Qatar is a small country located between Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.It has an area of 11,437 sq km, which is roughly the size of Connecticut. Qatar is a relatively flat country with highest point reaching just over 300 feet. The majority of the land is barren desert. The country has an arid climate with mild winters and very hot, humid summers.
Since most of the land is desert, Qatar suffers from the lack of arable land. There are limited sources of fresh water, so Qatar is increasingly dependent on desalination facilities.The dry land leads to an increased likelihood of dust and sandstorms.
HISTORY & GOVERNMENT
Due to its central location, Qatar has been a stopping place for trade routes for many centuries. Goods from the Bronze Age were brought through the region and the area of what is now the State of Qatar was also along the Greco-Roman trade route. This brought a mixture of people, cultures and ideas in to country. During the 7thcentury, the people of modern day Qatar converted to Islam. They were under the control of Islamic empires for the next few centuries. The Abbasids and Umayyads strengthened the economy through trade and began diving for pearls.
When the Portuguese conquered the area, they continued the pearl industry. The Ottoman Turks conquered Qatar as they were moving through the Middle East. They maintained control for several centuries. The British destroyed the coast of Qatar in 1821 when they suspected the area a haven for pirates. The Bahrainis laid claim to the land and ruled during the 1800s. The relationship between Bahrain and Qatar became increasingly tense and erupted into several attacks by Bahrain on Qatar. In 1867 Bahrain attacked Doha and Al Wakra, which resulted in a major sea battle and a significant loss of life. The British negotiated a treaty between the Bahrain government and the Qataris that terminated Bahraini claim over the land in exchange for payment of tribute on a yearly basis. The Al-Thani family came to power and has been in power since.
Qatar became a protectorate for a short time between the 1st and 2nd World Wars. The British began pulling out of the Gulf region in 1968 and Qatar was for a short time in a federation with Bahrain and the U.A.E.. In 1971, Qatar officially became an independent state. In 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani seized power from his father, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani. The Emir has made the country more liberal socially and politically and written a new constitution. Qatar is still an absolute monarchy, but they have a Prime Minister (Hamad ibn Jaber Al Thani) and Consultative Assembly, which has little power.
PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
The population if Qatar is 2,123,160 (July 2014 est). Those of Arab descent make up only a small percentage of the national population; in fact, non-Arab expatriates make up the majority of the population with large numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Nepalese, and Iranians, among others, represented. This is partly a reflection of Qatar’s geostrategic location as a historical crossroads and trade route stopping point. While many of those who are not of Arab descent are foreign workers, some are citizens of Qatar and can trace their Qatari heritage back several generations. Arabic is the official language of Qatar; however, English is also used frequently, especially in schools and in businesses. Non-Arab ethnic communities are likely to utilize their respective languages. Most Qataris live in the cities and along the coast where the climate is more moderate.
Qatar has a free education system. Children have the opportunity to attend Kindergarten through high school free of charge. In addition to the public school system, there are also private schools to which parents can choose to send their children. The school system is run by the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Council. In recent years, the Supreme Education Council has attempted to improve and reform the system through the “Education for a New Era” campaign. There are two public universities in Qatar — the University of Qatar and CHN University Doha. Many international universities and research centers have set up satellite campuses in Qatar as part of its ambitious Education City initiative. The rise of satellite campuses has happened in the last 10 years and is becoming a popular choice among Qatari students.
In addition to a free education system, Qatar also has a free healthcare system. The first hospital opened in 1957 and major improvements have been made to the systems since that time. Qatar’s medical expertise is on par with the United States and Europe, with the exception of highly specialized areas. Qatar is also a regional leader in preventive health care services.
Just like many other countries in the region, Islam is the official religion of Qatar. The majority of the population is Sunni; however, there is also a small sect of Shia Muslims. There are a variety of holidays in Qatar, but the most popular are the religious ones: Id al Adha and Id al Fitr. There are also significant numbers of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Baha’is. These people are allowed to practice their religion, as long as, they follow the laws of Qatar and the dress modestly. Those adhering to other faiths are also not allowed to proselytize and they may face some restrictions on public worship.
The cultural hub of Qatar is in Doha, its capital. Qatar has a unique culture that has been influenced by the other cultures within its proximity, as well as by the high number of foreign workers residing within its borders. Food, art and music have been influenced by India and Iran, while clothing and behavioral customs are still strongly linked to Islam.
Popular art forms in Qatar include printing, pottery, sculpting, lace-making, jewelry making, calligraphy, drawing, painting and in recent years, photography. These art forms are influenced by Bedouin culture and Islam. Qatar recently built a Museum of Islamic Art. The museum houses a collection of art from many Middle Eastern countries in the hopes of preserving diverse varieties of Islamic art for posterity. The Qatar Museum Authority calls it “a museum for the world.”
The music of Qatar is highly influenced by Bedouin culture. Lyrics are typically Bedouin poetry and the music is played using Bedouing instruments. Khaliji is a type of traditional Bedouin music and one of the most popular types of music in Qatar. It is played using the Oud and Tabl drum. In addition to Khaliji being a popular form of music, there is also a popular dance that is performed to Khaliji.
Even though it is small, Qatar has many sights to offer. Most of these places are concentrated around Doha. Among its offering, there are many sites of historical significance such as forts and castles. Qatar also offers family friendly recreational options like the Palm Tree Island and the Doha Zoo. Qatar has a growing tourism industry as a result of these increasing attractions; the country also issues tourist visas more liberally.
Qatar has an array of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Horse racing is a popular pastime in Qatar as it is in other Arab nations. Football (soccer) and cricket are the most popular sports. Qatar has hosted the Asian Cup and Gulf Cup multiple times; the country is slated to host the 2022 World Cup series, though concerns have been raised both about the health risks of the high summer temperatures and questionable treatment of foreign workers recruited to build the necessary infrastructure needed to execute such a major international sporting event. Water sports like boat racing and diving are popular in Qatar because of its location on the Arabian Gulf. activities. Camel racing, falconry and cycling are also enjoyed.