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State of Qatar
دولة قطر
Dawlat Qaṭar
Flag Emblem
Anthem: السلام الأميري (Arabic)
As Salam al Amiri  ( transliteration)
Amiri Salute

Location and extent of Qatar (green) on the Arabian Peninsula.
Location and extent of Qatar (green) on the Arabian Peninsula.
and largest city
25°18′N 51°31′E
Official languages Arabic
Demonym Qatari
Government Absolute monarchy
 -  Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
 -  Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
 -  Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani
Legislature Consultative Assembly
 -  Qatar National Day 18 December 1878 
 -  Independence from the United Kingdom
3 September 1971 
 -  Total 11,571 km2 ( 164th)
4,467.6 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2013 estimate 1,903,447
 -  2010 census 1,699,435 ( 148th)
 -  Density 160.2/km2 ( 123rd)
414.9/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $182.004 billion
 -  Per capita $102,943
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $173.847 billion
 -  Per capita $98,329
Gini (2007) 41.1
HDI (2013) Increase 0.834
very high · 36th
Currency Riyal ( QAR)
Time zone AST ( UTC+3)
 -  Summer ( DST) not observed ( UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Calling code 974
ISO 3166 code QA
Internet TLD
  • .qa
  • قطر.

Qatar ( / ˈ k ɑː t ɑr / or / k ə ˈ t ɑr /; Arabic: قطرQaṭar [ˈqɑtˤɑr]; local vernacular pronunciation: [ɡɪtˤɑr], officially the State of Qatar (Arabic: دولة قطرDawlat Qaṭar), is a sovereign Arab state, located in Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Persian Gulf. A strait in the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island state of Bahrain.

Qatar has been ruled as an absolute and hereditary emirate by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. Formerly one of the poorest Persian Gulf states, the mainly barren country was noted mainly for pearl hunting. It was a British protectorate until it gained independence in 1971. Since then, it has become one of the region's wealthiest states due to its enormous oil and natural gas revenues. In 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became Emir when he deposed his father, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, in a peaceful coup d'état. The most important positions in Qatar are held by the members of the Al Thani family, or close confidants of the al-Thani family. Beginning in 1992, Qatar has built intimate military ties with the United States, and is now the location of U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Centre.

Qatar has proven reserves of oil and natural gas. Qatar tops the list of the world's richest countries by Forbes. In 2010, Qatar had the world's highest GDP per capita, while the economy grew by 19%, the fastest in the world. The main drivers for this rapid growth are attributed to ongoing increases in production and exports of liquefied natural gas, oil, petrochemicals, and related industries. Qatar has the second-highest human development in the Arab World after the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, Qatar was the United States’ fifth-largest export market in the Middle East (after the UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt).

With a small citizen population of fewer than 250,000 people, foreign workers outnumber native Qataris. Foreign expatriates come mainly from other Arab nations (20% of population), the Indian subcontinent (India 24.5%, Nepal 13%, Pakistan 7%, Sri Lanka 5%), Southeast Asia (Philippines 10%), and other countries (5%). Qatar has attracted an estimated $100 billion in investment, with approximately $60 to $70 billion coming from the United States in the energy sector. It is estimated that Qatar will invest over $120 billion in the energy sector in the next ten years.


The name may derive from Qatara, believed to refer to the Qatari town of Zubara, an important trading port and town in the region in ancient times. Another possibility is that it comes from the Persian word Gwadar which means port. There are similar places in the region with that name, such as Gwadar in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

In Standard Arabic, the name is pronounced [ˈqɑtˤɑr], while in the local dialect it is [ˈɡitˤar].



Zubarah Fort is located in the town of Zubarah in the municipality of Madinat ash Shamal.

Human habitation of the Qatar Peninsula dates as far back as 50,000 years when small groups of inhabitants built coastal encampments, settlements, and sites for working flint that were dated to be from the Neolithic era, according to archaeological evidence.

Recent discoveries in Wadi Debay’an, a site located a few kilometers south of Zubarah, indicate human presence from 7,500 years ago. Amongst the findings were a wall built of stone, possibly used as a fish trap. Discovery of a 6th millennium BC site at Shagra, in southeastern Qatar revealed the key role the sea (the Persian Gulf) played in the lives of Shagra’s inhabitants. Excavations at Al Khor in northeastern Qatar, Bir Zekrit and Ras Abaruk, and the discovery there of pottery, flint, flint-scraper tools, and painted ceramic vessels indicates Qatar’s connection with the Al-Ubaid civilisation, which flourished in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq during the period of 5th–4th millennium BC. It is thought that Mesopotamian fisherman working the rich fishing banks off the Arabian coast visited local settlements, bringing pottery with them and exchanging it for fresh meat in an improvised barter-based trade system. The first pot sherds of the Ubaid Mesopotamia were found by a Danish expedition in Al Da'asa in 1961, but not identified until later. A second expedition was held in 1973–74 led by Beatrice De Cardi. Contact between the people of Mesopotamia and the eastern Arabian coast (including Qatar) continued over centuries.

In the early 3rd millennium, Sumerians settled on Tarut Island, off the Saudi coast, approximately 100 kilometers north-west of Qatar. Later, from 2450 to 1700 BC, Dilmun, a peaceful trading civilization, was centered in Bahrain. Evidence that Qatar was part of the complex trading network is found from the presence of Barbar pottery, a product of the Dilmun civilization, in Ras Abrouk.

Qatar then emerged as one of the richest places in the Persian Gulf, with regard to the trade and commerce between the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC. This period witnessed the spread of the Bronze Age cultures and civilizations from Mesopotamia to the Indus Valley settlements of India. Trade between Mesopotamia and Indus Valley was channeled through the Persian Gulf, with the western coast of Qatar playing a vital role in the transshipment of the commercial goods as the discovery of fragments of Barbar pottery in Ras Abaruk reveals it. Qatar also attracted seasonal migrants during the period of the Bronze Age.

Kassite of the Zagros Mountains, which is located in the province of Lorestan, assumed power in Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire after circa 1531 BC to circa 1155 BC and spread their influence throughout the Persian Gulf region including a small island on the bay of Al Khor in the north of Doha. Ceramics, which were of Kassite origin that were unearthened while excavating in Al Khor for archaeological evidences, clearly indicate the close links between Qatar and Babylonia during this period.

The Greco-Roman trade between Europe and India was carried on via the Persian Gulf during 140 BC. Archaeological evidence found in Qatar suggests the Greek and Roman influences in the peninsula, particularly at Ras Abaruk, included stone structures, such as dwellings, cairns, hearths and low mounds containing large quantities of fish bones. Excavation of the dwelling revealed two chambers; linked by a cross-wall, with a third room open to the sea. Ras Abaruk was a temporary fishing station where periodic landing were made to dry fish during this period. In fact, pearls and dried fish were the major items for exportation from Qatar during the Greco-Roman period.

The whole Persian Gulf region afterwards emerged as the most important trade centre, linking between the West and the East, during the time of the Sassanid Persian Empire in the 3rd century AD. Cargoes of copper, spices, sandalwood, teak, blackwood, etc., arriving from the East were exchanged for shipments of purple dye, clothing, pearls, dates, gold and silver. Qatar played a pre-eminent role in that commercial activity contributing at least two of these commodities to the Sassanid trade – purple dye and precious pearls.

Early history

Although the peninsula 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.

Islam was spread in the entire Arabian region by the end of the 7th century, resulting in the Islamization of the native Arabian pagans. With the spread of Islam in Qatar, the Islamic prophet Muhammad sent his first military envoy, Al Ala Al-Hadrami, to Al-Mundhir Ibn Sawa Al-Tamimi, the ruler of Bahrain (which extended from the coast of Kuwait to the south of Qatar, including Al-Hasa and Bahrain Islands), in the year 628, inviting him to accept Islam as he had invited other kingdoms and empires of his time such as Byzantium and Persia. Mundhir, in response to Muhammad, announced his acceptance of Islam, and the inhabitants of Qatar became Muslim, heralding the beginning of the Islamic era in Qatar. However, it is likely that some settled populations in Qatar did not instantaneously convert. An important seventh-century saint and mystic, named Isaac of Nineveh, became a leader in the Syrian church.

During the Umayyad and the Abbasid rules in Damascus and Baghdad respectively, there was further growth of trade and commerce in Qatar. Yaqut Al Hamawi, an Arab historian and biographer, who died in 1229, considered Qatar as a village and famous for camel and horse breeding centre during the Umayyad period. During the ascendancy of the Abbasid in Baghdad, the pearling industry in the rich waters around Qatar developed considerably and the demand for Qatari pearl increased in the East, which extended as far as China. With the expansion of the mercantile activities on the coasts of Qatar, settlements began to grow on the north of Qatar, particularly at Murwab in the Yoghbi area between Zubarah and Umm el-Ma with more than 100 small stone built houses.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Portuguese Empire enhanced their power and influence over the Persian Gulf of the Arabian Peninsula after establishing hold over the Strait of Hormuz. The Portuguese Empire settled its commercial relations with many Gulf harbors including Qatar, where it exported gold, silver, silk textiles, Dianthus, all kinds of pearls, amber and horses. This lasted until the Portuguese were expelled from Qatar, Hormuz, and Oman in 1522 by the Ottoman Empire.

In the 18th century, migrants established pearling and trading settlements along the coast of present-day Qatar. The Bani Khalid, which established their hold over Eastern Arabia, extended their power in the area from Qatar to Kuwait in the first half of the 18th century. Zubarah, which already emerged as one of the most salient sea ports in the Persian Gulf in view of the increased exportation of pearls to the different parts of the world, became the headquarters of the Bani Khalid administration in Qatar and the principal transit port for their Eastern and the Central Arabian territories. The importations made from Surat of India to the port of Zubarah were Surat blue and other piece goods, cambay, chauders, shawls, bamboo, coffee, sugar, pepper, spices, iron, tin, oil, ghee, rice, etc. A part of these importations was retained at Zubarah for the consumption there and its immediate vicinities and the remainder were conveyed by means of camels to Dariyah in Nejd and to Al Hasa including the other districts under the jurisdiction of Bani Khalid.

Modern history

Bahraini rule (1783–1868)

In 1783, the Al Khalifa family of Bahrain invaded and annexed Qatar.

In 1821, as punishment for piracy, an East India Company vessel bombarded Doha, destroying the town and forcing hundreds of residents to flee. The residents of Doha had no idea why they were being attacked. As a result, Qatari rebel groups began to emerge in order to fight the Al-Khalifas and to seek independence from Bahrain. In 1825, the House of Thani was established with Sheikh Thani bin Mohammed as the first leader.

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 an effort to crush the Qatari rebels, sending a massive naval force to Al Wakrah. This resulted in the maritime Qatari–Bahraini War of 1867–1868, where Bahraini forces sacked and looted Doha and Al Wakrah. However, the Bahraini aggression was in violation of the 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty. This attack, and the Qatari counterattack, prompted the British political agent, Colonel Lewis Pelly, to impose a settlement in 1868. His mission to Bahrain and Qatar and the peace treaty that resulted were milestones in Qatar's history because they implicitly recognized the distinctness of Qatar from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani, an important representative of the peninsula's tribes. 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 on 18 December 1878 (for this reason, the date of 18 December is celebrated each year as Qatar National Day). 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 entrepreneur and long-time resident of Doha, Muhammed bin Thani. 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 hegemony as the future ruling family, a dynasty that continues to this day. The results of the negotiations left the nation with a new-found sense of political identity, although it did not gain official standing as a British protectorate until 1916.

Ottoman rule (1871–1916)

Qatar in an 1891 Adolf Stieler map

Under military and political pressure from the Governor of the Ottoman vilayet of Baghdad, Midhat Pasha, the House of Thani in Qatar submitted to Ottoman rule in 1871. By the end of that year, Ottoman rule extended from Kuwait to Qatar. The Ottoman government imposed reformist ( Tanzimat) measures concerning taxation and land registration to fully integrate these areas into the empire.

In March 1893, at the Battle of Wajbah (10 miles west of Doha), Shaikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani defeated the Ottomans. Although Qatar did not gain full independence from the Ottoman Empire, the result of the battle forced a treaty that would later form the basis of Qatar emerging as an autonomous separate country within the Ottoman Empire.

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 petroleum and other hydrocarbons in the early 20th century would reinvigorate their interest. During the 19th 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.

British rule (1916–1971)

The Ottoman Empire fell into disorder after losing battles in different fronts in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. Qataris took part in the Arab revolt against the Ottomans. The revolt was a success and Ottoman rule in Qatar collapsed.

The United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire accorded their recognition to Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani and his successors’ right to rule over the whole of the Qatari Peninsula. The Ottomans renounced all their rights to Qatar and following the outbreak of the First World War, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, who was pro-British, forced the Ottomans to abandon Doha in 1915.

As a result of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, Qatar became a British protectorate on 3 November 1916. On that day, the United Kingdom, in order to bring Qatar under its Trucial System of Administration, signed a treaty with Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. While Sheikh Abdullah agreed not to enter into any relations with any other power without prior consent of the British Government, Percy Zachariah Cox, the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf, who signed the treaty on behalf of his government, guaranteed the protection of Qatar ‘from all aggression by sea’.

On 5 May 1935, Sheikh Abdullah signed another treaty, which was able to obtain Britain’s agreement for the protection of Qatar from inside as well as any attacks from external forces. Oil reserves were first discovered in 1939. However, exploitation was delayed by World War II.

The reach of the British Empire diminished after World War II, especially following Indian independence in 1947. In the 1950s, oil was beginning to replace pearling and fishing as Qatar's main source of revenue. Oil revenues began to fund the expansion and modernisation of Qatar's infrastructure. Pressure for a British withdrawal from the Arab emirates in the Persian Gulf increased during the 1950s, and the British granted Kuwait’s 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 United Arab Emirates.

Independence (1971–present)

On 3 September 1971, Qatar officially gained its independence from the British Empire and became an independent sovereign state. In 1972, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani seized power in a palace coup after infighting in the ruling family.

In 1991, Qatar played a significant role in the Persian Gulf War, particularly during the Battle of Khafji in which Qatari tanks rolled through the streets of the town providing fire support for Saudi Arabian National Guard units which were fighting against units of the Iraqi Army. Qatar also allowed Coalition troops from Canada to use the country as an airbase to launch aircraft on CAP duty.

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 moderate degree of liberalization, including the launch of the Al Jazeera television station (1996), the endorsement of women's suffrage or right to vote in municipal elections (1999), drafting its first written constitution (2005), and inauguration of a Roman Catholic church (2008). In 2010, Qatar was selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and will be the first country in the Middle East to host the tournament. The emir says Qatar will hold its first national legislative elections in 2013.

Qatar is increasingly active on the regional stage. It served as the US Central Command headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In March 2005, a suicide bombing killed a British teacher at the Doha Players Theatre, shocking for a country that had not previously experienced acts of terrorism. The bombing was carried out by Omar Ahmed Abdullah Ali, an Egyptian residing in Qatar, who had suspected ties to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In 2011, Qatar joined NATO operations in Libya and reportedly armed Libyan opposition groups. It is also currently giving assistance to rebel groups in Syria. Qatar is pursuing an Afghan peace deal and in January 2012 the Afghan Taliban said they were setting up a political office in Qatar to facilitate talks.


Qatari desert landscape.
Map of Qatar.

The Qatari peninsula juts 100 miles (161 km) north into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. It lies between latitudes 24° and 27° N, and longitudes 50° and 52° E.

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 Persian Gulf. There are mild winters and very hot, humid summers.

The highest point in Qatar is Qurayn Abu al Bawl at 103 metres (338 ft) in the Jebel Dukhan to the west, a range of low limestone outcroppings running north-south from Zikrit through Umm Bab to the southern border. The Jebel Dukhan area also contains Qatar’s main onshore oil deposits, while the natural gas fields lie offshore, to the northwest of the peninsula.


Qatar signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 21 August 1996. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which was received by the convention on 18 May 2005.

The country's Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan states that 508 animal species have been recorded from terrestrial sites in Quatar. These comprise amphibians (1 species), birds (242 species), invertebrates (228 species), mammals (8 species) and reptiles (29 species). This count is unlikely to be exhaustive, particularly for invertebrates. One mammal (the Arabian oryx), and ten birds ( cinereous bunting, corncrake, ferruginous duck, great snipe, greater spotted eagle, houbara bustard, lesser kestrel, pale harrier, sociable lapwing and Socotra cormorant) are treated by the plan as endangered.

A further 553 animal species have been recorded from marine habitats. These comprise birds (20 species), fish (136 species), invertebrates (379 species), mammals (3 species) and reptiles (15 species). Of these, 10 are treated by the plan as endangered ( black finless porpoise, blacktip shark, brown shark, dugong, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, leatherback turtle, loggerhead turtle and olive ridley turtle).

A total of 142 fungal species have been recorded from Qatar. Almost all of these are microscopic species isolated from soil samples, the predominating genera being Alternaria, Aspergillus, Botryotrichum, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Microascus, Penicillium and Stachybotrys. As with animals, the list is unlikely to be exhaustive. With the exception of brief comment about the importance in Qatari culture of desert truffles (species of Terfezia which live in association with Helianthemum species), the country's biodiversity strategy and action plan contained no mention of fungi living on animals (as symbionts or on dung), on plant material (as symbionts or saprobes), or in marine habitats. No lichen-forming fungi were mentioned. The total number of fungi actually occurring in Qatar is thus likely to be greater than the 142 species listed in the plan.

In terrestrial habitats, Quatar has 371 species of flowering plants, belonging in 236 genera. A further 402 plant species were listed from marine habitats.

Environmental issues

For two decades Qatar has had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions in the world, at 49.1 metric tons per person in 2008. This is about 60 per cent more than one of the next highest per-capita emitting country, which is Kuwait at 30.7 metric tons, more than the double of the emissions of people in the United States. Other sources state that by 2007, Qatar’s emission rate increased to 69 tons per person per year. Qatar had the highest per capita carbon dioxide emissions for the past 18 years. These emissions are largely due to high rates of energy use in Qatar. Major uses of energy in Qatar include air conditioning, natural gas processing, water desalination and electricity production. Between 1995 and 2011 the electricity generating capacity of Qatar will have increased to six times the previous level. The fact that Qataris do not have to pay for either their water or electricity supplies is thought to contribute to their high rate of energy use. They are also one of the highest consumers of water per capita per day, using around 400 litres.


Climate data for Qatar
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 22
Average low °C (°F) 13
Precipitation mm (inches) 12.7

Government and politics

Diwan Al-Emiri.

Qatar is an absolute monarchy under the leadership of the Al Thani family, whose origins can be traced back to the Banu Tamim tribe. The Al Thani dynasty has been ruling Qatar since the family house was established in 1825.

The supreme chancellor has the exclusive power to appoint and remove the prime minister and cabinet ministers who, together, comprise the Council of Ministers, which is the supreme executive authority in the country. The Council of Ministers also initiates legislation. Laws and decrees proposed by the Council of Ministers are referred to the Advisory Council (Majilis Al Shura) for discussion after which they are submitted to the Emir for ratification.

A Consultative Assembly or Majlis Al-Shura has limited legislative authority to draft and approve laws, but the Emir has final say on all matters. No legislative elections have been held since 1970 when there were partial elections to the body. Elections to the Majlis al-Shura have been announced, and then postponed, several times. In 2011 the emir announced that elections to the council would be held in the second half of 2013.

In 2003, Qatar adopted a new constitution that provided for the direct election of 30 of the 45 members of Advisory Council. As of 2012, the Council is composed entirely of members appointed by the Emir.

An elected 29-member Central Municipal Council (CMC) has limited consultative authority aimed at improving municipal services. The CMC makes recommendations to the Ministry for Municipal Affairs and Agriculture. Disagreement between the CMC and the Ministry can be brought to the Council of Ministers for resolution. Municipal elections are scheduled for every four years. The most recent elections for the council were in May 2011. Before 1999, members of the CMC were appointed by the government.


Shari’a (Islamic law) is the main source of Qatari legislation, and is applied to aspects of family law, inheritance, and certain criminal acts.

Codified family law was introduced in 2006. Sharia courts were abolished in 2003 but Sharia principles are still applied in matters related to personal status (such as marriage, divorce and child custody). In some cases a woman’s testimony is worth half a man’s and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all.

Alcohol consumption is legal in Qatar, albeit under many restrictions. Luxury hotels are allowed to sell alcohol to their adult non-Muslim customers. Consumption of alcohol by Muslims is punishable by law. Foreign nationals may obtain a permit to purchase alcohol for personal consumption. The Qatar Distribution Company (a subsidiary of Qatar Airways) is permitted to import alcohol and pork; it operates the one and only liquor store in the country, which also sells pork to holders of liquor licences.

Until recently, restaurants on the Pearl-Qatar (a man-made island near Doha) were allowed to serve alcoholic drinks. In December 2011, however, restaurants on the Pearl were told to stop selling alcohol. No explanation was given for the ban. Speculation about the reason includes the government's desire to project a more pious image in advance of the country’s first election of a royal advisory body and rumors of a financial dispute between the government and the resort’s developers.

Many cases of ill-treatment of immigrant labour have been observed. Qatar does not maintain wage standards for its immigrant labor. Under the provisions of Qatar’s sponsorship law, sponsors have the unilateral power to cancel workers’ residency permits, deny workers’ ability to change employers, report a worker as “absconded” to police authorities, and deny permission to leave the country. As a result, sponsors may restrict workers’ movements and workers may be afraid to report abuses or claim their rights.

As of 2005, certain provisions of the Qatari Criminal Code allowed punishments such as flogging and stoning to be imposed as criminal sanctions. The UN Committee Against Torture found that these practices constituted a breach of the obligations imposed by the UN Convention Against Torture. Qatar retains the death penalty, mainly for threats against national security.

Foreign relations

Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and former U.S Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen in 1998.

Qatar was also an early member of OPEC and a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is a member of the Arab League. The country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.

Qatar has bilateral relationships with a variety of foreign powers. It has allowed American forces to use an air base to send supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. It has also signed a defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, with whom it shares the largest single non-associated gas field in the world. It was the second nation, the first being France, to have publicly announced its recognition of the Libyan opposition's National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya amidst the 2011 Libyan civil war.

The history of Qatar’s alliances provides insight into the basis of their policy. Between 1760 and 1971, Qatar sought formal protection from the high transitory powers of the Ottomans, British, the Al-Khalifa’s from Bahrain, the Persians, and the Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia.

According to leaked documents published in The New York Times, Qatar's record of counter-terrorism efforts was the "worst in the region" although Qatar had been a generous host to the American military. The cable suggested that Qatar’s security service was "hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals".

Qatar has hosted academic, religious, political, and economic conferences. The 11th annual Doha Forum recently brought in key thinkers, professionals of various backgrounds, and political figures from all over the world to discuss democracy, media and information technology, free trade, and water security issues. This year was the first year the forum featured the Middle East Economic Future conference.


Qatar maintains a modest military force of approximately 11,800 men, including an army (8,500), navy (1,800) and air force (1,500). In 2008 Qatar spent US$2.355 billion on military expenditures, 2.3% of the gross domestic product.

Administrative divisions

Municipalities of Qatar since 2004.

Since 2004, Qatar has been divided into seven municipalities (Arabic: baladiyah).

  1. Madinat ash Shamal
  2. Al Khor
  3. Umm Salal
  4. Al Daayen
  5. Al Rayyan
  6. Doha
  7. Al Wakrah

For statistical purposes, the municipalities are further subdivided into 98 zones (as of 2010), which are in turn subdivided into blocks.


Graphical depiction of Qatar's product exports in 28 colour-coded categories.

Before the discovery of oil, the economy of the Qatari region focused on fishing and pearl hunting. After the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the world market in the 1920s and 1930s, Qatar's pearling industry crashed. The discovery of oil in the 1940s transformed the state's economy. Now, the country has a high standard of living.

Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world as of 2012, according to the CIA World Factbook. It relies heavily on foreign labor to grow its economy, to the extent that migrant workers comprise 94% of the workforce.

In May 2012, Qatari officials declared their intention to allow the establishment of an independent trade union. Qatar also announced it will scrap its sponsor system for foreign labour, which requires that all foreign workers be sponsored by local employers, who in some cases hold workers’ passports and can deny them permission to change jobs. According to the ITUC, the visa sponsorship system allows the exaction of forced labour by making it difficult for a migrant worker to leave an abusive employer or travel overseas without permission. Qatar does not have national occupational health standards or guidelines, and workplace injuries are the third highest cause of accidental deaths.

With no income tax, Qatar (along with Bahrain) is one of the countries with the lowest tax rates in the world.

The economic growth of Qatar has been almost exclusively based on its petroleum and natural gas industries, which began in 1940. The country has experienced rapid growth over the last several years due to high oil prices, and in 2008 posted its eighth consecutive budget surplus. Economic policy is focused on developing Qatar's non-associated natural gas reserves and increasing private and foreign investment in non-energy sectors, but oil and gas still account for more than 50% of GDP; roughly 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues.

Proved oil reserves of 15 billion barrels should enable continued output at current levels for 37 years. Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas are nearly 26 trillion cubic metres, about 14% of the world total and the third largest 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 Doha Sports City, consisting of Khalifa stadium, the Aspire Sports Academy, aquatic centres, exhibition centres and many other sports related buildings and centres. Following the success of the Asian Games, Doha launched an official bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in October 2007. Its bid was finally eliminated from consideration in June 2008. Qatar also plans to build an "entertainment city" in the future.

Commercial ties between the United States and Qatar have been expanding at a rapid pace over the last five years, with trade volumes growing by more than 340%, from $738 million in 2003 to $3.2 billion in 2009. Over the same period, U.S. exports increased by 580% to $2.7 billion, making the United States the largest import partner for Qatar. U.S. companies look to play key role in the $60 billion dollars that Qatar will invest in roads, infrastructure development, housing and real estate, health/medical and sanitation projects in the next decade.


Boats as seen from the corniche (waterfront promenade) in Doha.

The primary means of transportation in Qatar is by road, due to the very cheap price of petroleum. The country as a result has an advanced road system undergoing vast upgrades in response to the country's rapidly rising population, with several highways undergoing upgrades and new expressways within Doha under construction. A large bus network connects Doha with other towns in the country, and is the primary means of public transportation in the city.

The Salwa International Highway currently connects Doha to the border with Saudi Arabia, and a causeway with both road and rail links to Bahrain at Zubarah is due to begin construction shortly. The causeway will become the largest in the world, and will be the second to connect Bahrain to the Arabian Peninsula.

Currently, no rail networks exist in the country. In November 2009, however, the government signed a $26 billion contract with the German company Deutsche Bahn to construct a railway system over the next 20 years. The network will connect the country itself, and will include an international link with neighbouring states as part of a larger rail network being constructed across the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. A railway link is also under construction between Qatar and Bahrain as part of the Qatar Bahrain Causeway.

Qatar's main airport is the Doha International Airport, which served almost 15 million passengers in 2007. In comparison, the airport served only 2 million passengers in 1998. As a result of the much larger volumes of passengers flying into and through the country today, the New Doha International Airport is currently under construction, and will replace the existing airport in 2013.


Year Pop.  
1908 22,000
1939 28,000
late 1960s 70,000
1986 369,079
1997 522,023
2009 1,309,000
Source: 1908, 1939; late 1960s; 1997; 2009

The 2010 census recorded the total population at 1,699,435. In January 2013, the Qatar Statistics Authority estimated the country's population at 1,903,447, of which 1,405,164 are males and 498,283 females. The make up of ethnic groups is as follows: Qatari (Arab) 20%; other Arab 20%; Indian 20%; Filipino 10%; Nepali 13%; Pakistani 7%; Sri Lankan 5%; other 5%.


Islam is the predominant religion. According to the 2004 census, 77.5% of the population are Muslim, 8.5% are Christian and 14% are "Other". Shi'as comprise between 5% to 10% of the Muslim population in Qatar.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only Wahhabi states in the Arabian Peninsula.

The majority of non-citizens are from South and Southeast Asian and Arab countries working on temporary employment contracts, accompanied by family members in some cases. Non-citizens can be Sunni or Shi'a Muslims, Protestant or Catholic Christians, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, or Bahá'ís.

The government uses Sunni law as the basis of its criminal and civil regulations. Some religious tolerance is granted. Foreign nationals are free to affiliate with their faiths other than Islam, e.g. Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bahai, as long as they are religious in private and do not offend 'public order' or 'morality'.

In March 2008, a Roman Catholic church, Our Lady of the Rosary, was consecrated in Doha. No missionaries are allowed in the community. The church has bells, crosses or other Christian symbols on it and its premises.

The Christian population is composed almost entirely of foreigners. Active churches are Mar Thoma Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church from Southern India, Arab Evangelicals from Syria and Palestine, and Anglicans, about 50,000 Catholics and Copts from Egypt. No foreign missionary groups operate openly in the country, but the government allows churches to conduct Mass. Since 2008 Christians have been allowed to build churches on ground donated by the government.


Arabic is the official language of Qatar. English is also widely spoken. Reflecting the multicultural make-up of the country, many other languages are also spoken, including French, Hindi, Malayalam, Urdu and Tagalog.


Qatar's culture is similar to that of other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf (see Culture of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf). Arab tribes from Saudi Arabia migrated to Qatar and other places in the Persian Gulf; therefore, the culture in the Persian Gulf region varies little from country to country.

Qatar explicitly uses Sharia law as the basis of its government, and the vast majority of its citizens follow Hanbali Madhhab.

The Qatar National Day hosted every 18 December is the day Qataris celebrate their national identity and history. On that day, expressions of affection and gratitude are conveyed to the people of Qatar who cooperated in solidarity and vowed allegiance and obedience to Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani as a leader in 1878.



Khalifa International Stadium, home stadium of the Qatar national football team.

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Qatar. The Qatar under-20 national football team finished second in the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship after a 4–0 defeat to Germany in the final.

The Asian Football Confederation's 2011 AFC Asian Cup finals was held in Qatar in January 2011. It was the fifteenth time the tournament has been held, and the second time it has been hosted by Qatar, the other being the 1988 AFC Asian Cup.

Doha, Qatar, is also home to Qatar Racing Club, a drag racing facility. Sheik Khalid bin Hamad Al Thani is very involved in the sport and owner of Al-Anabi Racing. He recently brought his racing company to the United States as a member of the NHRA with the help of 9 time NHRA champion crew chief Alan Johnson, renaming the American team Awsome Al-Anabi Racing, he also brought Johnson on as CEO of the American team, luring him from rival Don Schumacher Racing. They currently have three teams, in Top Fuel, are Khalid Al-Balooshi, and Shawn Langdon, and Del Worsham in Funny Car.

Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha, Qatar, hosted the WTA Tour Championships in women's tennis between 2008 and 2010. Doha holds the WTA Premier tournament Qatar Ladies Open annually.

On 2 December 2010, Qatar won their bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar won the 2011 Dakar Rally and the Production World Rally Championship in 2006. In addition, he has also won gold medals at the 2002 Asian Games and 2010 Asian Games as part of the Qatari skeet shooting team, as well as a bronze medal in the individual skeet event at the 2010 Games in Guangzhou. In the 2012 Summer Games, he won the bronze medal in clay pigeon shooting.

Since 2002, Qatar has hosted the annual Tour of Qatar, a cycling race in six stages. Every February, riders are racing on the roads across Qatar's flat land for six days. Each stage covers a distance of more than 100 km, though the time trial usually is a shorter distance. Tour of Qatar is organised by the Qatar Cycling Federation for professional riders in the category of Elite Men.

In March 2013, Qatar hosted the first round of the FIM World Motocross Championship, becoming the first Motocross Grand Prix to be held in the Middle East.

In 2022, Qatar will host the World Cup. Qatar are planning on building nine new stadiums and expanding three of them for this event.


Cornell University's Weill Medical College.

The illiteracy rate in Qatar was 3.1% for males and 4.2% for females in 2012, the lowest in the Arab world. Citizens are required to attend government-provided education from kindergarten through high school. Qatar University was founded in 1973. More recently, with the support of the Qatar Foundation, a number of leading universities from other countries have opened branch campuses in the Education City.

In 2008, 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. Two Canadian institutions, the College of the North Atlantic and the University of Calgary, also operate campuses in Doha. Other for-profit universities have also established campuses in the city.

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.

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Qatar University (1881st worldwide), Texas A&M University at Qatar (3905th) and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (6855th).

Health care

In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 1.40% of the country's GDP. In 2006, there were 23.12 physicians and 61.81 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 78.25 years in 2010, or 78.54 years for males and 77.95 years for females.

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), affiliated with Cornell University, is the premier non-profit health care provider in Doha, Qatar. Established by the Emiri decree in 1979, HMC manages five highly specialised hospitals and a health care centre: Hamad General Hospital, Rumailah Hospital, Women’s Hospital, Psychiatric Hospital and the Primary Health Care Centres and Al Khor Hospital. These hospitals are quite sophisticated by the standards of the region, with most hosting advanced fMRI and other scanning machines.

Other private hospitals and polyclinics consist of Sidra Hospital, Al-Ahli Hospital, Doha Clinic, Al-Emadi Hospital, The American Hospital, Apollo Clinic, Future Medical Center, Future Dental Centre, and Tadawi Medical. Qatar has among the highest rates in the world for obesity, diabetes and genetic disorders.

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