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 dependant on desalination facilities.The dry land leads to an increased likelihood of dust and sandstorms.
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 it was also along the Greco-Roman trade route. This brought a mixture of people, cultures and ideas in to country. During the 7th century, 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 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 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 and Languages:
The population if Qatar is 840,926 (July 2010 est.). The majority is of Arab descent, but there are also small numbers of Indians, Pakistanis and Persians (from Iran). Those who are not of Arab descent are typically foreign workers. Arabic is the official language of Qatar; however, English is also used frequently, especially in schools and in businesses. The Persian population often speaks Farsi. 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 that parents can choose to send their children to. The school system is run by the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Council. In recent years, the Supreme Education has attempted to improve and reform the system through the “Education for a New Era” campaign. There are two public universities in Qatar—University of Qatar and CHN University Doha. Many American universities have set up satellite campuses in Qatar. 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 they have major improvements to the system since that time. They have become advanced and use some of the best technology. Their medical expertise is on par with the United States and Europe, with the exception of highly specialized areas. The also have a preventive health care service that is active in combating disease.
Just like many other countries in the region, Islam is the dominant and 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 small 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. They are also not allowed to proselytize and there are some restrictions on public worship.
The cultural hub is in Doha where most of the population resides. Qatar has a unique culture that has been influenced by the number of foreign workers. 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 most Middle Eastern countries in hopes of preserving Islamic art for generations to come. The Qatar Museum Authority calls it “a museum for the world.”
Museum of Islamic Art - This link takes you to the website for the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar where you can view some of the Museum’s galleries.
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.
Khaliji Music- This is an American ensemble playing Khajili music.
Even though it is small, Qatar has many sites to offer. Most of these places are concentrated around Doha. The majority of the sites are either of historical significance (forts and castles) or places for family fun (Palm Tree Island and the Doha Zoo). Qatar has a growing tourism industry since they have many different attractions and offer tourist visas more liberally.
The Pearl - One of Qatar’s most recent developments, the Pearl is a manmade island complex off the eastern coast of the nation that includes luxury living.
Major Cities- The Embassy of Qatar provides this list of major cities and places to see.
Palm Tree Island- Palm Tree Island is a 5 minute boat ride and is relaxing, fun place for adults and children.
Qatar has a diverse offering 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. It has hosted the Asian Cup and Gulf Cup multiple times. Due to its location on the Persian Gulf, Boat Racing and Diving are common activities. Falconry and cycling are also popular.