Qatar

دولة قطر
Dawlat Qatar

State of Qatar
Flag of Qatar Coat of arms of Qatar
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: As Salam al Amiri
Location of Qatar
Capital Doha
Largest city Doha
Official language Arabic
Government Monarchy
 - Emir Hamad bin Khalifa
 - Prime Minister Abdullah bin Khalifah Al Thani
Independence1 from the United Kingdom 
 -   September 3 1971 
Area
 - Total 11,437 km² (164th)
4,416 sq mi 
 - Water (%) negligible
Population
 - July 2006 estimate 839,213 (158th2)
 - 2004 census 744,029 [1]
 - Density 74/km² (121st)
192/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $25.01 billion (102nd)
 - Per capita $31,397 (11th)
GDP (nominal) 2005 estimate
 - Total $37.85 billion (62nd)
 - Per capita $43,110 (7th)
HDI  (2004) 0.844 (high) (46th)
Currency Riyal (QAR)
Time zone (UTC+3)
 - Summer (DST) (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .qa
Calling code +974
1 Ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s.
2 Rank based on 2005 estimate.

Qatar (Arabic: قطر IPA: [ˈqɑ̱.tˁɑ̱r][1]), officially the State of Qatar (Arabic: دولة قطر , Dawlat Qatar), is an emirate in the Middle East and Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the larger Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south; otherwise the Persian Gulf surrounds the state.

Contents

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History

Qatar forms one of the newer emirates in the Arabian Peninsula. After domination by Persians for thousands of years and more recently by the Ottoman Turks, and finally by the British, Qatar became an independent state on September 3, 1971. Unlike most nearby emirates, Qatar declined to become part of either the United Arab Emirates or of Saudi Arabia.

Although the peninsular land mass that makes up Qatar has sustained humans for thousands of years, for the bulk of its history the arid climate fostered only short-term settlements by nomadic tribes. Clans such as the Al Khalifa and the Al Saud (which would later ascend the thrones of Bahrain and of Saudi Arabia respectively) swept through the Arabian peninsula and camped on the coasts within small fishing and pearling villages. The clans battled each other for lucrative oyster beds and lands, frequently forming and breaking coalitions with one another in their attempts to establish territorial supremacy.

Qatari desert.
Qatari desert.

The British initially sought out Qatar and the Persian Gulf as an intermediary vantage point en route to their colonial interests in India, although the discovery of oil and other hydrocarbons in the early twentieth century would re-invigorate their interest. During the nineteenth century, the time of Britain’s formative ventures into the region, the Al Khalifa clan reigned over the Northern Qatari peninsula from the nearby island of Bahrain to the west. Although Qatar had the legal status of a dependency, resentment festered against the Bahraini Al Khalifas along the eastern seaboard of the Qatari peninsula. In 1867, the Al Khalifas launched a successful effort to quash the Qatari rebels sending a massive naval force to Wakrah. However, the Bahraini aggression was in violation on the 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty. The diplomatic response of the British to this violation set into motion the political forces that would eventuate in the founding of the state of Qatar. In addition to censuring Bahrain for its breach of agreement, the British Protectorate (per Colonel Lewis Pelly) asked to negotiate with a representative from Qatar. The request carried with it a tacit recognition of Qatar’s status as distinct from Bahrain. The Qataris chose as their negotiator the respected entrepreneur and long-time resident of Doha, Muhammed bin Thani. His clan, the Al Thanis, had taken relatively little part in Persian Gulf politics, but the diplomatic foray ensured their participation in the movement towards independence and their dominion as the future ruling family, a dynasty that continues to this day. The results of the negotiations left Qatar with a new-found sense of political selfhood, although it did not gain official standing as a British protectorate until 1916.

The Emiri Diwan.
The Emiri Diwan.

The reach of the British Empire diminished after the Second World War, especially following Indian independence in 1947. Pressure for a British withdrawal from the Arab emirates in the Persian Gulf increased during the 1950s, and the British welcomed Kuwait's declaration of independence in 1961. When Britain officially announced in 1968 that it would disengage politically, though not economically, from the Persian Gulf in three years' time, Qatar joined Bahrain and seven other Trucial States in a federation. Regional disputes however, quickly compelled Qatar to resign and declare independence from the coalition that would evolve into the seven-imarat United Arab Emirates. In 1971, Qatar became an independent sovereign state.

Since 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has ruled Qatar, seizing control of the country from his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani while the latter vacationed in Switzerland. Under Emir Hamad, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalization, including the enfranchisement of women, a new constitution, and the launch of Al Jazeera, the controversial Arabic language satellite television news channel. Qatar ranks as the eleventh richest country in the world per capita [2].

Qatar served as the headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the US invasion of Iraq [3] in 2003.

In 2005, a suicide-bombing killed a British teacher at the Doha Players Theatre, shocking a country that had not previously experienced acts of terrorism. It is not clear if the bombing was committed by an organized terrorist group, and although the investigation is ongoing there are indications that the attack was the work of an individual, not a group.[citation needed]

The United States Armed Forces Unified Combatant Command unit for the Middle East theater, known as CENTCOM (US Central Command), has its headquarters in Qatar. Qatar also hosts a large United States Air Force base.

Qatar held the 15th Asian Games in December 2006.

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Administrative divisions

Qatar is divided into ten municipalities (Arabic: baladiyah), also occasionally translated as governorates or provinces:

  1. Ad Dawhah
  2. Al Ghuwariyah
  3. Al Jumaliyah
  4. Al Khawr
  5. Al Wakrah
  6. Ar Rayyan
  7. Jariyan al Batnah
  8. Ash Shamal
  9. Umm Salal
  10. Mesaieed
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Economy and Income

Qatar's great wealth is most visible in its capital, Doha.
Qatar's great wealth is most visible in its capital, Doha.

Before the discovery of oil the economy of the Qatari region focused on fishing and pearling. After the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the world market in the 1920s and 1930s, Qatar's pearling industry faltered. However, the discovery of oil reserves, beginning in the 1940s, completely transformed the nation's economy. Now the country has a high standard of living, with many social services offered to its citizens and all the amenities of any modern nation.

Qatar's national income primarily derives from oil and natural gas exports. The country has oil estimated at 15 billion barrels (2.4 km³). Qataris' wealth and standard of living compare well with those of Western European nations; Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the developing world. With no income tax, Qatar is also one of the two least-taxed sovereign states in the world.

While oil and gas will probably remain the backbone of Qatar's economy for some time to come, the country seeks to stimulate the private sector and develop a "knowledge economy". In 2004, it established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, from overseas and within Qatar. Qatar also established "education city" which consists of international colleges. For the 15th Asian Games in Doha, it established a "sports city" consisting of Khalifa stadium, the Aspire Sports Academy, aquatic centres, exhibition centres and many other sports related buildings and centres. Qatar also plans to build an "entertainment city" in the future.

Qatar is aiming to become a role model for economic and social transformation in the region. Large scale investment in all social and economic sectors will also lead to the development of a strong financial market.

The Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFC) provides financial institutions with a world class financial services platform situated in an economy founded on the development of its hydrocarbons resources. It has been created with a long term perspective to support the development of Qatar and the wider region, develop local and regional markets, and strengthen the links between the energy based economies and global financial markets.

Apart from Qatar itself, which needs to raise the capacity of its financial services to support more than $130 billion worth of projects, the QFC also provides a conduit for financial services providers to access nearly $1 trillion of investment across the GCC as a whole over the next decade.

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Geography

Map of Qatar
Map of Qatar

The Qatari peninsula juts 100 miles (160 km) into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. Much of the country consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand. To the southeast lies the spectacular Khor al Adaid ("Inland Sea"), an area of rolling sand dunes surrounding an inlet of the Gulf.

The highest point in Qatar occurs in the Jebel Dukhan to the west, a range of low limestone outcrops running north-south from Zikrit through Umm Bab to the southern border, and reaching about 295 feet (90 m) ASL. This area also contains Qatar's main onshore oil deposits, while the natural gas fields lie offshore, to the northwest of the peninsula.

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Population

Nearly all Qataris profess Islam. Besides ethnic Arabs, much of the population migrated from various nations to work in the country's oil industry. Arabic serves as the official language. However English as well as many other languages are spoken in Qatar.

Expatriates form the majority of Qatar's residents. The petrochemical industry has attracted people from all around the world. Most of the expatriates come from South Asia and from surrounding non-oil-rich Arab nations. Because a large percentage of the expatriates are male, Qatar has the most heavily skewed sex ratio in the world, with 1.88 males per female [4].

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Culture

Qatar explicitly uses Wahhabi law as the basis of its government, and the vast majority of its citizens follow this specific Islamic doctrine. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab founded Wahhabism, a puritanical version of Islam which takes a literal interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In the eighteenth century, Abd Al-Wahhab formed a compact with the al-Saud family, the founders of Saudi Arabia.

In the early twentieth century, when the Al-Thanis realized that converting to the doctrine of their larger neighbor might bode well for the survival of their regime, they imported Wahhabi Islam from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. Perhaps as an effect of the importation, Wahhabism takes a more tolerant form in Qatar than in Saudi Arabia, though it still governs a large portion of Qatari mores and rituals. For example, almost all Qatari women wear the black abaya (also donned in Saudi Arabia); the government, however, does not impose the style universally. The abaya is mainly passed down from generation to generation and is still present because of the traditional values of the country.

Shi'as comprise just over 10% of the Muslim population[citation needed].

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Qatari law

When contrasted with other Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, for instance, Qatar has comparatively liberal laws. Women can drive in Qatar, whereas they may not legally drive in Saudi Arabia.

The country has undergone a period of liberalization and modernization after the current Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, came to power after overthrowing his father. For example, women can dress mostly as they please in public (although in practice local Qatari women generally don the black abaya). Before the liberalization, it was taboo for men to wear shorts in public. The laws of Qatar tolerate alcohol to a certain extent. However, public bars in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels (whereas the emirates of Dubai and Bahrain allow the establishment of nightclubs and other venues, however, also only in conjunction with a hotel). A further liberalization may take place in order to accommodate the 15th Asian Games in 2006.

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Education

In recent years Qatar has placed great emphasis on education. Along with the country’s free healthcare to every citizen, every child has free education from kindergarten through to university. The country has one university, the University of Qatar, and a number of higher educational institutions. Additionally, with the support of the Qatar Foundation, some major American universities have opened branch campuses in Education City, Qatar. These include Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Cornell University's Weill Medical College. In 2004, Qatar established the Qatar Science & Technology Park at Education City to link those universities with industry. Education City is also home to a fully accredited International Baccalaureate school, Qatar Academy.

In November 2002, the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani created the Supreme Education Council. The Council directs and controls education for all ages from the pre-school level through the university level, including the "Education for a New Era" reform initiative.

The Emir's second wife, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, has been instrumental in new education initiatives in Qatar. She chairs the Qatar Foundation and is on the board of Qatar's Supreme Education Council.

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Communications

Qatar has a modern Telecommunication system centered in Doha. Tropospheric scatter to Bahrain; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia and UAE; submarine cable to Bahrain and UAE; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat. People can call to Qatar using their submarine cable, satellite or using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol); however, Qtel has interfered with VoIP systems in the past, and Skype's website has been blocked before.

Qtel's ISP branch, Internet Qatar, uses SmartFilter to block websites they deem inappropriate to Qatari interests and morality.

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Notes and references

  1. The pronunciation of Qatar in English varies; see List of words of disputed pronunciation for details.
    In terms of English phonemics, the vowels sound halfway between short u /ʌ/ and broad a /ɑ/. The q and the t have no direct counterparts, but are closest to the unaspirated allophones of English k and t. However, since these allophones cannot occur in these positions in English, in this context they will sound more like English g and d. So the closest pronunciation, according to English phonemics, to the original Arabic might be [ˈɡɑd.ə(r)] or [ˈɡʌd.ə(r)].
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See also

  • 2006 Asian Games in Doha
  • Al Jazeera television
  • ASPIRE sports academy
  • Communications in Qatar
  • Foreign relations of Qatar
  • List of cities in Qatar
  • List of Qatar-related topics
  • Military of Qatar
  • Public holidays in Qatar
  • Scouting and Guiding
  • Transport in Qatar
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External links

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News
Overviews
Directories
Tourism
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Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)

مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربية

Bahrain | Kuwait | Oman | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | United Arab Emirates


Current monarchies
African: Lesotho | Morocco () | Swaziland (*)
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* absolute monarchy, semi-constitutional monarchy, ! electoral monarchy
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