the north and central areas
of the country. These two areas are considered
the most fertile and have attracted heavy agricultural
The arrival in Qatar of the Al-Thani family goes
back to the eighteenth century. The name of Al-Thani
is derived from that of the family's ancestor
Thani Bin Mohamad, father of Mohamad Bin Thani
who was the first Sheikh to rule over the Qatar
peninsula during the mid 19th Century. The family
is a branch of the ancient Arab tribe, the Bani
H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani,
Emir of Qatar
H.H. Sheikh Jassem Bin Hamad Al-Thani,
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani,
Prime Minister / Minister of Interior
The Emir is H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani,
who took over the reigns of power on 27th of June
1995. On October 22nd 1996, H.H. The Emir announced the
appointment of his fourth son H.H. Sheikh Jassem Bin Hamad Bin
Khalifa Al Thani as Heir Apparent.
On the 28th of October 1996, and following the
issue of an Emiri Decision amending some parts
of the Basic Temporary Amended Statutes of the
Rule of the State, H.H. the Emir took the step of
separating the post of Prime Minister from that
of the Emir and appointed H.H. Sheikh Abdulla Bin
Khalifa Al-Thani, as Premier. HH Sheikh Abdullah
retains his portfolio as Interior Minister in
the current Cabinet.
The Advisory Council comprising of notable senior
members of Qatari society, was convened for the
first time on 15th May 1972. The Council advises
on and reviews proposals related to State affairs
Government: Ruler is H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir since 1995. Heir apparent, H.H. Sheikh Jassem Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
Government structure based on 1970 provisional
constitution with Council of Ministers and Advisory
Politics: Power held by Emir
and Royal Family. Political parties banned, and
no open opposition tolerated.
Foreign Relations: Closely allied
with Saudi Arabia on regional and global issues.
Foreign policy efforts channeled through Gulf
Cooperation Council and other organizations, such
as Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries,
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries,
and Organization of the Islamic Conference. Member
of United Nations and League of Arab States.
Head of State and Government:
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
Consultative Assembly (Shura) is composed of 35 appointed members having only consultative duties. The Consultative Assembly is not elected but it is not democratic either.
Under Qatar's 2003 constitution, 30 of the Legislative Council's 45 members will be elected and the remaining 15 appointed by the Emir. The first actual election will take place in 2013.
At one point of time, fishing and pearling formed
the mainstay for the economic activity of Qatar.
Whilst the development of the cultured pearls
industry led to a sharp decline in the market
of natural pearls though fishing continues to
be the livelihood for some and sports for others.
Rod and line fishing from shore and from a boat
is quite popular amongst the expatriates, locals
still use the nets, traps and the basic handlines.
For fishing from the shore, Qataris use different
techniques: the throw-nets are often used to cover
small areas teeming with fish.; long nets are
staked out in the shallow and both nets and stones
were used to make inter tidal traps close to the
shore. Often from the beaches you will see dark
lines of stone ‘Maskar’. The long
low limestone block walls and narrow twisted entrance
channel allows the fish to swim in at high tide,
but leaves them stranded as the water recedes
at low tide. Amongst the other traditional traps
are the ‘Hazra’ and ‘Gargour’
which were originally made from palm fronds, woven
like oval baskets. They are then baited and laid
on the sea bed overnight, their circular entrances
leading through narrowing cone to the interior.
The common fishes prominent around the year are
Barracuda, Cobia, Channad, Talang, Banded Travelly,
Pompano, Yellow fin tuna.
In the erstwhile, pearling was not just a job
but a profession and a way of life, and whole
villages would depend upon the success of the
pearling ‘season’ until Japanese got
the world introduced to the cultured pearls. After
this Qatar’s pearl industry suffered tremendously.
Pearls have been used as jewelry and adorn the
clothes of women for hundreds of years, but their
collection cost the lives of sailors and divers,
and the families were left for months on end without
a provider as the men of the household went to
sea during each extended pearling season. Life
at sea was no joke either. For days the divers
had to survive on dates and coffee for breakfast
and lunch and a slightly substantial meal of rice
and fish in the evening.
The divers of those times used very little equipment
nose-clips ‘fetam’ made from turtle
shell; rope baskets made from ‘dayyeen’
to collect the oysters; curved-blade knives to
open the oyster shells; finger-tip covers made
of leather to prevent cuts; weights tied to their
hands to help them sink to the sea bed; and two
ropes to the surfaces – one to hoist the
full baskets of oysters and other used as a their
safety line to dhow. These divers had incredible
stamina, without any breathing apparatus they
would dive for two minutes upto the depths of
12 meters. With the constant starving brain of
oxygen led to many health hazards. Divers would
harvest hundreds of oysters without finding a
PEARL. Even after the tough struggle with the
sea waters, they were times when these divers
would return home with no earnings to show for
their Hard Work.
Though, this profession had suffered a setback,
Natural pearls are beautiful, and are a part of
the country’s heritage.
Ladies wear a long filmy, rich embroidered over-dresses;
the day dresses or ‘Djellabia’ are
heavily embroidered at the neck and the cuffs;
the black cloaks or ‘Abbayas’; the
delicate filmy head coverings called ‘Shayla’,
the headscarves; the black, gold and silver decorated
‘Bukhnuq’ worn by young girls to cover
their heads and shoulders before they start to
wear the abbaya; and the veils and the masks.
Other dress is ‘Thobe Al Nashl’, which
is heavily embroidered made of finest silk or
chiffon. It is a wide rectangular over-garment,
which falls in delicate folds when worn. Favorite
colors used for this garment are red and purple,
green is reserved for weddings.
Men wear long white thobes, the crocheted or
embroidered caps are worn under the headdress;
the headdress or ‘Ghutra’- which can
be plain white, cream cashmere, black and white
or red and white checked cotton.; and the black
‘Agal’ which hold the headdress in
The weaving of the wool is the oldest and most
traditional craft practiced by the Bedouin. It
is name for the loom on which the women used to
produce the beautiful, functional floor rugs,
cushions, camel bags and almost everything that
was required for their lifestyle and home. The
culture was once woven from either goat hair or
sheep wool, gathered from their own livestock.
Women would sit on the ground pushing and pulling,
beating and plucking creating a thick dense cloth.
There were times when they would achieve the
width of 6ft and length as much as 25ft., the
weaving was a painstaking job. Rich shades of
red, yellow and ochre were used for decorating
the walls. The geometric designs made up of horizontal
and vertical stripes reflected the Islamic traditions.
The dye for the white wool were obtained from
Dancing is the form of expression, which comes
on its own on celebratory occasions. Festive season
is the most likely time when you will witness
folk dancers performing around the country. But
most likely one will witness for dances performed
by men folk. Amongst the dances – the most
popular is the ‘Ardha’ where the dancers
will be carrying the ceremonial swords. It is
performed on religious holidays like Eid and on
special occasions like Independence day or during
the Accession Day celebrations of His Highness
the Emir. It is a dance to display the unity,
strength of a group and is a display of allegiance
to the Emir and the society.
The other traditional dance performed in public
is ‘Lewa’ a dance performed purely
for pleasure and commonly performed at weddings
and on religious occasions.
Amongst the women dances are ‘Khammary’,
performed by the masked women, it involves the
co-ordination of steps with the Music. It has
light lyrics, often based on love poems. Other
women dances are ‘Sameri’ and ‘Ashouri’,
performed on celebratory occasions.
Desert Bedouin used camels extensively as pack
animals as well as for their milk, meat and hair.
In Qatar, the camel is still the prized animal
but it is the racing camels, which draw most of
attention. The Government of Qatar encourages
breeding of camels, and regular race meetings
are their testing ground. The racecourse is in
the Rayyan area. Races are held there on fridays
and certain special occasions. Betting is not
permitted under Islamic law.
Qatar Radio (English) 97.5, French Radio (French) 97.5, Sawt al Khaleej (Arabic) 100.8
World Service (website: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice)
and Voice of America (website: www.voa.gov) can
be received. From time to time the frequencies
change and the most up-to-date can be found online.