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Qatar

قطر‎

2819

Country codes:QA
Calling codes:+974
Area:11,437.00 km²
Population:1,696,563

Introduction

Qatar (/ˈkɑːtɑr/ or /kəˈtɑr/; Arabic: قطر‎ [ˈqɑtˤɑr]; local vernacular pronunciation: [ɡɪtˤɑr]), also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, 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 of the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island state of Bahrain.

Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. Formerly a British protectorate noted mainly for pearling, it became independent in 1971, and 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 seized power from 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 Center.

Qatar has the world's largest per capita production and proven reserves of both oil and natural gas. In 2010, Qatar had the world's highest GDP per capita, while the economy grew by 19.40%, 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, trailing behind the U.A.E., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. With a small citizen population of less than 300,000 people, Qatar workforce comprises expatriates from other Arab nations (20% of population), the Indian subcontinent (India 20%, 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 $60–70 billion coming from the U.S in the energy sector. It is estimated that Qatar will invest over $120 billion in the energy sector in the next ten years.

History

Recent discoveries on the edge of an island in western Qatar indicate early human presence in pre-historic Qatar. 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. There had also been a barter-based trading system between the settlements at Qatar and the Ubaid Mesopotamia, in which the exchanged commodities were mainly pottery and dried fish.

Islam conquered the entire Arabian region during the 7th century in a string of widespread conflicts 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 all the inhabitants of Qatar became Muslim, heralding the beginning of the Islamic era in Qatar.

In medieval times, Qatar was more often than not independent and a participant in the great Persian Gulf–Indian Ocean commerce. Many races and ideas were introduced into the peninsula from the sailors of Sindh, East Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Malay archipelago. Today, the traces of these early interactions with the oceanic world of the Indian Ocean survive in the small minorities of races, peoples, languages and religions, such as the presence of Africans and Shihus.

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. The Abbasid era (750–1258) saw the rise of several settlements, including Murwab. The Portuguese ruled from 1517 to 1538, when they lost to the Ottomans. For the duration of the 18th and 19th century, Qatar was independent, but in 1876, Shaikh Jassim Bin Muhammad bin Thani invited the Ottomans, who had recently annexed the Ahsa region, to protect Qatar. Qatar thus became a dependency of the Ottoman Empire, although not a part of it. But attempts by the Ottomans to annex Qatar outright soon led to the expulsion of the Ottomans from the Qatar Peninsula. In March 1893, at the Battle of Wajbah (10 miles west of Doha), Shaikh Jassim defeated the Ottomans and banished them for good from Qatar. This date is a landmark in Qatari history, one that marks the emergence of modern Qatar as a nation.

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 re-invigorate 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.

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 crush the Qatari rebels, sending a massive naval force to Al Wakrah. However, the Bahraini aggression was in violation of 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 on 18 December 1878 (for this reason, the date of 18 December is celebrated each year as the 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.

20th and 21st centuries

The reach of the British Empire diminished after World War II, 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-emirate United Arab Emirates. On 3 September 1971, Qatar became an independent sovereign state.

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 notable amount of sociopolitical liberalization, including the endorsement of women's suffrage or right to vote, drafting a new constitution, and the launch of Al Jazeera, an outspoken news organization.

The World Factbook states that Qatar has the second-highest GDP per capita in the world, after Liechtenstein.

Qatar served as the headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the US 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. According to leaked documents published in The New York Times, Qatar's record of counterterrorism 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".

In December 2010, Qatar was selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Culture

Qatari culture (music, art, dress, and cuisine) 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 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. Hanbali (Arabic: حنبلى ) is one of the four schools (Madhhabs) of Fiqh or religious law within Sunni Islam (The other three are Hanafi, Maliki and Shafii). Sunni Muslims believe that all four schools have "correct guidance", and the differences between them lie not in the fundamentals of faith, but in finer judgments and jurisprudence, which are a result of the independent reasoning of the imams and the scholars who followed them. Because their individual methodologies of interpretation and extraction from the primary sources (usul) were different, they came to different judgments on particular matters. Shi'as comprise around 10% of the Muslim population in Qatar.

Alcohol is legal with a permit but it is not permitted to drink it in public.

Religion

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". About 5% of the Muslims living in Qatar are Shia.

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, Sikhs, Buddhists, or Bahá'ís.

Religion is not a criterion for citizenship, according to the Nationality Law.

The Christian population consists nearly completely of foreigners. Active churches are Mar Thoma Church from Southern India, Arab Evangelicals from Syria and Palestine, 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.

Geography

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.

Climate

Environmental issues

In 2005, Qatar had the highest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, at 55.5 metric tons per person. This is almost double the next highest per-capita emitting country, which is Kuwait at 30.7 metric tons (2005) and they are three times those of the United States. 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. Despite being a desert state they are also one of the highest consumers of water per capita per day, using around 400 litres.

Renee Richer, visiting professor of Biology at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar lectures:

Social and economic changes are taking place at an alarming rate, putting at risk the natural and cultural resources of Qatar. However, such loss of natural and cultural heritage need not be the case and great economic benefits can be gained from ecologically based development. Qatar is in a unique position, given the financial resources and forward thinking leadership, to move ahead and be amongst the first countries ready to take advantage of the next economic revolution: the green revolution.

Inforamtion above from the Wikipedia article Qatar, licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.

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