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State of Qatar

Dawlat Qatar

CAPITAL: Doha (Ad-Dawhah)

FLAG: Maroon with white serrated border at the hoist.

ANTHEM: Qatar National Anthem.

MONETARY UNIT: The Qatar riyal (qr) of 100 dirhams was introduced on 13 May 1973. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 dirhams, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 riyals. qr1 = $0.27473 (or $1 = qr3.64) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard, although some British measures are still in use.

HOLIDAYS: Emir's Succession Day, 22 February; Independence Day, 3 September. Muslim religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.


Comprising an area of 11,437 sq km (4,416 sq mi), the State of Qatar consists of a peninsula projecting northward into the Persian Gulf, extending about 160 km (100 mi) ns and 90 km (55 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Qatar is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia and has a total boundary length of 623 km (387 mi), of which 563 km (350 mi) is coastline. Qatar also includes a number of islands, of which the most important is Halul.

The Hawar Islands, which were part of a border dispute between Qatar and Bahrain for many years, were awarded to Bahrain by the International Court of Justice in 2001.

Qatar's capital city, Doha, is located on the Persian Gulf coast.


The terrain is generally flat and sandy, rising gradually from the east to a central limestone plateau. About 56 km (35 mi) long, the Dukhan anticline rises from the west coast as a chain of hills of up to 100 m (325 ft) in height. Some low cliffs mark the northern end of the east coast. The presence of extensive salt flats at the base of the peninsula supports the theory that Qatar was once an island.


Qatar's summer, from May to October, is extremely hot. Mean temperatures in June are 42°c (108°f), dropping to 15°c (59°f) in winter. Humidity is high along the coast. Rainfall is minimal.


Vegetation is generally sparse and typical of Persian Gulf desert regions. The gazelle, once common in Qatar, is now rarely seen. Jerboas (desert rats) and an occasional fox are found. Birds include the flamingo, cormorant, osprey, kestrel, plover, lark, and other migrants. Reptiles include monitors, other lizards, and land snakes. Life in the seas around Qatar is considerable and varied, including prawn, king mackerel, shark, grouper, and swordfish.


Environmental responsibility is vested in the Ministry of Industry and Agriculture. An Environmental Protection Committee was created in 1984 to monitor environmental problems. Conservation of oil supplies, preservation of the natural wildlife heritage, and increasing the water supply through desalination are high on Qatar's environmental priority list. Air, water, and land pollution are also significant environmental issues in Qatar. In addition to smog and acid rain, the nation has been affected by the air pollution generated during the Persian Gulf War. Pollution from the oil industry poses a threat to the nation's water. The nation's soils have been damaged by pesticides and fertilizers, and its agricultural land is in danger of desertification.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), there are at least 30 threatened species of animals, including the hawksbill turtle, green sea turtle, the spotted eagle, the tiger shark, the great snipe, and the white oryx.


The population of Qatar in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 768,000, which placed it at number 156 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 2% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 25% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 206 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.8%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 1,027,000. The overall population density was 70 per sq km (181 per sq mi), but the population is concentrated in the cities, with much of the country being uninhabited desert.

The UN estimated that 92% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005 and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.45%. The capital city, Doha (Ad-Dawhah), had a population of 286,000 in that year. Two other major towns have grown up around the oil industry: Dukhan, on the west coast, and the port of Umm Sa'id, south of Doha.


In 1993, the number of immigrant workers was about 85,000, including Pakistanis, Indians, and Iranians. In 2000, there were 409,000 noncitizen residents in Qatar, amounting to more than two-thirds of the population. By 2004, the foreign workforce had increased; the total estimated population of Qatar was 744,000, with Qataris comprising no more than one-fourth of this number. South Asia was the source of the largest number of these workers. By the end of 2004, the number of refugees and asylum seekers was low, 46 and 24, respectively. However, there were 6,000 stateless persons of concern to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In 2000, the net migration rate was 3.7 migrants per 1,000 population. In 2005, the net migration rate had changed significantly to an estimated 15.17 migrants per 1,000 population.


About 40% of the population are Arabs, 18% are Pakistanis, 18% are Indians, 10% Iranians, and 14% from other ethnic backgrounds. The indigenous population (about 100,000) descends from Bedouin tribes that migrated to Qatar during the 1700s.


Arabic is the national language, but English is widely spoken, and Farsi is used by smaller groups in Doha.


Islam is the official religion of Qatar and is practiced by the great majority (95%) of the people. The Qataris are mainly of the Wahhabi sect of the Hanbali school of Islam. There are also small populations of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Baha'is, and other faiths; however, they are mainly foreigners. The constitution provides for freedom of worship; however, there are still some restrictions on public worship in accordance with laws governing public behavior. Proselytizing by non-Muslims is prohibited. Apostasy by Muslims is a criminal offense. The minister of Islamic affairs oversees all aspects of faith within the nation. While legal status has been granted to Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox Christians, Coptics, and some Asian Christian denominations, the government limits the building of houses of worship for these groups. Muslim holidays are recognized as national holidays.


The modern road system dates from 1967. As of 2002, there were 1,230 km (764 mi) of highway, of which 1,107 km (688 mi) were paved. Qatar has overland truck routes from Europe through Saudi Arabia via the Trans-Arabia Highway and road links with the United Arab Emirates and Oman. In 2003, there were 145,280 passenger cars and 75,000 commercial vehicles registered. Qatar has no railways or waterways. In 2004, there were four airports. As of 2005, three had paved runways, and there was one heliport. Doha International Airport is served by 20 international airlines. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), 1,134,600 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. Qatar maintains modern deepwater ports at Doha and Umm Sa'id, where a tanker terminal is located. Qatar's National Navigation and Transport Co. enjoys a monopoly on arriving shipments. In 2005, the merchant fleet consisted of 22 vessels of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 525,051 GRT.


Archaeological evidence shows that human habitation existed in Qatar for many centuries prior to the modern age; however, little is known of Qatar's history until the 18th century. The al-Thani family, forebears of the present rulers, arrived in Qatar then from what is now Saudi Arabia. During the same century, the al-Khalifah family, who currently rule Bahrain, arrived from Kuwait.

In 1868, Great Britain intervened on behalf of the Qatari nobles and negotiated the Perpetual Maritime Truce, signed by Muhammad bin Thani, an accord that terminated the Bahraini claim to Qatar in exchange for a tribute payment. In 1872, however, Qatar fell under Ottoman occupation, and Jasim bin Muhammad bin Thani became Turkish deputy-governor of Qatar. Turkish dominion prevailed until the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent withdrawal of the Turks from the Arabian Peninsula. Qatar thereupon established its independence and, in 1916, Sheikh 'Abdallah bin Jasim al-Thani signed a treaty with the United Kingdom granting British protection in exchange for a central role for the United Kingdom in Qatar's foreign affairs. A 1934 treaty further strengthened this relationship. Commercial quantities of high-quality oil were discovered at Dukhan in 1940, but full-scale exploitation did not begin until 1949.

In 1960, Sheikh Ahmad bin 'Ali al-Thani succeeded his father, who had become too old to rule effectively. Social and economic development during the subsequent decade was disappointing, especially in view of the increasing availability of oil revenues. In January 1968, the United Kingdom announced its intention to withdraw its forces from the Persian Gulf states by the end of 1971. Discussions took place among the Trucial States, Bahrain, and Qatar, with a view to forming a federation. The Trucial States formed the United Arab Emirates, but Qatar could not agree to the terms of the union. On 3 September 1971, the independent State of Qatar was declared. A new treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed with the United Kingdom, and Qatar was soon admitted to membership in the Arab League and the United Nations (UN).

On 22 February 1972, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, the deputy emir and prime minister, seized power in a peaceful coup, deposing his cousin, Sheikh Ahmad. Following his accession, Sheikh Khalifa pursued a vigorous program of economic and social reforms, including the transfer of royal income to the state. On 31 May 1977, Sheikh Khalifa appointed Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, his son, as heir apparent and minister of defense.

In 1981, Qatar, along with the other Persian Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, established the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC attempted to mediate the war between Iran and Iraq, which had erupted in September 1980, but at the same time gave support to Iraq. Qatar's boundary disputes with Bahrain disrupted relations between the two countries in the mid-1980s. In 1991, they agreed to refer their dispute over the Hawar Islands to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. In 1992, there was a minor clash between Qatari and Saudi troops over a disputed border. That quarrel was resolved with a boundary agreement signed in Cairo in December 1992.

Qatari forces, although small in size, are active in the collective defense of the GCC and played a helpful role on the allied side in the Gulf War against Iraq.

In 1995, Sheikh Hamad seized power from his father amid a turbulent and secretive attempted coup in February of that year by unknown forces. Sheikh Khalifa, the aging ruler, had spent much of his time before being ousted sailing the Mediterranean on the royal yacht. Also a problem was the aging emir's eccentric method of funding the government, which was to siphon off half of the revenue generated from the country's oil into his personal bank accounts and to pay for government services from those funds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the emir felt more inclined to withdraw money than to deposit, and the resulting revenue drain was crippling the economy. When Sheikh Hamad took control of the government while his father was away on business, the now former emir froze his personal bank accounts, which held, essentially, Qatar's treasury. Estimates of Sheikh Khalifa's personal accounts range from $4 billion to $30 billion.

In 1996, the former emir set up a government in exile in the United Arab Emirates. The hostile transfer of power led to friction among the normally contention-free members of the GCC. Also that year, Sheikh Hamad issued writs demanding that his father turn over control of his assets to the state. Initially, the emir resigned himself to the loss of revenue, but severe budget constraints caused him to cut government spending and, in order to develop the huge offshore natural gas reserves the country would rely on in the future, huge infrastructure expenses needed to be made.

In 1999, the former emir still claimed to be the legitimate ruler of Qatar, and his allies within the ruling elite were still a source of problems for Sheikh Hamad. However, Sheikh Hamad has continued to rule and implement change in spite of outside threats. In October 2004, Sheikh Hamad received his father back into the country for the first time since he had overthrown him nine years previously. The former ruler returned to attend the funeral of his wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Ali bin Saud bin Abdel-Aziz al-Thani.

In 1999, Qatar supported the efforts of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase oil prices by cutting back crude oil production from March 1999 to April 2000. Qatar was also practicing fiscal discipline and creating low-cost efficiencies. The government was developing a tariff structure with a monthly ceiling on water and electricity services, previously free of charge. In addition, plans were in the works to implement a foreign investment code in agriculture, industry, tourism, and education ventures.

Perhaps most striking, Sheikh Hamad was encouraging political openness. In 1999, women voted and ran for office in municipal elections for the first time. A constitutional committee was charged with drawing up a permanent constitution under which Qatar would have an elected parliament. Political openness was even extended to the media as Qatar's satellite news channel, Al Jazeera, broke a previous taboo with an open discussion and criticism of the state funding of the ruling family.

On 16 March 2001, the ICJ resolved a territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar over the potential oil- and gas-rich Hawar Islands. The islands had been controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s but were claimed by Qatar. Bahrain also claimed the town of Zubarah, which is on the mainland of Qatar. The dispute has lasted for decades and almost brought the two nations to the brink of war in 1986. In its judgment, the ICJ drew a single maritime boundary in the Gulf of Bahrain, delineating Bahrain and Qatar's territorial waters and sovereignty over the disputed islands within. The ICJ awarded Bahrain the largest disputed islands, the Hawar Islands, and Qit'at Jaradah Island. Qatar was given sovereignty over Janan Island and the low-tide elevation of Fasht ad Dibal. The court reaffirmed Qatari sovereignty over the Zubarah Strip.

During 2002 and into 2003, Qatar, along with the other countries of the Persian Gulf, was confronted with the situation of a potential US-led war with Iraq. On 8 November 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, calling on Iraq to immediately disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and WMD capabilities, to allow the immediate return of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UN weapons inspectors, and to comply with all previous UN resolutions regarding the country since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. If Iraq was found to be in "material breach" of the resolution, "serious consequences" were to result.

The United States and the United Kingdom began amassing troops in the region, and by the end of February 2003, the number of troops in the Persian Gulf was approximately 200,000. As of 1 February, there were approximately 3,500 US military personnel in Qatar. In December 2002, a computer-assisted exercise entitled "Internal Look" was carried out in Qatar, involving approximately 1,000 military planners and a mobile command center, which would eventually be staffed by 1,600 US and UK troops. As of March 2003, an aerial command-and-control center was being constructed at Al Udeid, in the event that US forces could not use their control center in Saudi Arabia. The Al Udeid air base has the longest runway in the Gulf region (approximately 5,000 m/15,000 ft) and can accommodate nearly 100 aircraft. Operating at Al Udeid in early 2003 was air-to-air refueling of tanker aircraft in support of US-led forces in Afghanistan and to patrol Iraq's southern no-fly zone in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. In December 2002, the United States and Qatar signed a bilateral defense agreement that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated was not connected to Iraq.

However, Qatar has said it would not act in a conflict with Iraq without UN approval. At an Arab League summit held at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, on 1 March, sharp divisions between Arab leaders on the Iraq situation emerged, particularly between Libya and Saudi Arabia. However, the leaders issued a declaration expressing "complete rejection of any aggression on Iraq" and called for continuing UN weapons inspections. It also called upon Iraq to disarm itself of WMD and the missiles needed to deliver them. At the summit, some leaders argued that war was inevitable and that the countries of the region should prepare for its aftermath; some argued that war could be avoided if Iraq were to comply with weapons inspections; and a third group argued that the summit should issue an unequivocal antiwar declaration. In MarchApril 2003, the US Central Command forward base, the nerve center in the US-led military campaign in Iraq, was based in Qatar.

On 29 April 2003, Qatari voters approved a new constitution, which provides for a 45-member parliament, Consultative Council, or Majlis al-Shura, with 30 elected members and the rest selected by the emir. In a surprise move later this same year, in August 2003, the emir named his younger son, Prince Tamim, as crown prince, to replace his older brother, Prince Jassim. Further reforms were enacted in May 2004, when Sheikh Hamad decreed workers would be allowed to form trade unions and to take strike action, work by children under 16 was banned, an eight-hour working day was set, and equal rights for women were declared. Women were also entitled to a paid 50-day maternity leave. On 8 June 2004, the emir endorsed the ratified constitution. The constitution came into effect on 9 June 2005.

In February 2004, former Chechen president Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, a resident of Doha, was killed in an explosion there. Two Russian spies were charged with his murder and were handed life sentences for the crime. Relations with Russia deteriorated. In March 2005, the terror continued when a car bomb blast near a British school in Doha killed one Briton and injured 12 other people.


Qatar is a monarchy ruled by an emir. In 1970, in anticipation of independence, Qatar promulgated a Basic Law, including a bill of rights, that provides for a nine-member executive Council of Ministers (cabinet) and a 30-member legislative Advisory Council, whose members serve three-year terms. The Council of Ministers, appointed by the emir and led by a prime minister (the head of government), formulates public policy and directs the ministries. Sheikh Khalifa served as acting prime minister from the time of the 1972 coup until he was ousted by his son, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in 1995. Sheikh Khalifa formed a government in exile in the United Arab Emirates. Sheikh Hamad ruled Qatar. The ruling al-Thani family continues to hold a majority of cabinet positions and most of the key posts.

In March 1999, elections to a 29-member municipal council were held in which women were allowed to vote and run for office. One woman candidate was elected to the municipal council in 2003.

Sheikh Hamad's promised constitution of 1999 was ratified by the Qatari public on 29 April 2003, endorsed by the emir on 8 June 2004, and came into force on 9 June 2005.

The new constitution provides for a 45-member Consultative Council, or Majlis al-Shura; the public would elect two-thirds of the Majlis al-Shura; the emir would appoint the remaining members. Suffrage is universal; voting age is 18 years.


There are no organized political parties. Security measures against dissidents are firm and efficient. There is no serious opposition movement. Citizens with grievances may appeal directly to the emir.


Qatar is divided into 10 municipalities (baladiyat; singular, baladiyah): Ad Dawhah, Al Ghuwayriyah, Al Jumaylīyah, Al Khawr, Al Wakrah, Ar Rayyan, Jarayan al Batinah, Madinat ash Shamal, Umm Sa'īd, and Umm Salal. Municipal councils have been established in Doha, Khor, Ash-Shamal, and several other towns. The councils manage their own planning and development programs, but they remain directly accountable to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.


The legal system is based on the Shariah (canonical Muslim law). The Basic Law of 1970, however, provided for the creation of an independent judiciary, including the Court of Appeal, which has final jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters; the Higher Criminal Court, which judges major criminal cases; the Lower Criminal Court; the Civil Court; and the Labor Court, which judges claims involving employees and their employers. The Shariah court has jurisdiction in family and criminal cases and may also assume jurisdiction in commercial or civil cases if requested by a Muslim litigant. Muslims and non-Muslims may ask the Shariah courts to assume jurisdiction in family, commercial, and civil cases. The losing party in all types of courts may submit his or her cases to an appeals court. In cases tried by the Shariah court, however, it is possible that the same judge will hear both the original case and the appeal. However, under the new judiciary law issued in 2003, the two court systems, civil and Islamic law, were merged under a higher court, the Court of Cassation, established for appeals.

The judiciary is attached to three different ministries. The civil courts are subordinate to the Justice Ministry. Whereas Shariah courts fall under the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, the prosecutors fall under the Ministry of the Interior.


Qatar's armed forces in 2005 totaled 12,400 active personnel, of which 8,500 were Army personnel, 1,800 Navy, and 2,100 Air Force personnel. The Army was equipped with 30 main battle tanks, 68 reconnaissance vehicles, 40 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 226 armored personnel carriers, and 89 artillery pieces. Major naval units consisted of more than 27 patrol/coastal vessels. The Air Force had 18 combat-capable aircraft, including 12 fighter ground attack aircraft. The service also operated 18 antisurface unit warfare helicopters. The Army includes a Royal Guard regiment. Qatar's 2005 defense budget totaled an estimated $2.19 billion.


Qatar joined the United Nations (UN) on 21 September 1971; it participates in ESCWA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, the World Bank, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Qatar is a member of the WTO, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), OPEC, OAPEC, G-77, and the GCC. The country has observer status in the OAS. Qatar is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Qatar is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Until recent decades, the Qatar peninsula was an undeveloped, impoverished area, with a scant living provided by the traditional occupations of pearl diving, fishing, and nomadic herding. In 1940, a major oil discovery was made at Dukhan and, in the ensuing decades, oil has been the dominant factor in the Qatari economy. Oil revenues have provided Qataris with per capita incomes comparable those of the industrialized nations of the West. In 1996, oil revenues accounted for more than 30% of gross domestic product (GDP), 70% of export earnings, and 66% of government revenues.

Other economic activities remain limited. Agriculture has received considerable attention in recent years, but most food is still imported. The state encourages free enterprise, provided it does not conflict with the public interest. Real property, however, may be acquired only by Qatari nationals. The discovery of a vast field of natural gas unassociated with Qatar's oil fields promises to add a new dimension to the economy. In 1987, work on the first phase of the North Gas Field project, with a production capacity of 800 million cu ft per day, began and was inaugurated in 1991. While Phase I production is meant for domestic consumption, the Phase II development envisages the production of at least an additional 800 million cu ft per day for export to Japan as liquefied natural gas. The first shipments to Japan began in January 1997. The project was heavily financed by Japanese banks under terms that limit Qatar's revenues for the next decade. Qatar has 300 trillion cu ft of proven natural gas reservesthird in the world behind Russia and Iran. Production of natural gas reached 690 billion cu ft in 1998.

The economy performed sluggishly during the first half of the 1990s but recovered somewhat in 1995 because of a surge in international oil prices and slightly higher rates of oil production. It is estimated that GDP grew by 1.9% in 1995. The government that took over after the coup of 1995 implemented economic reforms that updated the financial sector. In 1998, a temporary drop in international oil prices brought GDP down by 9.2%. However, the recovery of oil prices in the second half of 1999 brought a jump in GDP of 18.9% for the year and 34.9% in 2000. Per capita income rose from $20,038 in 1998 to $24,000 in 2001. Inflation, at 2.9% in 1998, dropped to 2.2% in 1999 and -1.0% in 2000.

The GDP growth rate in 2004 was an astonishing 8.7%, up from 3.3% in 2003; in 2005, Qatar was expected to continue to be one of the best-performing countries in the region, with an economic expansion rate of 8.8%. As a result of this impressive growth, Qatar is now one of the countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world$39,292 in 2004 and an estimated $44,087 in 2005. Inflation, although on the rise (it was 6.8% in 2004), does not pose a problem for the domestic economy and is very beneficial for the export sector. Unemployment remains stable at 0.4%. The massive growth registered in previous years was mainly fueled by high oil prices, the diversification of the energy sector, an increase in foreign investments, and a boom in construction, infrastructure and real estate development.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Qatar's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $22.5 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $26,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 8.8%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 7.8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 0.2% of GDP, industry 81%, and services 18.8%.

Approximately 22% of household consumption was spent on food, 11% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 13% on education.


As of 2005, Qatar's labor force totaled an estimated 440,000. In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), industry accounted for 38.2% of the country's workforce, with 2.3% in the agricultural sector, 58.8% in the services sector, and 0.8% in undefined occupations. No labor may be recruited without the approval of the Department of Labor, and vacancies must be offered first to Qataris, second to Arabs, and only then to foreigners, who composed 85% of the workforce in 1992. In 2001, the unemployment rate was 2.7%.

Trade unions are prohibited, and strikes are permitted only after the case has been presented to the Labor Department of the Ministry of Civil Service and an agreement cannot be reached. Government employees, security forces employees, domestic workers, and members of an employer's family are not permitted to strike, nor are workers in public health or security if such a strike would harm the public or lead to property damage. Workers are prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining.

The standard workweek is 48 hours, although most government offices set a 36-hour week. Children as young as 15 may work with parental permission, and some young non-Qataris work in family businesses. However, youths of any nationality do not frequently work in Qatar. While the labor law gives the emir the authority to set a minimum wage, he has not chosen to do so. Enforcement of safety standards is lax.


Agriculture is constrained by a lack of adequate fertile soil, rainfall, and underground water sources; the aquifers that supply the crops are expected to soon run dry. Treated wastewater has been used for irrigation. In 2003, only 1.9% (21,000 hectares/52,000 acres) of the total land area was under cultivation. In 2004, 16,500 tons of dates were produced, mostly for local consumption. Rice is also grown for the domestic market.


According to 2005 estimates, Qatar had 200,000 sheep, 155,000 goats, 34,000 camels, 11,000 head of cattle, and 4.5 million chickens. Output in 2005 included about 5,850 tons of mutton and 4,900 tons of poultry. Dairy and poultry production meet about 25% of domestic needs. Public, private, and foreign financing have all been used to establish or expand dairy and poultry farming.


The Qatar National Fishing Co., formed as a QatarUK partnership in 1966, was wholly taken over by Qatar in 1980 and has its own shrimp fishing fleet and processing facilities. Fish and shellfish production in 2003 totaled 11,000 tons.

Pearl fishing, once important in Qatar, has virtually disappeared. The principal fishing facilities at Doha and Al Khor have been improved. Over fishing and pollution have adversely affected catches, and there is further concern that oil pollution from the Gulf War may worsen conditions even further.


There are no forests in Qatar. Imports of forestry products totaled $31.4 million in 2004.


Much of Qatar's economy is based on the production of natural gas, petrochemicals, crude oil, and refined petroleum products. Among other exploitable minerals, production in 2004 included: limestone, estimated at 1 million metric tons; hydraulic cement, estimated at 1.4 million metric tons; nitrogen (ammonia), 1.428 million metric tons; and nitrogen (urea), estimated at 1 million metric tons. The country also produced clay, gypsum, and sand and gravel.


Qatar has large reserves of oil and the world's third-largest natural gas reserves. It is also emerging as a major exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Qatar's proven oil reserves were estimated at 15.2 billion barrels, as of 1 January 2005. In 2004, oil production was estimated at 1,068,000 barrels per day, of which crude oil accounted for 783,000 barrels per day. In 2004, net oil exports averaged an estimated 1,023,000 barrels per day, of which almost all was shipped to Asia, with Japan as the country's largest buyer. Domestic oil demand in 2004 was estimated at 45,000 barrels per day. Qatar's largest-producing oil field is the onshore Dukhan field on the western coast of the peninsula. Offshore production accounts for about 40% of the total, mainly from three of Qatar's six offshore fields about 50 miles from the coast. As a member of OPEC, Qatar is subject to the organization's crude oil production quotas. As of 1 November, 2004, Qatar's crude oil production quota was placed at 700,000 barrels per day, not including condensates. Crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 137,000 barrels per day.

Qatar's natural gas reserves are the world's third largest, behind those of Russia and Iran, and are estimated at 910 trillion cu ft. Output in 2002 was estimated at 1 trillion cu ft. Domestic consumption in that year was estimated at 396 billion cu ft. Nearly all of Qatar's natural gas reserves are in the North Dome Field, considered to be the largest natural gas field (unassociated with oil) in the world. In 2003, net exports of natural gas were estimated at 669 billion cu ft. Production of natural gas liquids in 2004 was estimated 250,000 barrels per day.

Qatar's power plants are mostly gas fired, for which the residential sector accounts for around 70% of demand. In 2002, Qatar's electrical power generating capacity totaled 1.880 million kW, all of which used conventional thermal fuels. Power production in 2002 reached 9.497 billion kWh. Domestic demand for electricity in that year totaled 8.832 billion kWh.


Industry in Qatar is restricted by the small size of the population and the paucity of resources other than petroleum and natural gas. Qatar has nevertheless launched an ambitious industrialization plan aimed at diversifying the sources of national income and creating an economy that is not totally dependent on oil revenues. State enterprises include the Qatar Iron and Steel Co. (70% government owned); the Qatar Fertilizer Co.QAFCO (70% government-owned, underwent its fourth expansion in 2002); the Qatar National Cement Co. (43% government owned and no foreign investment); Qatar Petrochemical Co.QAPCO (80% government owned, produces ethylene, polyethylene, and sulfur); Qatar Liquefied Gas Co.QatarGas (65% owned by Qatar Petroleum); Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural GasRas Gas (70% owned by Qatar Petroleum, began operations in 1999 and expanded in 2001, producing about 10 million tons per year); Qatar Chemicals Co.Q-Chem (51% owned by Qatar Petroleum, established 1997 with expansion into Q-Chem II in 2002); Qatar Fuel Additive Co.QAFAC (50% owned by Qatar Petroleum, commissioned in 1999 to produce 830,000 metric tons per year of methanol and 610,000 metric tons per year of methyl tertiary mutyl ether); and Qatar Vinyl Co.QVC (25.% owned by Qatar Petroleum and 31.9% by QAPCO). It is estimated that industry accounted for almost 10.6% of GDP in 2000, up from 7.5% in 1997.

The industrial production growth rate has been consistently higher than the economic growth rate (10% in 2003), and in 2004, the share of the industry in the national GDP rose to an astonishing 58.2%; at 0.3%, agriculture is an insignificant segment of the economy, and the country is still dependent on food imports; services came in second, with a 41.5% share in the economy. Around $120 billion is to be invested in the next 10 years in the development of the energy and industrial sectors.


The Scientific and Applied Research Center, within the University of Qatar at Doha, coordinates the nation's technological development and seeks to develop ways to utilize the country's natural resources. A soil research station is located at Rodet al-Farassa. The Qatar National Museum, founded at Doha in 1975, has an aquarium and botanical garden and exhibits dealing with geology, botany, and zoology. In 1986, total expenditures on research and development amounted to qr6.7 million; 61 technicians and 229 scientists and engineers were engaged in research and development.


As elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, wholesale and retail operations in Qatar are frequently combined in the same enterprise. A relatively small number of large companies controls most of the retail market, particularly in food imports and distribution. Consumer cooperative societies have also been established for food retail sales. Local laws require that commercial agents be of Qatari nationality; however, a 2000 law opened up more possibilities for foreign investors. Consumer advertising can be displayed in motion

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 8,230.9 4,052.1 4,178.8
Japan 2,378.3 426.5 1,951.8
Korea, Republic of 1,737.1 145.1 1,592.0
Singapore 1,017.1 30.8 986.3
Areas nes 519.0 519.0
United Arab Emirates 436.1 285.6 150.5
Thailand 375.3 34.9 340.4
United States 283.8 528.3 -244.5
Egypt 263.4 263.4
Saudi Arabia 191.0 252.1 -61.1
Philippines 126.8 126.8
() data not available or not significant.

picture theaters, in the press, and on billboards. Radio and television services do not accept advertising.

Normal business hours are from 7:30 am to 12 noon and from 3:30 pm to 6 pm. Government offices are open from 7 am to 2 pm, Saturday through Wednesday. Banks are open from 8 to 12:30 am. Private-sector business hours are usually 8 am to 12:30 pm and 4 pm to 7:30 am, Saturday through Thursday. Most businesses are closed on Friday.


Qatar's most important commodity exports are crude petroleum (56%), natural and manufactured gas (30%), and refined petroleum products (2.1%). Other exports include manufactured polymers (3.2%), steel (2.1%), and fertilizers (1.9%).

In 2004, Qatar's exports grew to $15 billion (FOBFree on Board), while its imports were more than half that, at $6.2 billion (FOB). The bulk of exports went to Japan (41.9%), South Korea (15.8%), Singapore (9.1%), and India (5.4%). Imports included machinery and transport equipment, food, and chemicals and mainly came from France (26.6%), the United States (9.5%), Saudi Arabia (9.4%), the United Arab Emirates (6.3%), Germany (5.2%), Japan (5.2%), and the United Kingdom (5.1%).


Qatar has had a persistent trade surplus while maintaining an overall balance of payments deficit. The gap in the balance of payments is largely due to massive imports in services and person transfers, and somewhat to outflowing capital transfers.

The Qatar Central Bank reported that in 1998, there was a surplus in the balance of goods of $358 million, a substantial decline from the surplus of $897 million posted in 1997. The central bank's numbers were based on an exchange rate of qr3.64 per $1. The decline was the result of a reduced rate of exports and an increased rate of imports. Although oil exports grew in volume, lower prices for oil resulted in less revenue. More than offsetting the surplus on goods, the balance on services posted a record deficit of $2.4 billion. Capital and private transfers, as represented in state borrowings from foreign sources and official and private investments in foreign markets, recorded a surplus of $1.34 billion, a 13% increase over 1997. Overall, the 1998 balance of payments registered a deficit of $736 million. This deficit was largely due to increased borrowing necessary to expand the country's liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. It is estimated that these deficits will continue until revenues from LNG exports from the North Field begin to impact the economy.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001, the purchasing power parity of Qatar's exports was $11 billion, while imports totaled $3.5 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $7.5 billion.

Exports of goods reached $18.7 billion in 2004 and were expected to grow to $23.4 billion in 2005. Imports were expected to reach $6.7 billion in 2005, up from $5.4 billion in 2004. Qatar has thus managed to keep both a positive resource balance ($13.3 billion, and $16.7 billion, respectively) and a positive current account balance ($7.5 billion in 2004, and an expected $9.2 billion in 2005). Foreign exchange reserves (excluding gold) reached $3.4 billion in 2004, covering more than seven months of imports.


Qatar's monetary and banking system is headed by the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). The bank supervises all banks and money exchange companies in Qatar. In 1993, the QCB was established to assume the functions of the Qatar Monetary Agency. The bank was set up in part to make it independent of the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum. The QCB is responsible for ensuring that all banks operating in Qatar comply with international standards and auditing procedures. Total assets of all banks operating in Qatar was estimated at $13.8 billion in 2000. As of 1999, there were 14 banks operating in Qatar: seven national, two Arab, and six foreign. There were also 10 money exchange companies. The Qatar National Bank is the largest, with total assets exceeding $5 billion.

The Qatari riyal was fixed to the US dollar at a rate of us$1=qr3.65 in June 1980 and has remained at that rate to date. However, for practical purposes the rate is us$1=qr3.639. Because the exchange rate is fixed, Qatar cannot employ monetary policy for domestic price regulation and employment objectives. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.4 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $7.9 billion.

There is no stock exchange. Shares in Qatari public companies are traded through banks.


In 1999, there were 11 insurance companies represented in Qatar, seven of which were foreign owned. The Qatar National Insurance Co. has the largest market share and manages the government's insurance business. In 1999, 1.3% of Qatar's gross domestic product (GDP) was insurance premiums.


Revenues from oil and gas constitute about 90% of total government income. From 1986 to 1990, the government ran a deficit due to the drop in oil revenues from falling prices. These deficits resulted in the procrastination of payments by the government, which created a financial difficulty for many private companies. To address this problem, the government took measures to boost the oil industry, which achieved positive results by the late 1990s.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Qatar's central government took in revenues of approximately $17.3 billion and had expenditures of $11.3 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 36.7% of gross domestic product. Total external debt was $20.63 billion.


The only tax levied in Qatar (besides customs duties) is an income and profits tax on corporations. Qataris and those who are citizens of countries that are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) are subject to a 0% tax rate. Thus, if the company is wholly owned by Qatari or other GCC nationals, the company is not taxed. Otherwise, foreign companies and/or their branches are taxed at progressive rates starting at 0% up to 35% covering each of seven income levels. There is no other personal or corporate tax liability in Qatar for either foreigners or nationals.


Import licenses are not required except for liquor (consumption of which is limited to non-Muslims). Customs duties are 4% on almost all commodities except for alcoholic beverages (100%), tobacco and cigarettes (150%), and records and phonographs (15%). A 20% protective tariff is imposed on cement, steel bars, and other products that compete with goods produced in Qatar. The importing of pork, any goods deemed pornographic, and any goods from Israel or South Africa are forbidden. Qatar is a member of the World Trade Organization and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), through which it signed a free trade agreement that provides duty-free access to goods from GCC member nations.


The Qatari government encourages overseas investment in Qatar, conditioned on a majority Qatari interest. For example, the Qatar Petrochemical Co. is jointly owned by the government of Qatar (80%), the French company Cdf Chimie Atochem (10%), and the Italian company Enichem (10%). Qatar Liquefied Gas Co., which began production in 1996, is a venture between the state-owned Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (QGPC) with 65% and four other foreign firms, including the US firm Mobil Oil with a 10% stake. In 1992, the firm signed a sales and purchase agreement with the Chubu Electric Power Co. in Japan for the sale of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year for a period of 25 years. Another US company, Phillips Corporation, signed an agreement with QGPC in May 1977 for establishing a new $750 million petrochemical complex at Umm Sa'īd Industrial Area.

Until the mid 1990s, Japanese and European firms were the leading international suppliers to the following industrial sectors: power generation, water desalination, telecommunications, motor vehicles, heavy machinery, and petroleum equipment. Since then, however, the market share of US companies has risen to over 14%. Foreign investment in enhanced oil recovery and production and in LNG across the period 1992 to 2002 is estimated to have totaled over $10 billion. Published foreign direct investment (FDI) statistics show a peak of $418.3 million in 1997, declining to $113.3 million in 1999. In 2000, FDI rose to $251.6 million but declined to $237.4 million in 2001. Average annual FDI 1997 to 2001 was $273.58 million.

Recently, Qatar has made significant improvements toward liberalizing its trade and investment climate, providing more incentives and opportunities for foreign investors. The main focus area for incoming flows of capital is the massive natural gas reserves that have been discovered in the North Field. The LNG industry has managed to attract almost $70 billion worth of investments.


Qatar follows a policy of diversifying and extending its industrial and commercial activities to reduce the current dependence on oil. Infrastructure, heavy and light industry, agriculture, and fishing have all been development targets. The Industrial Development Committee encourages investment and supervises industrial growth. The government also uses surplus oil revenues on the international money market to protect the purchasing power of those revenues. In the late 1990s, Qatar launched some major/minor projects worth about $7 billion: liquefied natural gas plant expansion of the present fertilizer and petrochemical plants, aluminum smelter, Al Wusail power/water desalination plant, new Doha International Airport, and upgrading and expansion of the off-shore oil fields. Foreign investment in Qatar's oil sector and industrial projects is estimated to have reached $10 billion since 1992. Qatar has extended economic assistance to other Arab states, to other developing nations, and to Palestinian organizations.

In 2005, Qatar was one of the region's star performers, and it is expected to maintain that position in the next 10 years. The energy sector is considered to be the main engine of this economic expansion. Qatar has, so far, managed to attract over $100 billion in investments in its energy sector, and it is estimated that it will invest an additional $120 billion over the course of the next 10 years. Large government industrial and infrastructure projects, as well as preparations for hosting the Asian Games in 2006, will add some dynamism to the economic growth machine.


Public health services and education are provided free by the state through the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which also provides help to orphans, widows, and other Qatari nationals in need of assistance.

Both law and Islamic customs closely restrict the activities of Qatari women, who are largely limited to roles within the home. Shariah law governs inheritance and child custody matters and favors men. The testimony of two women in court is equivalent to that of one man. However, growing numbers of women are receiving government scholarships to study abroad, and some women work in education, medicine, and the media. Women compose two-thirds of the student body at the University of Qatar. Although domestic violence occurs, it is not a widespread problem. In 2004, legislation was enacted allowing women to form independent women's rights organizations.

Non-Muslims and Shia Muslims experience discrimination in employment and education. They are also unable to bring suits as plaintiffs in Shariah courts. Noncitizens make up 85% of the workforce yet are discriminated against and sometimes mistreated. Corporal punishment is allowed by law, although amputation is not. Freedom of speech and press are restricted.


Free public health services are extended to all residents of Qatar, regardless of nationality. The Ministry of Health has tried with some success to keep pace with an expanding population. As of 2004, there were an estimated 221 physicians and 493 nurses per 100,000 people. Approximately 100% of the population had access to safe water and 100% of the population had access to health care services.

Life expectancy was estimated at 73.67 years as of 2005. That same year, infant mortality was estimated at 18.61 deaths per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at 15.8 and 4.3 per 1,000 people, respectively. The fertility rate was 2.6 children per woman living throughout her childbearing years.

The immunization rates for children under the age of one were as follows: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 91%; polio, 91%; measles, 86%; hepatitis, 90%; and tuberculosis, 94%. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.09 per 100 adults in 2003.


A "popular housing" scheme provides dwellings through interest-free loans and installment repayments on easy terms. Occupants are required to pay only 60% of the cost of their houses during a period of 2035 years. To qualify for ownership, an applicant must be a married Qatari national with a limited income, between the ages of 20 and 50 years, and unable to build a house on his own. Qataris facing extreme hardship can receive a free house. Foreign nationals are not permitted to buy real estate. In 199193, 100% of the population had access to safe water.


Education is compulsory and free for all residents 616 years of age. All children receive free books, meals, transportation, clothing, and boarding facilities if required. Primary school covers six years of study. This is followed by three years of general preparatory school or religious preparatory school; the latter is only available for boys. Secondary school programs cover a three-year course of studies. Girls are permitted to attend general academic studies at the secondary level, but only boys are given the option of attending religious, commercial, or technical secondary schools.

In 2001, about 31% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 94% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 82% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 87% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 13:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 43% of primary school enrollment and 31.7% of secondary enrollment.

The leading higher education institution is the University of Qatar, founded at Doha in 1973. In addition to faculties of education, science, humanities, social sciences, Islamic studies, and engineering, the university offers a Language Teaching Institute (founded in 1972) and a Regional Training Center, established in 1979 with United Nations Development Program technical assistance. Scholarships for higher education abroad are given to all who qualify. In 2003, about 22% of the tertiary age population was enrolled in some type of higher education program, 12% for men and 32% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 89.2%.

As of 2003, public expenditures on education were estimated at 3.6% of gross domestic product.


The Qatar National Library (founded in 1962) has over 270,000 volumes. Construction of a new building for the library began in Doha in 2003 and is expected to be completed in 2007. The University of Qatar library has about 341,000 volumes. The British Council maintains a collection of 45,000 volumes. The Doha Public Library holds a collection of thousands of ancient Arabic manuscripts, as well as modern works and a small collection of books in English. Qatar also has a system of branch and school-affiliated libraries.

The Qatar National Museum in Doha has five major sections: the old Amiri Palace (11 buildings) and a new palace, aquarium, lagoon, and botanical gardens. The Doha Fort and Windtower House serves as an ethnographic museum.


Qatar enjoys excellent external telephone, telex, and cable facilities. Direct-dial telephone service is available to most parts of Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. In 2003, there were 184,500 mainline phones and 376,500 mobile phones in use nationwide.

Radio transmissions include 12 hours per day of English-language service. A French-language service was instituted in 1985. As of 1998, there were six AM and five FM radio stations. In 2001, there was one television station. Broadcasts are mostly in Arabic. In 1997, there were 268 radios and 273 television sets per 1,000 population. In 2003, there were 126,000 Internet subscribers.

In 2002, there were six major daily newspapers. Commercial publications available in Qatar (with 2002 circulation figures) include the daily newspapers Al-'Arab (25,000), Ar-Rayah (25,000), Al-Sharq (45,000), and Gulf Times (15,000).

The official censorship of the print media was lifted in 1995. Since then, it is said that the print media have been free of government interference. The censorship function continues for movies, videos, radio and television programming, and Internet services. Also, many foreign publications are banned or have significant portions blacked out. Items typically censored are those containing sexually explicit material or anything deemed hostile or contrary to the teachings of Islam.


The Qatar Chamber of Commerce was founded in Doha in 1963. There are numerous family, social, and sporting clubs, including the Beacon Club and the Doha Sailing Association. National youth organizations include the Qatar Boy Scouts Association and the Qatar Student Association. The Shaqab Institute for Girls (SIG) is an organization promoting education for young women; it is part of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which organizes programs designed to contribute to the overall development of country through various educational, cultural, and scientific ventures. There is a national chapter of the Red Crescent Society.


Tourist attractions in Qatar are somewhat limited, with small museums, mosques, and historic sites being of primary interest. Tourists also visit the Sealine Beach Resort, Palm Tree Island, and Entertainment City (the Kingdom of Aladdin). International tourists in Qatar numbered 556,965 in 2003. Most of the tourist arrivals were from the Middle East. Hotel rooms numbered 3,858, with 5,266 beds and a 44% occupancy rate.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of travel in Qatar to be $297.


Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani (b.1932) was emir of Qatar from 1972 to 1995. The heir apparent Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (b.1948) became emir in June 1995 following a bloodless coup that ousted his father.


The State of Qatar has no territories or colonies.


Anscombe, Frederick F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Chaddock, David. Qatar: The Business Travellers' Handbook. Northampton, Mass.: Interlink Books, 2003.

Cordesman, Anthony H. Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE: Challenges of Security. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Held, Colbert C. Middle East Patterns: Places, Peoples, and Politics. 4th ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2006.

Hourani, Albert Habib. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.

Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That Is Challenging the West. New York: Grove Press, 2005.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

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State of Qatar

Major City:

Other City:
Umm Said


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated March 1997. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


QATAR , a fully independent sovereign Arab state on the western shore of the Persian Gulf, was a protectorate of the United Kingdom for 75 years before proclaiming its autonomy in 1971. It had been inhabited for many centuries, as early as 4,000 B.C., and had existed under the dominance of Bahrain and the occupation of the Ottoman Turks. At the beginning of World War I, Great Britain expanded custody of Qatar, promising to protect it from all aggression by sea, and to lend its good offices in case of land attack.

High-quality oil was discovered in 1939, but exports were delayed by the second World War. During the 1950s and 1960s, gradually increasing oil income brought economic prosperity, social progress, and the beginning of modern industry. In 1968, Qatar attempted to form a federation with neighboring Gulf countries, Bahrain and the Trucial States (the present United Arab Emirates). Attempts to agree on the terms of the union failed. In September 1971 Qatar decided to become a separate entity known as the State of Qatar. (The name sounds like "cotter.")



Doha's 2000 population is about 355,000 and growing. Most have arrived in the past 15 years, as the city has expanded at an incredible rate. Although generally well maintained by municipal authorities, the city has grown faster than its basic infrastructure, resulting in a large number of ongoing renovation projects (roads, sewers, telephone cables, etc.).

Privately funded residential and office building construction is found throughout the city. Notwithstanding this large-scale development around the capital, a shortage of reasonably priced, Western-style housing persists. The majority of new living units are large, poorly designed (and expensive) European-style "villas," with high perimeter walls and very small interior gardens.

Once a sleepy seaport, Doha has come a long way since the oil boom of the mid-1970s. The modern skyline now includes a number of multistory buildings that contrast sharply with the flat, rocky plains surrounding the city. Many of the older buildings are being torn down and replaced, especially in the old "souk" area of the city center.

Streets in the old section of the city are narrow and congested, but a system of wide, high-speed parkways links the newer, suburban areas. Very few open spaces are found in the city center, but a 7-kilometer-long park system along the waterfront Corniche offers agreeable vistas and a place to walk or jog and is a popular gathering spot in the cooler months. In addition, a limited number of public parks and museums are located around the city, including the attractive Doha Zoo, the National Museum, Doha Fort, Khulaifat Park, Muntaza Park, the Airport Park, and Aladdin's Kingdom, a Western-style amusement park. Mosques appear in every neighborhood; one is never more than a few blocks from an impressive example of Muslim architecture.


With the exception of fresh fish, some chicken, and seasonal, locally grown produce (cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, etc.), all food consumed in Doha is imported. Although poor supermarket inventory management results in frequent shortages, overall selection among the various retail outlets is good. U.S.-style one-stop shopping may be impossible, but one can usually find everything one needs to feed an American family. Several modern supermarkets offer a variety of fresh and frozen meat, frozen poultry, canned goods and frozen foods, some from the U.S. but most from Europe, the Middle East, and Australia.

A wholesale produce market on the outskirts of the city sells imported fruits and vegetables at Washington, D.C., area prices. An adjoining fish market offers a good selection of fresh, reasonably-priced fish and shellfish. Dairy products, including fresh and "shelf life" milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, and butter, are available at most local retail outlets. Both imported and locally manufactured soft drinks are available at reasonable prices. Local bakeries produce various types of bread, rolls, pies, and cakes; however, the quality is not quite up to U.S. standards.

Alcoholic beverages are available but carefully rationed and controlled. Using a ration card issued by the British Embassy, one can only purchase liquor once per month up to QR 500 (about $137) per family. Prices include importation duty and are very close to U.S. retail prices for similar items.


For 4 to 5 months of the year, Doha's temperatures exceed those of the hottest August days in Washington, D.C. Cotton and other cooler fabrics for both women and men are essential during this period. For 2 to 3 months in winter, it is cool enough for light jackets and woolen clothing in the evenings. Good-quality clothing is about twice the cost in Doha as in the U.S. By contrast, the local fabric market is reasonably priced, and local dressmakers and tailors can be hired to custom-make clothing items for significantly less than retail outlets charge for premanufactured items. However, the abilities of local tailors and dressmakers vary widely, and custom-made clothing can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

Men: Because many offices and homes are centrally air-conditioned, lightweight suits and jackets are comfortable for office and evening wear. For informal occasions, slacks and sport shirts are appropriate.

Dress shoes and some fashionable men's clothing are available in Doha. English and continental shoes average $200 to $300 a pair. American shirts, ties, socks, underwear, and pajamas are available, but again at very high prices. Continental suits are sold for $700 to $900 and sport coats for $350. Occasionally, a reasonably priced suit or jacket is found at one of the local shops, though apparel stocked locally is inferior by U.S. standards. Even if the price is right, fit and size can present problems. Tailor-made suits and shirts are more affordable, but great care must be exercised in choosing a tailor and explaining the design requirements.

Women: Although Qatari women wear the traditional, ankle-length black cloaks (abayas), Western women wear regular Western dress. Knee-length and mid-calf-length dresses and skirts are preferable, as very short dresses, shorts, and tank tops are considered in poor taste and offend the host country's religious and cultural principles. Many women have dresses or skirts made locally.

American shoes are typically not available in Doha. European shoes in the latest styles can be purchased, but many Americans have difficulty finding the correct size, and prices are very high. The rough outdoor terrain is very damaging to shoes, and replacements will be needed more often than in the U.S. Shoe repair work is available but not always of good quality.

Children's clothing is available, but quality and style are uneven, and all items are much more costly than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Ample supplies of toiletries, cosmetics, shaving supplies, and home medications, mostly European brands, are available at higher than U.S. prices. Pharmacies carry a wide range of prescription and nonprescription drugs, first-aid supplies, and birth control products.

British, French, and some American cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories are available locally at prices comparable to those in the U.S.

Dry cleaning is available at several retail outlets. A man's business suit typically costs about $6, a woman's suit about $4.50. Business hours for dry-cleaning establishments are short, sometimes only a few hours per day.

Hairdressing salons for men and women are adequate by Western standards. A man's haircut costs $3 to $10, depending on the shop patronized. A shampoo and set, without a cut, costs about $20.

Religious Activities

Islam is the only officially sanctioned religion in Qatar, and it is illegal to display crosses and other religious symbols on buildings or in public areas. Likewise, churches and other official places of worship are banned. Unofficially, a variety of Christian worship services are held in private schools and homes, including Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican services. There is a Christian burial ground near Dukhan, about an hour west of Doha.


Expatriate schools are available for the American, British, French, Lebanese, Indian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Iranian, and Pakistani communities. In 1988, Doha's American International School (AIS) was founded as an independent, coeducational private school. AIS offers an American-style educational program for students of all nationalities, from kindergarten through grade 12. AIS receives grant money from the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS). It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. The school operates on a quarter term system from the beginning of September to the middle of June. The school runs at full capacity with 400 students, about half of whom are American citizens. A new school building has been in the planning stages.

Other local schools include the Doha English Speaking School (DESS), a British-style grade school, and Doha College, a British high school. These schools are sponsored by the British Embassy and follow traditional British educational models, preparing students to pass the qualifying exams that control access to the better public and private schools and colleges in the U.K. Despite differences in goals and methods, the British schools can prepare American children to enter U.S. public schools with their age groups. Supplemental courses in areas beyond the British curriculum, such as U.S. history, must be arranged privately. The schools operate on a trimester basis from September to late June.

For further information, contact:

American International School
P.O. Box 22090, Doha, Qatar
FAX: 011-974-806311
Tel: 011-974-806770

Doha English Speaking School
P.O. Box 7660, Doha, Qatar
FAX: 011-974-875921
Tel: 011-974-862530

Doha College
P.O. Box 7506, Doha, Qatar
FAX: 011-974-685720
Tel: 011-974-887379


Organized athletic events are typically limited to soccer, although a few other sports make an occasional appearance. For those who can afford to join private clubs, a variety of sports are available, including wind surfing, sailing, weight lifting, volleyball, etc. Fishing and boating are popular but expensive. A few bowling alleys are available, both for league play and individual play.

A new championship golf course just north of Doha will open soon. Due to the costs of maintaining grass greens and fairways in the harsh desert climate, membership fees and greens fees are expected to be very high. Two older golf courses already operate in Qatar, both with dirt fairways and oiled sand greens (browns). One is a 1-hour drive west of Doha, and the other is a 40-minute drive south. Membership at either club is less expensive, but may require a wait of several months. A few private tennis and squash clubs operate in Doha. A local rugby club is open to all reasonably skilled players. There is also a scuba club in Qatar.

A number of private clubs with sports facilities, some at hotels, offer individual and family memberships. Typically, these clubs offer swimming, squash, tennis, and weight room facilities. Membership fees are relatively high. The Al-Messilah compound also has a small weight room, a large (25 meter) swimming pool, two squash courts, two tennis courts and several children's playgrounds. These facilities are free to Al-Messilah residents and their guests.

Aside from the occasional tennis or squash match, soccer football is the only local spectator sport. Local and regional teams compete frequently on Doha's various public and private soccer fields.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The principal outdoor activity in Doha is the weekend beach trip. The beaches which are easily reached over good roads are too noisy and litter-strewn for most Americans. The more attractive beaches in the North and West are also more remote: most are 1-2 hours away from the city and accessible only by 4 wheel-drive vehicles. The remote beaches offer better privacy and family enjoyment for Westerners. Beachgoers travel in convoys and bring all necessary supplies with them, including food, drinking water, tents, firewood, etc.all beaches are "primitive" (no shade, fresh water, rest rooms or concessions of any kind). At the Inland Sea south of Umm Said, sand dunes extend to the water's edge, sheltering mile after mile of beautiful, deserted beaches. However, a trip to the Inland Sea is three hours each way, much of it over salt flats, gravel flats and loose sand. It requires substantial planning and a minimum of 3-4 well-maintained 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Due to the distance involved, many visitors to the Inland Sea camp out overnight and return to Doha the next day.

Doha's National Museum is among the finest of its type in the Gulf. The facility is a treasure chest of bedouin artifacts, crafts, jewelry, and other works associated with the history of the Qatari people. It also has an aquarium and lagoon, in which local sea life and traditional fishing boats are displayed.

Arabian oryx can be seen at the Doha Zoo and on a farm at Shahaniya. These extremely rare animals were captured elsewhere on the Arabian peninsula to form a breeding herd in Qatar and to help save the strain from extinction.


Doha has no western-style bars or nightclubs; public drinking and dancing are prohibited. Private restaurants in the major hotels and in private clubs offer alcoholic beverages to members and paying guests only. All other liquor is sold via a local ration system controlled by the British Embassy. Most evening entertainment is either alcohol-free or takes place in private homes.

Doha has two cinemas, but they show South Asian and Arabic movies almost exclusively.

An amateur, English language theater group produces several plays every year, including one or more musical productions. There are a few private choral, instrumental and dance groups in Doha, but no city choir, dance troupe or orchestra. The National Folklore Troupe, established to preserve Qatar's traditional music and dance, presents public performances on holidays and for special events. Qatar occasionally hosts an international sporting event, such as the Qatar Tennis Open in January.

Social Activities

Opportunities for charitable volunteer work exist but are limited. Local social services enjoy massive government support. Charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been virtually nonexistent in the past, but interest in this concept is growingQatar's first NGO, Friends of the Environment, has just been established.

Although Qatar is still a traditional society, opportunities exist to establish rewarding personal relationships with Qatari nationals, both men and women. Cross-cultural ties have been strengthened by the large number of young men who have been sent abroad for higher education. The size and variety of expatriate communities also present excellent opportunities for staff members to develop personal and business relationships.


UMM SAID (also called Musay'id) is an important port situated 25 miles south of Doha on the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. For over 20 years, it was the country's only deep water port. Revenue from material exported and imported here was critical in the development of the country from the city's founding in 1949. The Qatar Petroleum Company constructed a tanker terminal in the area, including an artificial deep water port. The company's headquarters was built here, as well. A deep water port was opened in the capital in the 1970s, lessening the importance of Umm Said. The city has a population of over 6,100 (1986 est.).


Geography and Climate

A sovereign Arab State on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf, Qatar occupies a 4,200-square-mile peninsula somewhat smaller than Connecticut, as well as several small offshore islands. The Qatar Peninsula projects north into the Gulf for about 100 miles and has a maximum width of about 55 miles. Halul, a permanently settled island, is an important storage center and tanker terminal for three offshore oil fields.

Doha, the capital city, is situated on the east coast, as are the country's larger towns.

In the south at the neck of the peninsula, Qatar borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, the Saudi capital, lies 250 miles due west beyond the Jafura Desert.

The port of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is about 150 nautical miles southeast. The vast Rub' al-Khali Desert (the Empty Quarter) extends to the shallow inlets, reefs, and shoals of the Gulf.

The nearest seaward neighbor is Bahrain to the north. Although Bahrain's capital, Manama, is 100 miles from Doha, only 20 miles separate the two countries at the narrowest part of the channel that runs between them into the Gulf of Salwa.

The eastern (Iranian) shore of the Gulf is 120 miles beyond Qatar's northern tip. The nearest Iranian port, Bushire, lies about 250 miles from Doha. The Iraqi Port of Basra, on the northern shore of the Gulf, is 350 miles away. The southern Strait of Hormuz, 310 miles from Doha, provides access to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Thus, Qatar occupies a central position in the Arabian Gulf.

The overall outline of the peninsula was not defined on European maps until well into the 19th century, though Karsten Niebuhr briefly described the peninsula in his Voyage en Arabie, published in Switzerland in 1780. The historical appearance of Qatari place-names on European maps suggests strongly that, until recent times, international navigators were familiar only with the northern end of the country and the eastern pearling banks.

Qatar's terrain is monotonously flat, except for the Dukhan anticline in the west and some low rock outcroppings at the northern end of the east coast. Blown sand covers much of the south, and shifting dunes predominate in the southeast. The Dukhan anticline rises from the west coast as a chain of separate hills of up to 325 feet in height, about 35 miles long and 3 to 5 miles wide, covering the country's onshore oil fields.

Natural vegetation, including semipermanent pasture, is limited to areas surrounding wells, depressions, and short drainage courses active only after the winter rains. Most flora is confined to the northern half of the country. Elsewhere, the featureless terrain is relieved only by sparse patches of camel thorn and isolated date palm plantations.

The coastline is uneven and rises gently on both sides of the peninsula. Sandy reefs abound in the surrounding shallows. Extensive salt flats at the landward end of the peninsula, between Salwa on the west coast and Khor al-Odeid in the east, support the local belief that Qatar was once an island, separated from what is now the Saudi Province of al-Hasa.

Qatar lies outside the area of the annual monsoons. Its seasons are similar to those of the Temperate Zone, although usually much hotter. The winter months from December through February are cool, considering that Qatar's latitude is about the same as that of Miami, Florida. Intense heat persists at least from May through September. March, April, October, and November normally provide the most agreeable climatic conditions. Humidity ranges from 32% in midsummer to highs of 96 to 100% in the fall and early winter. Rainfall is usually very light and averages less than 3 inches per year, mostly in the winter months. Almost no rain falls from May through October. Frequent high winds, especially from March through August, can fill the air with fine dust and create a brownish haze on the horizon.

The prevailing desert wind ("shemal") comes from the north during the spring and summer months. This constant, rather strong wind can be irritating, especially for allergy sufferers. In late summer, when the shemal dies, the humidity rises, making the climate even more unpleasant. It is not uncommon for building windows to fog up and drip moisture during the months of August and September.


The population of Qatar (including large expatriate communities comprising other Arabs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Baluchis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Iranians, and Westerners) is estimated at almost 750,000 people. Some 2,600 Britons, 2,000 other Europeans, and 3,500 Americans reside here. About 80% of the total population is concentrated in and around Doha.

The indigenous Qataris, who total around 100,000, can be traced to three main migratory movements: 1) overland, in the 1760s, by members of tribes already concentrated in Kuwait and along the shores of the Saudi Province of al-Hasa; 2) by tribal elements during the period of the Wahhabi expansion from al-Hasa at the end of the 1700s; and 3) by sea from neighboring Gulf shores.

Those involved in the overland influx were almost entirely bedouin in origin. Their interest in the peninsula hinged on rainfall and grazing factors. Coastal wells and suitable sites for pearling and fishing ports controlled the pattern of immigration by sea from other regions of the Gulf.

Qatar appears in fifth century A.D. writings as a seafaring community, and Qataris continued to look to the sea for their communications and livelihoods until the advent of oil. The surrounding deserts and seas isolated them from their neighbors. Pearling and fishing represented the only sources of wealth. The elderly still recall a time when Qatar's 400 pearling ships constituted one-third of the entire Gulf fleet and when the pearl beds of the peninsula, Bahrain, and the lower Gulf coast were recognized as the world's most prolific. But the development of the cultured pearl by the Japanese in the 1930s almost destroyed this trade, which had flourished since Babylonian times.

Islam is the official and predominant religion of the population, indigenous and migratory alike. Most Qataris are Sunni Muslims of the Wahhabi sect; Sunnis are the more numerous and orthodox of the two main Islamic streams, and Wahhabism is the fundamentalist, puritanical school prevalent in Saudi Arabia, though more moderate in Qatar. The state is committed under the provisional constitution to "endeavor to install proper Islamic religious principles."

The official language is Arabic, although most senior Qatari officials are fluent in English, and much of the commercial and government business may be conducted in English.

Many native-born Qataris are only a generation removed from a very simple village life. The most obvious traditional customs are the universal wearing of the "thobe" or "dishdash" and the infrequent public appearance of women. When they do appear outside their homes, virtually all Qatari women wear ankle-length black shawls ("abayas"), and many women still cover their faces or wear a face mask ("batula"). While alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, non-Muslims are allowed limited quantities under a strictly controlled licensing arrangement with the British Embassy. Qataris are somewhat shy but very polite and hospitable. Qatari social functions (such as teas and weddings) are segregated with the men and women attending separately, sometimes on different days. Most restaurants, from traditional to fast food, contain a "family section" separate from the more public areas of the establishment.

Public Institutions

Qatar became a British protectorate after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. The other Gulf emirates had come under British protection 100 years earlier. The British role in Qatari affairs was never comprehensive. In 1971, Qatar announced its intention to terminate the special treaty arrangements with Britain and to assume all responsibility for internal and external affairs.

A provisional constitution was promulgated in 1970. It specified that the rulership would be hereditary within the family of Al Thani, whose ancestry has been traced to the Bani Tamim, one of the ruling tribes of ancient Arabia. In the 18th century, members of this tribe had moved 200 miles north from the Jabrin Oasis to the western shore of the Gulf. The 1970 constitution provided for a Council of Ministers (cabinet), appointed by the Emir (head of state) to assist in the discharge of duties and the exercise of powers. It also provided for the establishment of an Advisory Council to assist the Emir and the cabinet.

In a 1999 move towards democracy, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani allowed for the election of a Central Municipal Council by universal suffrage. The same year, he appointed a committee to draft a new Constitution.

The major change will be the addition of an elected Advisory Council (Parliament). Until now, this council has had an emir-appointed membership. Through this change, citizens will be given greater opportunity to make decisions within their own government. However, the emir must always issue final approval of any legislation initiated through the parliament.

Recently, the emir has also established a new, separate position of Prime Minister. Traditionally, this office was held by the emir. The current Prime Minister is Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir's brother.

There are no political parties or labor unions in Qatar.

Five courts (the Higher Criminal Court, the Lower Criminal Court, the Civil Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Labor Court) operate on the basis of codified laws under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. In addition, the Shari'ah Court applies religious law, based on the precepts of the Qur'an. The division between the secular and religious spheres of law is still being defined.

Arts, Science, and Education

The National Museum, dedicated June 23, 1975, contains collections illustrating the development of the state of Qatar and the way of life of its people. Intended to serve as a repository of the culture and traditions of the peoples of the Gulf, the museum occupies the restored, former Emir's palace. Prized exhibits include an aquarium, a bedouin camp, and several examples of dhows, the wooden ships that have sailed on the Gulf and the Indian Ocean from the earliest times. These are moored in an artificial lagoon dug out of reclaimed water-front land.

Excavation of ruins and buried cairns on the west coast and elsewhere by Danish and French archeological expeditions between 1956 and 1982 have yielded evidence of prehistoric habitation. The finds are mainly of the Stone and Iron Ages and include artifacts dating from about 4000 B.C.

The Doha Public Library houses a collection of thousands of ancient Arabic manuscripts, as well as modern works and a small collection of books in English. Qatar also has a system of branch and school-affiliated libraries.

A public school system was established in 1956, and adult education was introduced a year later. Adult teaching centers offer basic literacy courses. Outside the public system are American, British, French, Indian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Iranian, and other private schools serving the various expatriate communities as well as some Qataris. Qatar University, established in 1977, enrolls full-time and part-time students (four-fifths women) in five departments: education, humanities, Islamic studies, science, and engineering. All public education in Qatar is free through the university level, and full scholarships are provided by the Ministry of Education to qualified Qatari students wishing to study abroad. Many educated Qataris are graduates of U.S. universities.

Active cultural centers in Doha include the British Council, the French Cultural Center, the Indian Cultural Center, and the USIS-operated American Cultural Center.

Commerce and Industry

From 1949, when the first cargo of crude was exported, the economy of Qatar has depended on one resourceoil. In 1974, when oil revenues rocketed to $1,928 billion (a 500% increase over 1973 earnings) the pace of economic development increased dramatically.

Qatar's oil income has since fluctuated with changes in production levels and world prices, but it remains the mainstay of the local economy. The oil sector accounts for about 80% of Qatar's export earnings and some 66% of government revenues. In recent years, production has been steady at approximately 400,000 barrels per day. The state has full control over oil production and marketing, and the Qatar General Petroleum Company (QGPC), the state-owned oil company, is one of the largest employers in the country.

At present production rates, and without application of enhanced oil recovery techniques, Qatar could deplete its oil reserves in about 25 years. However, vast offshore natural gas reserves are under development and will anchor the economy for the foreseeable future. The North Field, one of the world's largest natural gas fields, with estimated reserves of 380 trillion cubic feet, lies just off the northern tip of the Qatar Peninsula. Development projects involving billions of dollars have attracted investment from American, Japanese, French, and other international companies. In addition to gas production, much of the investment centers on construction of facilities for liquefaction the gas and shipping the liquefied natural gas (LNG) to overseas markets.

The first phase of the North Field development, funded mostly by foreign investment and orchestrated by a state-owned company known as Qatargas, will be completed in 1997. Subsequent production phases will be added later, and some are already underway. To support the development plans, a huge natural gas liquefaction plant and shipping facility is nearing completion at Ras Laffan, about one hour north of Doha.

Starting in 1969, when construction began on a fertilizer plant, Qatar embarked on an ambitious industrialization scheme. Not surprisingly, all heavy industrial projects have relied on indigenous petroleum and natural gas reserves for either fuel or feedstock. For the execution of most of these projects, the government has formed joint ventures with foreign partners under which the foreign company acquires a minority ownership while providing technical, managerial, and marketing expertise. This arrangement has been employed in establishing petrochemical, fertilizer, and steel factories and is now being used for gas development.

Thus far, the government and its foreign partners have generated most of the economic activity in Qatar. The private sector has largely limited its participation in the larger ventures to trading and construction contracting. Early in 1988, however, the government began cautiously encouraging privatization of certain activities in the areas of education, public health, and water/electricity.

Qatar has not emerged as a regional business center. Service industries and banking, while active, have focused on the domestic economy. The tourist trade is increasing but still represents only a small segment of the economy.

Per capita GDP is about $20,300 (2000 est.).



Private cars provide the only practical and dependable transportation in Doha. Taxis may be hailed at the airport, at the main hotels, or as they cruise the streets, but they have no telephone call-out service and are poorly equipped (e.g., with no seat belts or air-conditioning), and the drivers tend to speak only Arabic. They are more or less reliable, usually have functioning meters, and are relatively cheap. A more expensive alternative is a local limousine service, which more closely resembles taxi service in the U.S. "Limousines" are late-model Chevy Caprices, driven by English-speaking drivers, and are equipped with air-conditioning, rear seat belts, functioning meters, and telephone/radio dispatch equipment. Prices for this higher grade of service are comparable to taxi fares in New York and other large U.S. cities. Reasonably priced rental cars are available from Avis, Hertz, Budget, and other franchises.


Travel within the country is solely by car. Vehicle travel to neighboring countries is not recommended for safety reasons (long, desolate driving distances and the lack of shoulders or emergency lanes) and because of frequent border crossing difficulties. Air transportation links to neighboring countries are extensive, fairly well managed, and much more convenient. Planes are often overbooked, and travelers are advised to reconfirm reservations and arrive at the airport well in advance of posted flight times. Doha is served by Gulf Air, Emirates Air, Qatar Airways, Saudia, KLM, Air France, Air India, British Airways, Iran Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Egypt Air, and most other non-Gulf Arab airlines. No U.S. airline serves Doha directly, although several "code share" flights are available to and from European transit points. Current code share flights to and from the Gulf include selected flights on Gulf Air (American Airlines), Emirates Air (United), and KLM (Northwest).


Telephones and Telegraph

Telephone service in Doha is excellent. An unlimited number of local calls can be made for a nominal line charge of about $30 per month. However, the local phone company makes up for any lost revenue by charging very high rates for long-distance service (calling the U.S. from Qatar costs about $2.50 per minute, twice as much as calling Qatar from the U.S.)

Telegram and telex facilities are readily available, but these have mostly been eclipsed by fax machines.

Mobile phones are expensive but very popular with the Qatari nationals. Personal pagers (known as "bleeps") are also pervasive and are much less expensive.

Internet service is run by the partially state-owned Qatar Telecom (Q-Tel). Access is primarily for business use.

Radio and TV

Qatar TV (QTV) broadcasts in color in Middle Eastern PAL format on two channels, English and Arabic. The English-language channel often shows American programs, but all broadcasts are heavily censored. English-language news is broadcast at 8 pm and includes up-to-the-minute film footage via commercial satellite service. The telephone company (Q-TEL) operates a limited cable TV service that includes CNN, the BBC, and several English-speaking European channels. Cable service is expensive, and all broadcasts are censored.

Radio programming on the English-language station of the Qatar Broadcasting Service (QBS) is excellent, with 19 hours a day in FM stereo. English-language news is broadcast several times daily, and a variety of programs are aired, including classic rock, contemporary rock, jazz, classical music, country music, children's shows, and a number of informational talk shows. Shortwave radio owners can pick up VOA, BBC, and other foreign radio signals.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Qatar has its own English-language daily, the Gulf Times, which carries many major world news and feature syndicates. The Times weekend edition carries several popular American color comics. A selection of state-supported and semiprivate publications are also available, but almost all are in Arabic. Many U.S. and British magazines are sold in Doha, including the International Herald Tribune. Photos and texts considered politically or morally objectionable are regularly censored before distribution. While low sales volume publications are marked up 300% over the original price, high-volume items (e.g., Time, Newsweek ) are more reasonable.

The American Cultural Center has a small library. The British Council maintains a library, but its offerings are limited, and, as noted above, the National Library has relatively few volumes in English.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Medical and dental health facilities in Doha either belong to the Ministry of Public Health or are privately owned and operated. Public Health Ministry services include a general hospital with modern facilities, a women's obstetrics hospital, and a number of neighborhood primary care clinics. An increasing number of private clinics, staffed by foreign doctors, have opened in recent years. Several private dental clinics are also available. Although access to public facilities is currently provided free of charge to all expatriates, these clinics can be noisy and crowded, and waiting times can range from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the time of day and the number of patients to be seen. Most Americans prefer to pay a reasonable fee at the private clinics, which are quicker and more convenient. All public facilities and most private ones are segregated; separate waiting areas and treatment rooms are provided for male and female patients.

Emergency treatment is available at the local hospital, which runs a U.S.-style Emergency Medical Service. Most local physicians are Egyptian trained, although some are European-or American-trained. Judged by Western standards, local nursing care ranges from fair to poor.

Obtain eyeglass prescriptions before traveling to Doha. If the need arises after arrival, lenses and frames are available locally at prices comparable to those in the U.S.

Most pharmacies in Doha have standard European medical supplies and drugs, though relatively few U.S. brands are stocked.

Community Health

Doha itself is one of the cleaner cities in the Gulf, but some goods are imported from high-risk areas. For this reason, proper food care and hygiene standards must be rigidly followed. Food sold at major supermarkets is of good quality and is examined by local health inspectors. Expired products are almost always removed from the shelves promptly.

The general state of public health in Qatar is fair to good. The Ministry of Public Health's veterinary section inspects animals before slaughter. The Doha municipality has a rodent control program, available when needed. The municipality also arranges for free daily garbage collection. Despite these efforts, the control of flies and other insects remains a problem, especially in the cooler months. On the positive side, Qatar has relatively few mosquitoes and no mosquito-borne diseases.

Preventive Measures

Bring typhoid, gamma globulin, tetanus toxoid, and TB skin testing up to date before arrival. Due to the crowded conditions and a continuing influx of expatriates from affected areas, outbreaks of cholera or typhoid are always possible. Children should have up-to-date DPT, polio, and MMR shots.

Tap water comes almost exclusively from desalination plants. Routine tests reveal that the water is suitable for drinking, though filtering is advised, particularly in the summer months. Inexpensive bottled water is manufactured in Qatar and the U.A.E.; more expensive varieties come from Europe. Bottled water contains fluoride, but tap water does not. Parents may wish to administer fluoride supplements to children under age 16.


Most travelers fly an American air carrier to Europe and then continue via a non-American carrier to Doha, sometimes with a stop in Bahrain. The most common transfer points are London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.

Travel to Doha from the continental United States takes 18-20 hours. Many travelers take an overnight rest stop at a European transit point en route.

Although it is possible to drive overland from Europe or nearby Middle Eastern States, this is not recommended. Long driving distances and strict customs/immigration requirements in neighboring countries make this a tedious and problem-ridden endeavor.

Passports and visas are required. American citizens may obtain a tourist or business visa at the airport in Doha upon arrival. These visas are valid for 14 days and may be extended for an additional 14 days. However, American citizen travelers will be able to clear Qatari immigration more quickly and be granted a longer stay in the country by obtaining visas prior to arrival. For further information, travelers may contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20016, telephone (202) 274-1600, fax (202) 237-0053, or the Consulate General of the State of Qatar, 4265 San Felipe Street, Suite 1100, Houston, Texas 77027, telephone (713) 968-9840, fax (713) 968-9841. Additional information is available on the Internet at

Qatari customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning importation into Qatar of items such as alcohol, narcotics, pork products, firearms, or anything deemed pornographic by Qatari authorities. While importation of religious material for personal use is acceptable, importation of religious material for the purpose of proselytizing is not. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington, D.C., or the Consulate General of the State of Qatar in Houston for specific information regarding customs requirements.

U.S. citizens, particularly those of Arab descent, are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available.

U.S. citizens living in or visiting Qatar are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Qatar and obtain updated information on travel and security within Qatar. The U.S. Embassy is located in the Al-Luqta District on 22nd February Street, P.O. Box 2399, Doha, phone (974) 488-4101. For after hour emergencies, American citizens may call (974) 488-4101 extension 6600 to reach the duty officer.

On the Internet, you may reach the Embassy web site at The Embassy observes a Sunday through Thursday workweek. Many businesses and government offices in Qatar observe a Saturday through Wednesday workweek.


Pets entering Qatar require an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. Cats with proper documentation are allowed to enter with no difficulty, but some breeds of dogs, especially large dogs, are not admitted. Application forms for import permits may be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture through a sponsoring employer. A copy of the pet's health certificate and vaccination record must be submitted with the application.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

The local currency is the Qatari rial (QR), worth about U.S. 28 cents and divided into 100 dirhams. The official rate of exchange is a fixed rate of US$1 = QRs 3.64.

More than a dozen commercial banks operate in Qatar. The state imposes no restrictions on the import, export, or exchange of currencies. Travelers checks may be cashed locally without difficulty. Some ATM machines give cash for international credit cards and CIRRUS debit cards.

The metric system is used for weights and measures.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

June 27 Anniversary of the Emir's Succession

Sept. 3 Independence Day

Id al-Adha*


Id al-Fitr*

Hijra New Year*

*variable, based on Islamic calendar


These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Aby Hakima, Ahmad. History of Eastern Arabia. Khayats: Beirut, 1965.

Al-Othman, Nasser. With Their Bare Hands: the Story of the Oil Industry in Qatar. New York: Longman, 1984.

Badeau, John. The American Approach to the Arab World. Harper & Row: New York, 1968.

Busch, Briton C. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894-1914. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1967.

. Britain, India, and the Arabs, 1914-1921. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1971.

Clubs of the British Residents and Agents in the Arabian Gulf. The Doha Club Library: Doha, 1987.

Crane-Eveland, Wilbur. Ropes of Sand: America's Failure in the Middle East. Norton: New York, 1980.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge and New York, 1991

Dickson, Violet. Forty Years in Kuwait. George Allen and Unwin: London, 1971.

El-Mallakh, Ragaei. Qatar: Development of an Oil Economy. London: Croom Helm, 1979.

. Qatar, Energy and Development. London: Croom Helm, 1985.

Ghougassian, Joseph H.E. Qatar: Linchpin of the Gulf. Sunset Press: San Diego, 1989

The Gulf: Implications of British Withdrawal. Center for Strategic and International Studies: Washington, D.C., 1969.

Hay, Sir Rupert. The Persian Gulf States. Middle East Institute: Washington, D.C., 1959.

Holden, David, and Richard Johns. The House of Saud: The Rise and Rule of the Most Powerful Dynasty in the Arab World. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981.

Kelly, John H. Eastern Arabian Frontiers. Praeger: New York, 1964.

Key, Kerim L. The State of Qatar: An Economic and Commercial Survey. Washington, DC: Howard University, 1976.

Lacy, Robert. The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1981.

Mansfield, Peter. The Arabs. Penguin: London, 1978.

Marlowe, John. The Persian Gulf in the Twentieth Century. Cresset Press: London, 1962.

Nafi, Zuhair Ahmed. Economic and Social Development in Qatar. Dover, NH: Frances Pinter, 1983.

Putnam, John J. The Arab World Inc., National Geographic, vol. 148, No. 4. October 1976.

Raban, Jonathan. Arabia Through the Looking Glass. Collins: London, 1979.

Rich, Paul J. Elixir of Empire. Regency Press: London, 1989.

The Rule of Ritual in the Arabian Gulf, 1858-1947. UMI Dissertation Information Service: Ann Arbor, 1990.

Sadik, Snavely. Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company: Lexington, 1972.

Sampson, Anthony. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Made. Viking Press: New York, 1975.

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State of Qatar

Dawlat Qatar



Qatar is a tiny peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf and bordering only Saudi Arabia. With an area of 11,437 square kilometers (4,416 square miles) and a short coastline of 563 kilometers (345 miles), Qatar is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. Qatar's capital city, Doha, is located in the east on the Persian Gulf and is home to 320,000 people. Other major cities include Umm Sa'id and al-Khawr.


The population of Qatar was estimated at 769,152 in July of 2001, a marked increase from the 1990 population of about 486,000. Arabs make up 40 percent of the population, but there are also Pakistanis (18 percent), Indians (18 percent), Iranians (10 percent). Non-Qataris make up the largest proportion of the country's labor force . Since 1998, the population growth has slowed down, as evidenced in the 5.3 percent drop in the population in 1998. The slowdown is believed to come as a result of the government's "Qatarizing" movementto encourage the employment of local workersfollowing the sharp decline in oil prices in 1997 and 1998.

Qatar's population growth has accelerated since the 1960s, mainly as the result of the influx of large numbers of expatriate workers into the country. Between the late 1960s and 1997, the population grew from 70,000 to 522,000, of whom only 160,000 are Qatari nationals. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Country Profile for 2000, the population growth rate reached 1.5 percent in 1999, and is projected to reach 1.8 percent in the coming decade. The expatriate worker community, which accounts for 70 percent of the population, is largely made up of Indians and Pakistanis.

Like most Arab countries, Qatar's population is mostly young; 27 percent of the population is younger than 15. Also like many developing countries, a majority of Qataris (90 percent) are concentrated in urban areas. Major cities have been growing at the rate of 2 percent annually. Almost 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the capital, Doha. Other major cities include Messaieed, an industrial township 124 kilometers (77 miles) south of Doha.


Qatar's domestic economy is heavily dependent on the hydrocarbons sector. Oil accounts for about 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and about 63 percent of government revenues. Qatar's oil reserves are small relative to its Persian Gulf neighbors, although its output has tripled in recent years with the exploration of new fields. Other non-oil industries exist, but they are heavily dependent on the oil sector, which means that Qatar's dependence on oil is likely to continue for a long time to come.

More importantly, Qatar has the third-largest reserves of natural gas in the world. Its reserves are expected to last for 250 years at the current rate of production. The government has increased emphasis on the natural gas sector since 1990 with the goal of replacing oil as the main source of revenue. Several hydrocarbon-related industries, mainly petrochemicals, have also been set up since 1990. It is likely to take years before this diversification strategy begins to yield profit, however, largely because of the huge investments and heavy foreign borrowing that the government needed for the development of the natural gas sector. These loans would have to be paid before the government could show a profit.

Agriculture is not a major contributor to the economy. The state, which owns all agricultural land, has attempted to promote production by increasing the number of small farms. These efforts have been largely unsuccessful, mainly because of the lack of water for irrigation.

Qatar entered the 20th century as a tribal settlement on the peninsula nominally controlled by the al-Thani tribe, whose exact origins remain unknown. Real power, however, rested with the British, who effectively controlled the country's foreign relations. The al-Thani ruling family had signed a series of treaties with the British in the 19th century. In return the British promised protection against other powerful regional tribes, especially the Wahhabis from neighboring Saudi Arabia and against Bahrain, which claimed Qatar as its own. By the end of World War I, however, Qatar's importance had waned, largely due to the diversion of British trade routes to India after the opening of the Suez Canal. Unlike bigger oil producers in the Gulf region, oil was not discovered in Qatar until the 1950s. Until the 1970s, foreign companies, who owned and managed the oil industry in return for fees paid to the al-Thani family, dominated oil production. By the early 1990s, many of the foreign subsidiaries had become completely state-owned. After several Gulf sheikhdoms declared their independence from the British, Qatar followed suit on September 3, 1971, after securing continued support from the al-Saud tribe that ruled neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Since the early 1970s, increased oil revenue has allowed the government to embark on massive development projects that brought rapid material and social change. The state's role in the economy remains central, as the government controls the oil revenue. Income from oil fluctuates according to changes in world oil prices. The government's dependence on oil revenue and decades of government overspending have resulted in recurring budget deficits , especially during low oil prices, and a high external debt , which was estimated by the EIU to have reached US$12.2 billion in 1999.

Since 1997, at the recommendation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Qatar has embarked on a program to reduce subsidies on utilities, gasoline, wheat, and sugar and to introduce charges for health care and education for the purpose of stabilizing the exchange rate . As a result, the expatriate community in Qatar no longer enjoys free medical benefits. Services to Qataris, however, continue to be heavily subsidized by the state. In 1999, an official stock market was set up and the government issued 2 domestic bonds and 1 international bond as a means to develop alternative financing methods. In 2001, the government plans to privatize the generation, transmission, and distribution of utilities, and to continue its policy of encouraging locals to seek employment to reduce the country's dependence on foreign workers. The government is also expected to continue to encourage the private sector to play a bigger role in the economy.


Qatar is an absolute monarchy that has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. It is currently headed by Sheikh Hamad, who ousted his father, Sheikh Khalifa, in a bloodless coup d'etat (a takeover of a government) in June 1995. Although autocratic (ruling through absolute power), the ruling family has been committed to building the state and developing its resources. Since taking over, the widely popular Sheikh Hamad has embarked on an ambitious political and economic reform program to modernize the state and address the decline in economic performance that began in the early 1990s. In 1999, the first municipal elections in the country's history were held, followed by the establishment of a constituent assembly in mid-1999 entrusted with the task of drawing up a permanent constitution and providing for an elected parliament. Sheikh Hamad has also allowed greater political freedoms. Despite these efforts, however, ultimate authority continues to rest with him and his circle of advisors. The sheikh remains the source of absolute authority and enjoys the power to dissolve the Consultative Council (a 35-member advisory council appointed by the sheikh) and rule by decree, powers given to him by the 1970 provisional constitution.

Qatar is a welfare state , where health care and education are almost free. Since 1998, the government has moved to introduce small charges for these services, especially for health care, in an effort to boost the govern-ment's budget by reducing spending. However, most utilities in 2001 continue to be heavily subsidized by the government, and education remains entirely free. Qataris do not pay taxes and the government's budget continues to rely heavily on oil revenue.


Qatar enjoys an extensive and highly-developed infrastructure that has been built and developed with oil wealth since the 1950s. The country is served by a network of over 1,230 kilometers (764 miles) of primary and secondary roads, linking Doha with major industrial and oil producing areas. Most of these roads, some 1,107 kilometers (688 miles), are paved. The country has no railway system. Qatar has 4 airports, 2 of which have unpaved runways. Doha International Airport is the country's major airport. Twenty-eight airlines service Doha and bring in most of the country's tourists. Qatar has 3 ports and harbors: Doha, Halul Island, and Umm Sa'id.

Electrical power is provided to Qataris from the Ras Aby Aboud and Ras Abu Fontas power stations. In addition, there are 6 gas turbines and an estimated 5,000 diesel units spread across the country. Altogether, Qatar's total power capacity is estimated at 2,019 megawatts (MW). In 2000, the government drew up plans to build an independent power station with a capacity of 1,902 MW to meet the increasing demands of industrial projects and satisfy rising power demand, which peaks in the summer due to soaring temperatures. Several foreign companies, which are expected to own 60 percent of the project, have submitted bids, but the project's completion date remained unknown in 2001.

Telecommunications services in Qatar are thoroughly modern. Telephone service is provided by the Qatar Public Telecommunications Corporation (Q-Tel), which is 55 percent government owned. There are 430,000 landlines in the country, and in 2001, Q-Tel will be installing additional exchanges for Doha and Ras Laffan. Q-Tel also provides Internet and cable television access.

Country Telephones a Telephones, Mobile/Cellular a Radio Stations a Radios a TV Stations a Televisions a Internet Service Providers c Internet Users c
Qatar 142,000 43,476 AM 6; FM 5; shortwave 1 256,000 2 230,000 1 45,000
United States 194 M 69.209 M (1998) AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18 575 M 1,500 219 M 7,800 148 M
Saudi Arabia 3.1 M (1998) 1 M (1998) AM 43; FM 31; shortwave 0 6.25 M 117 5.1 M 42 (2001) 400,000 (2001)
Bahrain 152,000 58,543 AM 2, FM 3, 338,000 4 275,000 1 37,500
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].


Qatar's economic sectors reflect the small size of the country. Qatar relies heavily on the oil sector, exporting some 650,000 barrels a day, mostly to Europe and eastern Asia. The services sector is the country's second-largest economic sector and most important non-oil sector. According to the CIA World Factbook for 2001, the sector's contribution to GDP reached 50 percent in 1996. The industrial sector is also an important contributor to the economy, accounting for 49 percent of GDP in 1996. This sector is dominated by the oil industry, which accounts for a little over 40 percent of GDP. The non-oil manufacturing sector, on the other hand, accounts for only 8.8 percent, according to the EIU. Agriculture is an insignificant contributor to the economy, accounting for roughly 1 percent of GDP.

One of the greatest problems facing all of Qatar's economic sectors is the dependence on oil revenue and the adverse impact of the fluctuation of oil prices on the country's investment climate and fiscal deficit. Lower oil prices generally mean lower revenue for the government. Reduced government revenues in turn translate into lower government spending on economic projects, a situation that brings about an overall slowdown in the economy.

Recognizing these obstacles, Qatar has moved to diversify its sources of income by developing its liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and expanding its industrial base. Qatar's efforts to diversify its economic base have not been very successful. Most economic activity continues to be centered on oil. Qatar has 2 natural gas plants that have been in existence since 1980. With the help of international oil companies, Qatar launched 2 LNG projects in 1992, the North Field development at Ras Laffan city. The first phase of the project was completed in 1992, and the second project is scheduled to start in 2001. According to the EIU Country Profile for 2000, once completed, the North Field will be "the largest single concentration of natural gas" in the world. The government invested some US$20 billion in the development of the North Field between 1995 and 2000. However, it is not expected to make a profit from these projects until its debts to the companies that financed the exploration projects are paid. Therefore, Qatar's dependence on oil is likely to continue.


The government, which owns all agricultural land, has attempted to encourage agricultural production, accounting for only 1 percent of GDP. Given the scarcity of fresh surface water, however, most agricultural activity is dependent on wells. The government has also attempted to increase the number of small farms. As a result, the number of farms has increased from 338 in 1975 to 891 in 1995. Most farmers are absentee landlords, who are relatively uninterested in investing in agriculture, and the land is mostly cultivated by foreign workers.

Qatar's agricultural products are consumed locally, providing 70 percent and 40 percent of the consumption of summer and winter vegetables, respectively. In addition to vegetables, Qatar produces cereals, fruits and dates, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. Despite a noticeable increase in agricultural production in the course of the past 20 years, however, Qatar continues to rely on food imports, especially foodstuffs and live animals, which account for roughly 10 percent of total imports.



Qatar's economy is heavily dependent on oil. Oil accounts for 40 percent of GDP and 63 percent of the state's income. The Qatar General Petroleum Corporation estimates that Qatar's total oil reserves have reached 12.2 billion barrels, up from 3.7 billion in 1995, due to the exploration of new oil fields by western companies since 1990. Oil production has risen consistently since 1994. Average production reached 854,000 barrels a day in May 2000, up from 410,000 barrels a day in 1994. Despite the increased production levels, Qatar's output is relatively low by regional standards.

In addition to oil, Qatar has been a producer and exporter of natural gas since 1980, when the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant was opened. Altogether, there are 3 LNG plants in the country, and a fourth is being constructed. The first plant was opened in 1980, producing up to 1,284 tons a day of propane, 851 tons a day of butane, 588 tons a day of condensate, and 1,350 tons a day of ethane-rich gas. A second LNG factory was opened in 1982, and it also produces large quantities of propane, butane, condensate, and other gases. The third LNG project was completed at Ras Laffan in 1992 as the first phase of the North Field Project. According to the EIU, the plant produces some 22.6 million cubic meters a day of gas and around 50,000 barrels a day of condensates. A fourth project, phase two of the Ras Laffan North Field project, is being constructed in 2001 to produce ethylene and polyethylene for use as feedstock (raw materials used for chemical and biological processes) by Qatar Chemical Complex. The project also aims to export 22 million cubic meters of gas a day to neighboring Persian Gulf states. LNG products are mostly exported to generate foreign exchange but are also used as feedstock for the emerging petrochemical industry.


Qatar's non-oil industrial base is relatively small. However, the contribution of the nonoil manufacturing sector to the economy has increased steadily since the 1970s, in large part thanks to the huge investments and efforts by the country to build a non-oil industrial base. Since 1992, the government has moved to establish the Ministry of Energy and Industry to encourage industrialization and to set up the Qatar Industrial Development Bank to provide loans with easy terms to would-be investors. In 2001, Qatar enacted a law allowing foreign companies a 100-percent ownership of projects in some sectors, including education, tourism, and health care. Despite these efforts, however, industrial output remains low. The sector's contribution to GDP reached 8.8 percent in 1999.

Qatar's industrial base is dominated by the petro-chemicals sector, which is controlled by the government. It is the biggest producer of low-density polyethylene and chemical fertilizers in the world. The sector has traditionally accounted for 40 percent of GDP. However, since 1998, the sector's contribution to GDP has been affected by the economic slowdown in Asia, the primary market for Qatar's oil products. Efforts are underway in 2001 to set up new petrochemical ventures that are expected to resume exports once the economic slump affecting Asia is over. In addition to petrochemicals, there is a small steel production operated by the 100-percent state-owned Qatar Steel Company. The sector produces 500,000 metric tons a year. Since 1998, the government has attempted to privatize the company by selling 49 percent of its shares on the Doha Securities Market to improve its profitability and as part of an overall scheme to reform the economy. The government, however, was forced to delay the partial privatization of the company as a result of the poor performance of the Doha Securities Market since 1998, which meant that the company's shares will be sold for much less than the government had hoped for.



Tourism is a very negligible contributor to Qatar's economy. Since 1996, the government has attempted to establish a tourism industry and to turn Qatar into a major destination for international sporting events. The government has, as a result, invested heavily in the construction sector. These efforts came to a halt in the wake of the 1998 spending cuts, which were prompted by the sharp fall in world oil prices, but were revived in the 2001 budget, as oil prices rose again in 2000.


Qatar has a fledgling financial sector regulated by the Central Bank of Qatar. There are 14 banks operating in the country, including 5 locally-owned banks that hold 80 percent of the financial sector's assets. There are also 16 currency exchange companies. There are no investment banks. The Qatar National Bank, the country's largest bank, is the only bank involved in the government's hydrocarbon development program, and handles all the government's business. Other banks include the Qatar International Islamic Bank, Doha Bank, and the Commercial Bank of Qatar.

The government introduced new regulations in August 1995 to ease earlier restrictions placed on financial transactions. Despite these efforts, some restrictions continue to affect interest rates paid by banks on deposit accounts. Although the Central Bank requires banks to disclose accounts according to international standards, there is growing concern that some banks do not disclose their non-performing loans .

The Doha Securities Market (DSM) was established in 1997 with QR21 billion (US$5.8 billion) in assets. Nineteen companies are listed on the DSM, but trading has been generally weak, resulting in a 0.5 percent drop in the stock market index at the end of 1999.


Lacking many large commercial centers other than Doha and its suburbs, Qatar has a relatively undeveloped retail sector. While Doha is home to a variety of retail stores, including fast food franchises such as Mc-Donald's, the majority of towns in the interior of the country have small family-owned shops, farmer's markets, and temporary roadside stands.


Over the past decade, Qatar has relied more and more on imports. The value of imports more than doubled since 1990, peaking to US$3.9 billion in 1999, up from US$1.2 billion in 1989. Imports have traditionally varied from basic foodstuffs to consumer goods . Since the early 1990s, however, capital purchases for gas development projects have accounted for approximately 40 percent of imports. The volume of imports is expected to rise by

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Qatar
Exports Imports
1975 1.805 .413
1980 5.672 1.423
1985 N/A 1.139
1990 N/A 1.695
1995 N/A N/A
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

2002, largely because of revived government spending in the construction business.

Imports of foreign goods are dominated by Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) suppliers, namely Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, and Germany. (The OECD is a 30-member organization that provides governments with a forum to discuss and develop economic and social policy.) In 1998, Japan overtook the United Kingdom as Qatar's major supplier of machinery and manufactures, providing 15.4 percent of total imports. Imports from the United Kingdom accounted for 13.9 percent of total imports, followed by France, the United States, and Germany.

Qatar's exports are dominated by crude oil, although its importance has begun to decline in recent years due to the increase in the export of LNGs. As a result of its dependence on crude oil, which roughly accounts for 56 percent of exports, Qatar's export bill has fluctuated with world oil prices. Export revenue surged from US$4.36 billion in 1998 to US$6.6 billion in 1999. In 1998, Japan was also Qatar's largest export partner, accounting for 58.1 percent of the total export bill. South Korea came next at 11.0 percent, followed by Singapore, the United States, and Thailand.

The substantial oil revenue has allowed Qatar to maintain a trade surplus . However, the transfer of large amounts of money in remittances by the large expatriate workers community has consistently resulted in a deficit in the current account for most of the past decade. The deficit peaked to US$1.6 billion in 1993, and the government's efforts to reduce the number of expatriate workers is expected to reverse the trend in the coming years. Similarly, the service balance has registered a deficit for much of the past decade, due to the government's heavy spending on defense and capital imports related to the LNG development. In 1999, the deficit in the service balance reached US$1.5 billion. The income balance also has registered a deficit as a result of the interest on the country's mounting foreign debt .

Exchange rates: Qatar
Qatari riyals (QR) per US$1
2001 3.6400
2000 N/A
1999 N/A
1998 N/A
1997 N/A
1996 N/A
Note: Rate is fixed.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].


The value of the Qatari riyal has remained stable since it was first issued in 1969. The majority of Qatar's exports are denominated by the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank of Qatar has kept a fixed exchange rate of QR3.64: US$1, despite a fall in the value of the dollar in 1995, mainly to prevent inflation .


Qataris enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world. Per capita income is high by both regional and international standards. In 1999, per capita income was estimated at US$21,841, US$1,803 higher than 1998. By contrast, per capita income in the United States is US$29,683.

The country's vast wealth from oil revenue and its relatively small population have allowed the government to invest heavily in education and in providing first-class health and educational services to its citizens since the 1970s. As a result, the literacy rate in the country is estimated by the United Nations to have reached 80 percent in 1995. Vast oil wealth has also allowed the government to offer heavily-subsidized or free services, such as public education.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Qatar 21,300 16,700 17,100 17,000 20,300
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Saudi Arabia 10,600 10,300 9,000 9,000 10,500
Bahrain 13,000 13,700 13,100 13,700 15,900
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations, 17th,18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Qatar 22 12 11 5 13 8 29
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Saudi Arabia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Bahrain 32 7 8 1 6 9 37
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

No information is available about the distribution of wealth in Qatar, but poverty among Qataris is believed to be virtually non-existent.


Qataris have traditionally been uninterested in working at menial jobs and have instead relied on foreign workers in the administration of their country. Locals generally tend to occupy high positions in government ministries and private businesses, but the bulk of the manual labor is performed by Indians and Pakistanis. Unemployment among nationals is believed to be quite low (figures are unavailable). Since 1998, the government has launched a program to encourage Qataris to replace foreign-born laborers. This program also expanded labor training programs for Qatari nationals. No official statistics are available to assess its success.

The Ministry of Interior controls all transactions relating to foreign workers in the country. There is no minimum wage requirement. Salaries are negotiable. Expatriate workers pay for health care and are required to pay annual residency fees in the amount of US$275. According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide, 2001, the wives and children of expatriate workers are required to pay US$137 and US$82 respectively in residency fees. Qatar has no tradition of labor unions, although trade associations and labor unions are not forbidden by law.


MID-1800s. Al Khalifa, Bahrain's ruling family, establish Qatar.

1915. Al Khalifa family expels the Turks from Qatar.

1916. Qatar signs treaty to receive protection from United Kingdom.

1949. Sheikh Abdullah abdicates in favor of his son Ali.

1950s. Oil is discovered in commercial quantities.

1971. Qatar declares independence from the British.

1973. World oil crisis. Qatar's oil revenue increases dramatically.

1981. Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates form the Gulf Cooperation Council.

1995. Sheikh Hamad deposes his father, Sheikh Khalifa, in a bloodless coup.

1997. Economic reform program launched.

1999. The first municipal elections are held.


Qatar entered the 21st century under a cloud of uncertainty. Despite the large sums of money that have entered the government's coffers from the sale of oil in the last 50 years, decades of government overspending and misuse have created serious financial constraints, mainly large foreign debt and recurring budget deficits. Despite the government's attempts to address these 2 problems by diversifying the country's economic base and introducing reform, Qatar's dependence on oil and the government's large role in the economy have meant that economic performance will continue to fluctuate according to oil prices. As a result, economic performance will be best when oil prices are high.

Given the structure of the economy, the government is expected to proceed with the "Qatarization" of its labor force. The government is also expected to forge ahead with the economic reform program started in 1997, which will seek to increase the role of the private sector, and to push for the privatization of more state-owned enterprises. Given that Qatar's budgetary problems are unlikely to be resolved until revenue from the sale of liquid natural gas exports begins to flow, the government will have no choice but to proceed with the promised democratization process and to engage the population politically to deflect the potentially disruptive impact of declining conditions. Political participation will engage citizens in the decision-making process by allowing them to elect their representatives through a popular vote, hence reducing the perception among the largest proportion of Qataris that they are outside the political process.


Qatar has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile, Qatar. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Qatar. < 2001/nea/index.html>. Accessed January 2001.

Reem Nuseibeh


Doha (Ad-Dawhah).


Qatari riyal (QR). One riyal equals 100 dirhams. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5, and 1 dirhams. Paper currency is in denominations of QR500, 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1.


Petroleum products, fertilizers, and steel.


Machinery and transport equipment, food, and chemicals.


US$15.1 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$9.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.). Imports: US$3.8 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: State of Qatar
Region: Middle East
Population: 744,483
Language(s): Arabic, English
Literacy Rate: 79.4%
Academic Year: September-June
Number of Primary Schools: 174
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Foreign Students in National Universities: 1,360
Libraries: 5
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 53,631
  Secondary: 37,635
  Higher: 8,475
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 86%
  Secondary: 80%
  Higher: 27%
Teachers: Primary: 5,864
  Secondary: 3,858
  Higher: 643
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 9:1
  Secondary: 10:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 86%
  Secondary: 79%
  Higher: 41%

History & Background

The State of Qatar juts out into the Arabian/Persian Gulf from the Arabian Peninsula, a peninsula itself protruding from Arabia into the Gulf, comprising 11,437 square kilometers (4,416 square miles) of low lying land surrounded by a number of reefs and small islands. The main cities in Qatar are the capital city of Doha, the industrial city of Misaiaeed, and the smaller cities of Al Khor, Al Wakrah, Dukhan, Al Shamal, Al Zubarah, and Ras Laffan. The population of Qatar in 1998 was about 600,000 people, although of this number, only an estimated 120,000-150,000 were national Qataris. The rest of the population was foreign workers, mainly from Iran and Pakistan, as well as India and other countries of Asia. Most Qataris are of the strict Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, and the country has socioreligious restrictions, for example the prohibition of alcohol and the veiling of women. The official language is Arabic, but other languages are used such as English and Urdu.

After World War I, Qatar became a British protectorate, this following four centuries of Turkish control. The country was an economically stagnant backwater until oil exports began in 1949. Oil revenues enabled an accelerated pace of development, and today there are attempts underway to diversify the economy because Qatar's petroleum reserves are not expected to last for much longer. The oil reserves are relatively insignificant in comparison to the vast reserves held by neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but Qatari natural gas reserves are extremely large, the third biggest proven reserves after Russian and Iranian reserves.

Historically Qatar has been continuously inhabited since the fourth millennium B.C. The Ubaid culture of Mesopotamia encompassed the Qatari Peninsula, and historians such as Herodotus noted the navigational skills and marine trading of the early inhabitants of the region. On Ptolemy's map of the ancient Arab world, Qatara is listed in reference to an important commercial seaport of the time.

The marine profession of pearling created economic growth in the fourteenth century Abbasid era. The demand for pearls by the Baghdad Caliphate benefited the local pearling and trade-based economy. In the sixteenth century Qatar aligned with the Turks in order to resist the Portuguese, and for the next 400 years Ottoman rule was effected through the headship of local Arab tribal sheikhs subordinated to the Ottomans.

Qatar became an independent nation on September 3, 1971. There had been talk of the emirates of Qatar and Bahrain joining the federation of the United Arab Emirates (UAR), but when Bahrain declared to become a sovereign state instead of joining the UAR, Qatar followed suit, not wanting to be outdone by its rival sheikhdom. Recent (since 1986) rivalry and mistrust between Bahrain and Qatar stems from territorial disputes over the Hawar Islands and gas fields, but the disputes are not considered to be serious and the countries are cooperating with arbitration efforts.

Originally from the Najd region in Saudi Arabia, having moved to the Qatari Peninsula in the eighteenth century, the Al Thani ruling family dominates Qatar today. The emir or ruler of the country, HH (His Highness) Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, deposed his father Sheikh Khalifa Al Thani in a 1995 bloodless coup supported by the military and the Al Thani family. Executive power is vested in the Emir Sheikh Hamad, who governs by royal decrees. No political parties are allowed, but there is a consultative council, the Majlis As Shura, a largely powerless entity performing only consultative duties for issues that the Emir places on the council's agenda. There is talk of establishing a permanent constitution and an elected parliament, and there may possibly be some important changes in Qatar's system of governance as the country again follows the trail of its neighbor Bahrain where there now exists a greater degree of political freedom than before.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The Constitution of the State of Qatar assures citizens of social welfare provisions made possible through the oil revenues generated since oil exports began. All Qatari nationals are entitled to free education in the state's comprehensive schooling system that began with the first primary schools in the early 1950s. Equal rights for and obligations of citizens are outlined in the constitution, and the government's responsibility for providing citizens with jobs is highlighted.

There have been signs that the Qatari government may take steps toward allowing greater political freedoms in the country. The Majlis As Shura, or consultative council, of Sheikh Hamad, may be replaced by an elected council or parliament. This would add an element of democracy to the governing process, and the fact that such a move is even being contemplated illustrates the pressures for change. The ruling family, comprising an estimated 10 percent of the Qatari national population, is very powerful, and although the ruler is accountable to the family, other elements of Qatari society have little or no say in the process of governance. The emir is vested with the authority to issue decrees after consultation with the Majlis As Shura. Emiri Decree number 2 established the University of Qatar in 1977, and Decree number 10 (1990) established the Educational Technology Center. But if greater freedoms result through an elected consultative council, a step may be taken toward liberalization and greater social freedoms. In fact, Sheikh Hamad himself has promised that such elections will occur. It remains to be seen how educational development will be affected by further involvement and greater participation of Qataris in governing their own country.

Educational SystemOverview

Education is free in Qatar. Students in government schools are provided books and transportation to and from schools. The 12-year public school system consists of a six-year primary cycle followed by a three-year secondary cycle and then a three-year tertiary cycle, taking students up through the secondary level by Western educational standards.

Education in Qatar has benefited greatly from oil revenues. The first schools in Qatar before the beginnings of the modern education system were religious in nature, Quranic schools where young boys learned to recite the Quran and acquired basic Arabic literacy skills. The first secular primary schools, for boys only, opened their doors in 1952 shortly after oil exports began, and further expansion and development in education soon followed, as the Ministry of Education was one of the first government ministries to be created in 1956. In the mid-1950s, girls schools were started, and programs in secondary education began. By the 1980s, the educational sector was fairly well developed thanks to the generous welfare provisions of the state. By that time there were programs beyond general academic courses. At the secondary level of education, students could choose from technical, vocational, commercial, and religious training tracks.

The College of Education commenced operations in 1973, forming the nucleus of what was to later become the University of Qatar in 1977. The university now offers a considerable range of courses in the humanities, social sciences, Islamic studies, science, engineering, and education. By the early 1980s, there were around 46,000 students enrolled in the 12-year system of public education, and the government made plans to increase the number of schools from about 160 in 1983 to 300 in 1990. The majority of the teachers in the 1980s were foreign. However, Qataris, mainly Qatari women, comprised almost half of the teachers in public schools.

At the onset of the new millennium there were many challenges to be met by the Qatari education system. The era of oil super affluence, although permitting rapid development and accelerated progress, has also meant that citizens have come to depend on the social services and welfare provisions of a benevolent state. When schooling is free in an educational system that provides everything from buildings to books, and when there are comfortable jobs to be had upon completion of studies, the expectation of many younger citizens is that they will be able to continue a lifestyle of ease as did their parents. But in an era of dwindling Qatari oil reserves and a larger population, such expectations are unrealistic. Settling into a well-paying job with little actual work involved is an option that many of the younger generation in Arab Gulf states may never realize (Sick 1997).

Such a socialization into the welfare state mentality partly explains the overwhelming reliance on expatriate labor in the Arab Gulf countries. With an estimated 83 percent of its workforce comprising foreign workers, Qatar is somewhat in the mid-range as compared to other Gulf states (Sick 1997). And such dependence on foreign labor highlights an ever-increasing dilemma for the Arab Gulf states such as Qatar, a dilemma of an increasing mismatch between schools and training institutions with the actual needs of the labor market (Al Sulayti 1999). In Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, the vocational/technical professions are generally seen as being beneath a certain level of dignity and respectability. Gulf nationals would prefer an easy government job as opposed to a vocational/technical career. The low enrollments in vocational/technical programs are not enough to meet the national needs for skilled workers, and this low enrollment reflects the less than enthusiastic attitudes toward professions involving "manual" labor that are vocational/technical in nature. Outside the government sector, companies generally prefer to hire motivated foreign workers willing to work for low wages rather than relatively unmotivated, expectant nationals. There are urgent reforms needed in the educational and training systems if these issues of concern are to be dealt with.

Upgrading of the Qatari education and training systems is a main focus at the beginning of the twenty-first century, targeting the quality of education available, the Qatarization of the workforce, the high failure rate of students in government schools, and the correlation of training and educational curricula with actual labor market needs.

At the twenty-first graduation ceremony of the University of Qatar in 1998, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad, addressed the graduating class with a vision for further progress. Acknowledging the advancements made, he cited the need for reviewing and updating the university programs and specialized courses of study, upgrading the standards and quality of education, and relating study and research to the needs of Qatari society.

Preprimary & Primary Education

From having only a few Quranic schools for boys in the early 1900s, Qatar's system of education has evolved into the comprehensive educational infrastructure that exists today. Both private and government schools offer preschool and primary education. At the primary level, there are around 160 schools in operation, following the Qatari educational curricula, or in the case of private schools, following curricula that will meet the needs of the various expatriate communities in the country. British, French, Norwegian, American, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, Bangladeshi, and other communities have schools that serve the needs of their respective members. The majority of these private schools coordinate closely with educational authorities in the home countries of their constituents, and the standard of education in these private schools is generally high. The following is a sampling of private schools providing education at the preschool and/or primary levels: Al Hilal Kindergarten, Bright Future Pakistani School, Central English-Speaking Kindergarten, Gulf School, Doha Montessori, Ideal Indian School, Tinkerbell Nursery, French School, Iranian School, Phillipine School of Doha, and QAFCO Norwegian School. Not only do these schools cater to the expatriate community, but because many nationals choose to enroll their children in an English-language school so as to enhance their children's fluency in English, a substantial number of national students are served in the private schools of Qatar.

Secondary Education

The secondary level of education in Qatar comprisesaccording to the national education classification systemthe secondary and tertiary cycles, taking students up to the age of 18, equivalent to the completion of secondary education by Western standards. Both the secondary and tertiary cycles are three years in length, and by the time students complete these cycles they are ready for entry into the University of Qatar for further studies. There are about 34 secondary schools in Qatar, including government schools such as the Technical Institute, the Religious Institute, and the Secondary School of Commerce. There are also a number of private schools at the secondary level, for example, the Doha College, based on the British system of education up to the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and A-levels. The American School in Qatar offers an American curriculum at the secondary level. Other schools offering secondary-level schooling include the Pak Shama School (with the Pakistan Education Center), the Doha English Speaking School, the Jordanian School, the Middle East International School, the Park House English School, the Qatar Academy, and the Qatar International School.

Higher Education

The University of Qatar is the main institution of higher education in Qatar today. With the establishment of the College of Education in 1973 the foundation was laid for the official opening of the University of Qatar in 1977. At that time, there were four colleges: the College of Education, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Science, and the College of Shari'a and Islamic Studies. Since 1977 the university has added three colleges: the College of Engineering, the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics, and the College of Technology, and now has a total of seven. The university also has four research centers: the Scientific and Applied Research Center, the Sunna and Sirra Research Center, the Educational Technology Center, and the Documentation and Humanities Research Center. The main campus of the university is located in the northern part of the capital city of Doha, housed in attractive modern buildings.

Partly due to more Qatari men studying abroad than Qatari women, and also due in part to teaching being one of the more acceptable professions for women in Islamic societies such as Qatar, the women outnumber the men approximately three to one at the university. From the early 1980s to the 1990s the student population at the university nearly doubled, from 3,500 students in 1982-1983, to 6,873 students in 1992-1993. The following data show the number of students and their areas of study at the University of Qatar as of 1992-1993.

  1. There were 2,010 first-year students with no declared major, including 510 men and 1,500 women.
  2. There were 278 men and 1,786 women majoring in education.
  3. There were 209 men and 728 women majoring in humanities.
  4. There were 243 men and 425 women majoring in science.
  5. There were 55 men and 404 women majoring in Shari'a (Religious Studies).
  6. There were 294 men and 165 women majoring in administration.
  7. There were 276 men and no women majoring in engineering.
  8. In all majors, there was a total of 1,865 men and 5,008 women enrolled, for a total of 6,873 students.

As of 1999, the Shaqab College of Design Arts was another option for students at the higher level of education. The college is a Qatar-based extension of the Virginia Commonwealth University and offers educational opportunities in professional design. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in fine arts (BFA), in communication arts and design, fashion design and merchandising, or interior design in the college's four-year program.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Established in 1956, Qatar's Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing the national education system. Since the formation of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981, the ministry has worked toward coordinating its educational agenda with that of other GCC states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates). At the end of the 1990s, the emphasis was on educational reform in order to address problems such as high unemployment, high attrition and failure rates in schools, poor uptake of graduates into the labor force, and curriculum revision to improve the quality of education on offer. With an estimated 5 percent of the national budget going toward general education, and another 4.5 percent going to the University of Qatar, the funding exists to implement needed reforms. And, with specialized educational think tanks such as the Education Research Center (ERC), the resources exist to analyze the problems and challenges facing educators in Qatar. The ERC supports educational research, offers consultation services to schools, facilitates cooperation among Qatar University's faculty and staff, publishes a biannual journal for the reporting of research results, and organizes workshops, seminars, and conferences for the benefit of the educational profession in Qatar.

Nonformal Education

There are a number of schools in Qatar catering to children with special needs and offering services to the handicapped and mentally impaired. This type of special education began in 1974 with the establishment of a governmental Special Education Section. Additionally, the Ministry of Education operates special needs schools for the deaf and blind, for example, the Shafallah Center, which opened in September 1999. Funded by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs and the National Committee for Special Needs, the Shafallah Center is a private, nonprofit institution. Units at this school include a Family Support Unit, an Early Intervention Unit, miscellaneous school units, a Paramedical Support Unit, and an Instructional Media Unit, along with a library. Also planned are a school unit for autistic children as well as prevocational and vocational units.

Other options for Qatari students outside the formal schooling sector include distance education initiatives, cultural centers, and centers for adult learning. There are also a number of short educational and training courses being offered in Qatar made available through either local or visiting companies. Training and community programs are also offered through various cultural clubs in Qatar.

Teaching Profession

The teaching profession in Qatar, as in other Arab Gulf states, is one characterized by large proportions of foreign teachers. The dominance of women in education, and their exclusion from areas such as engineering and administration, is also characteristic of the traditional religious restrictions placed upon womenalthough changes are underway. In 1992-1993 the number of women studying in the University of Qatar's Faculty of Education outnumbered the men an astounding 1,786 to 278. The traditionally acceptable role of women as teachers in Islamic societies is comfortably reinforced in the restrictive Wahhabi-influenced society of Qatar. Although there is much talk about Qatarization of the national workforce in areas such as education, it is clear that more participation of native men is needed if this goal is to be realized.

The College of Education was the first component of the modern University of Qatar to be established in 1973 as the Faculty of Education. Teachers are trained there for the various levels of basic education in the government system. A great variety of specialties are available for education majors, ranging from language education (English and Arabic), to science education, art education, and more. Teachers-in-training have the option of benefiting from and participating in the ongoing research of the university's Educational Technology Center and the Educational Research Center.

The British Council of Qatar has been involved in a program of quality improvement with regard to English-language education. English teaching supervisors in the Ministry of Education participated in training programs in 1999 as part of the ministry's strategy to improve the quality of instruction in state schools. Training and consulting provided through the British universities of Reading, Kent, and Nottingham are a component of the overall upgrading and reform of the Qatari national educational and training systems.


There have been some positive indications suggesting that education in Qatar will continue to develop at an accelerated pace enabled through the prosperity brought on by petroleum and natural gas revenues. But with the prosperity has also come a set of new challenges. A government in the position of benevolent provider of welfare services is in the precarious position of ensuring a level of continued prosperity for its citizens. Fluctuations in the price of oil, a growing population expecting the same entitlements as their parents, and the dependence on foreign labor are factors in the social equation that might easily lose equilibrium.

There are signs that the ruling family of Qatar is relinquishing some control in order to give citizens an outlet for political expression in an elected consultative council. Following the lead of neighboring Bahrain, Qatar seems poised to permit greater political freedoms. Such changes are needed if the country is to create a better system of state bureaucracy. As accelerated as the pace of change has been in Qatar since the first oil exports, it is clear that the country generally lags behind its GCC neighbors in terms of social progress and educational advancement. Qatar is not the pioneer in educational and training initiatives that its neighbor Bahrain is. Its population is tiny in comparison to neighboring Saudi Arabia, and Qatar does not benefit from a motivation driven by the threats of an aggressive neighbor, as does Kuwait. Furthermore, societal restrictions are more repressive in Qatar relative to the United Arab Emirates. As cautious as Qatar may be, following along the trails blazed by others is an education in itself, and not a bad option when lessons can be learned through observing the experiences of neighbors with a similar history, a common religion, a similar sociocultural outlook, and common challenges at the onset of the twenty-first century.


Al-Sulayti, Hamad. "Education and Training in GCC Countries: Some Issues of Concern." In Education and the Arab World: Challenges of the Next Millennium, 271-278. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, 1999.

Bromby, Robin. "Bahrain and Qatar Have Big Import Appetites." In Contemporary Women's Issues Database, Vol. 2 (1997): 5-8.

"Qatar." In Arab Gulf Cooperation Council: The 19th GCC Summit, 96-121. London: Trident Press, 1998.

Sick, Gary G. "The Coming Crisis in the Persian Gulf." In The Persian Gulf at the Millennium: Essays in Politics, Economy, Security, and Religion, eds. Gary G. Sick and Lawrence G. Potter, 11-30. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

John P. Lesko

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: State of Qatar
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 769,152
Language(s): Arabic (official),English commonly used as second language
Literacy rate: 79.0%
Area: 11,437 sq km
Number of Television Stations: 2
Number of Television Sets: 230,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 299.0
Number of Radio Stations: 12
Number of Radio Receivers: 256,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 332.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 90,000
Computers per 1,000: 117.0
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 30,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 39.0

Background & General Characteristics

Qatar, which became independent from British protection in 1971, is located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The territory includes the mainland and a number of small islands. It is bounded by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the south and by the Persian Gulf to the north, east and west. Qatar itself is a peninsula that extends northward covering an area of 11,437 square km. Over 600,000 people, who speak primarily Arabic and English as a second language, live within the 114 square miles of its borders. Although Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), its constitutional monarchy has a more liberal political system than other countries in the Gulf States. The government decreed a ban on media censorship in 1995 and abolished the Ministry of Information (1998), and women in Qatar were granted the right to vote and be elected in Qatar's first democratic "municipal elections" in 1999. Revenue from oilfirst discovered in Qatar in 1939has transformed it from one of world's poorest countries to one with a very high per capita income, and has supported the development of an urbanized populace with many media options.

Print Media

Print media was the first to take hold in Qatar with the governmental publication of an official gazette that contained the laws and Emiri's decrees in 1961. In 1969, Qatar established the Department of Information, which issued Doha magazine the same year. In 1970 The Ministry of Education issued Education magazine.In 1970, Al Urooba press and Gulf News, a bimonthly English language magazine, were published as the first private press in Qatar.

Al Arab newspaper, which began publishing in 1972, was the first political daily, and Al Ahd press was the first political weekly. In 2002, in addition to the government-owned newspapers, there were seven privately owned publications. The privately owned publications were Al-Raya, Al-Sharq, Al-Watan, Arabic language newspapers;The Gulf Times and The Peninsula, English language newspapers; and Qatar Al-Khair and Al-Doha Lil-Jamiah, magazines publishing news, including politics, business, social, finance, health, art and entertainment. For many years, the Qatari government provided a financial support for local newspapers and press. However, this was stopped in 1995, the same year that media censorship was lifted. This left the press essentially free from government interference and many national and international newspapers an magazines started to appear in the Qatari market such as the New York Times, Time magazine, Financial Times and Alquds Alarabi.

State-Press Relations

Government control of the media has varied since the establishment of the monarchy. The Department of Information was established in 1969, and was replaced by the Ministry of Information and Culture in 1972. In 1975, a separate department was added to the ministry the Qatar News Agency. The press and publication law, the first official censorship from the government to control the media and populations, was issued in Qatar in 1979. It was aimed at regulating the relationship between the state and press establishment, printing, publishing and distributing houses, libraries, bookshops, artistic production sale outlets, and publicity and advertisement agencies. For example, the law banned many newspapers and books from access to the country because they did not agree with the government's political, economic, or religious perspective. Censorship was lifted in 1995 when a new, much more liberal, Press and Publications law was enacted. The new press and publication law has continued to be updated since 1995. Qatar abolished the Ministry of Information and Culture in October 1998. The ministry's department and responsibility were first transferred to the number or government bodies.

Broadcast Media

Radio was introduced to the nation on June 25, 1968 when the state-run Qatar Broadcasting Service (QBS) began airing radio programming in Arabic languages. English, Urdu, and French programming were added to the line up in 1971, 1980, and 1985 respectively. Qatar radio includes all programming formats, including music, news, and entertainment. There is no private radio in Qatarit is all state-run. However, international radio stations such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America are available.

Radio was followed by the introduction of television, with a single channel that broadcast black and white programming for three to four hours a day in 1970. The channel began color transmissions in 1974. A second, English-language channel was launched in 1982 and the Qatar television satellite channel went on the air in December 1998. Like radio, all television channels were government-owned except Al-Jazeera satellite channel, which was introduced in 1996. Al-Jazeera TV was considered a private entity even though the Qatari government originally financed it.

The first wireless cable television system, which was known as Qatar Cablevision (QCV), used state-of-the art technologies to deliver satellite television to homes in Qatar beginning in 1993. QCV provided 31 channels such as CNN, BBC, Fox Sports, and Arab satellite channels. The Qatar Public Telecommunications Corporation (Q-Tel) is the government-owned monopoly provider of telecommunications services and owns the entire IT infrastructure in Qatar. The Internet service was started by Q-Tel in May 1996. The remainder of the users were evenly split between commercial and personal use. Before the service went public, Q-Tel experimented with using a proxy server to preclude access to undesirable material. Today the company is using their routers as firewalls to block access to undesirable sites and protect their network against hackers.

The Story of Al-Jazeera

Al-Jazeera is perhaps the most well known and most popular Arabic satellite channel. In 1996, Qatar introduced Al-Jazeera as the first Arab all-news and public affairs satellite network. It is the only Arabic news channel in the Middle East offering news coverage 24 hours a day from around the world, with a focus on the hottest regions of conflict. Programming includes a wide selection of political talk shows and documentaries with uncensored debates covering events as they happen.

Al-Jazeera provides a forum for freedom of expression in the region by showing free-ranging political debates, including interactive debates with live phone-ins from guests and viewers. Although Al-Jazeera is very popular with the general public, most Arab governments and state-run media do not have as favorable an opinion. The network has been subjected to attacks from almost every newspaper, television and radio station, as well as Internet sites in the majority of Arab countries and the Middle East.

Al-Jazeera became popular because it reflected the thirst of Arabs for impartial information, of which they were often deprived through their regimes' media. It also reflected the eagerness of Arabs to eradicate traditional forms of censored media output. Arab people trust its news and programs. It has stolen Arab television audiences from every one of the big powers in the region with its debates, uncensored news and, lately, online polling.

The Qatar government began Al-Jazeera after years of study by the BBC. The BBC was already popular in the Arab World and known for its reliable service. Al-Jazeera operates on a Western news model, much like CNN and BBC. However, Al-Jazeera does not follow the standard measures when recruiting editors and announcers. They have set other rules, which are not accepted by other channels, such as not being employed by a TV channel, the ability to argue, well-versed in the English language, and possessing computer and other technical skills. News submitted by a worldwide pool of correspondents is produced and coordinated by a number of chief editors from different Arab countries. Each is in charge of a group of news bulletins that are scheduled throughout the day, with an emphasis on variety throughout the day.

The Impact of Al-Jazeera In the Arab World Even though Al-Jazeera is the most popular television network in Arab media history, it is involved in conflicts with many Arab countries such as Kuwait, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. All of these countries have attacked the Al-Jazeera channel because if its editorial content. The Jordanian government closed down Al-Jazeera's news bureau in Amman after a talk show guest accused the late King Hussein of collaborating with Israel. Kuwait's information minister was sent to Qatar in 1997 to complain about an Al-Jazeera program in which the Kuwaiti ruling family was insulted. Additionally, a Kuwaiti judge tried to force Al-Jazeera to pay damages for a report on the alleged killings of Palestinians, Iraqi and Kuwaiti collaborators after the Persian Gulf War. Palestinian Council President, Yasser Arafat's, forces closed the network's office in Ramallah on the West Bank, because of anger over archival footage in a documentary on the Lebanese civil war. Iraq protested Al-Jazeera coverage of the extravagant celebration of Saddam Hussein's birthday while Iraq claimed that its people were dying from hunger because of United Nation sanctions. Algeria and Morocco have ordered Al-Jazeera correspondents to stop working. The Egyptian government was furious with Al-Jazeera because of critical coverage of the country's last elections and because of stories about Egypt allegedly bowing to American pressure over the Palestinian issue. Like any uncensored news channel, the network has its critics inside and outside the station.

Al-Jazeera Around the World After September 11, Al-Jazeera became well-known around the worldand even more important in the Middle East because it was the only station permitted to have a reporter inside the Taliban regime, which controlled Afghanistan. The channel had established a bureau in Kabul in 2000, at a time when no other news organization was interested in that part of the world.

Few in the West had heard of Al-Jazeera, which operates from cramped, heavily fortified studios on the outskirts of the Qatar. But when the station started broadcasting video statements by Osama bin Laden and became the only foreign network to broadcast from inside Taliban, its name became familiar throughout the world. CNN, the BBC and other global news leaders relied on video provided by Al-Jazeera TV to compliment their coverage of "The War on Terror." Al-Jazeera telecast Taliban opinions, anti-war prospective and the bombing of civilian targets inside Afghanistan. Although Al-Jazeera's Kabul office was also hit by United States military strikes in Afghanistan, its studios have been visited by major American political figures, including U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in an attempt by the U.S. to gain Arab support for the U.S. perspective through a channel trusted by the Arab people.

Al-Jazeera Website Al-Jazeera launched a companion website ( in Arabic in January of 2001. There are plans in the near future to develop an English language version of the site as well. Al-Jazeera maintains a 60-person, independent staff for the website, 36 of who are editors, journalists and researchers. After September 11, the website's traffic doubled, jumping from about 700,000 page views a day to about 1.2 million page views with more than 40 percent of them from the U.S.

The website covers news, sports, entertainment, technology, health, arts and culture throughout the Middle East and around the world. Moreover, it presents in-depth analysis special coverage, book reviews, marketing, and advertising. It also offers user interactivity options like quick vote and discussion forums where the users can express their opinion directly without censorship. The website provides the full script of Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel's main programs, attached with its audio file within 24 to 36 hours from the time of the first broadcasting.

The Al-Jazeera television and website have provided people worldwide new, alternative perspectives on news and information. As a result, the press of the small nation of Qatar has had a major impact on the media of the world.


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Philip J. Auter

Khalid Al-Jaber

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Nation on the western shore of the Persian Gulf.

Qatar occupies a mitten-shaped peninsula that extends about 105 miles into the Persian Gulf roughly midway along its western coast. About 50 miles across at its widest point, it has an area of 4,400 square miles. Qatar shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and is separated from Bahrain to the west by about 30 miles of water. It consists largely of desert sand and gravel with occasional limestone outcrops and sabkhas (salt flats). A lack of water made the establishment of permanent settlements in Qatar's interior impossible until the post-oil era. Summer weather is severe, with temperatures as high as 122°F (50°C) and high humidity along the coasts; winters are pleasant, with temperatures generally around 60°F (17°C), with a continuous north wind. Scant rainfall sustains meager vegetation. Qatar's proven oil reserves were estimated to be 15.2 billion barrels in 2001. More importantly, the country's natural gas reserves amounted to an estimated 21 trillion cubic meters in 2002, most of it in the North Dome field, the world's largest deposit of nonassociated gas.

Qatar's population was estimated at nearly 800,000 in 2002, having grown rapidly since oil income started to flow after World War II. Even earlier, the population included significant numbers of immigrant Iranians and East Africans originally brought as slaves and freed in the first half of the twentieth century. Oil wealth and the rapid economic development it has generated have brought large numbers of expatriates to Qatar, reducing the indigenous population to about one-fifth of the total. Iranians account for about a sixth, other Arabs for a quarter, and South Asians for a third. The great majority of the population is Sunni Muslim, with Qataris subscribing to the same strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam as the Saudis; an estimated one-sixth is Shiʿite. About three-fifths of Qatar's population lives in Doha, the capital and principal port, located on the east coast. Other major urban areas include Khawr, located north of Doha, and the industrial complex of Umm Saʿid to its south.


In the 1760s the Al Khalifa, one of the Utayba clans from central Arabia that had earlier settled in Kuwait, migrated to Qatar and established its base at Zubara, on the west coast. After they seized the islands of Bahrain from the Iranians in 1783, their hold on Qatar weakened and the Al Thani, a family from central Arabia, established a leading position on the east coast. An 1867 attack by the Al
Khalifa and the ruling Banu Yas tribe of Abu Dhabi against Doha and other settlements led to British intervention that established Muhammad ibn Thani as de facto ruler of Qatar. In 1893 his son, Qasim ibn Muhammad Al Thani, defeated superior forces of the occupying Ottoman Turks, who had extended their suzerainty over Qatar in 1871. In 1916 Abdullah ibn Qasim signed a treaty with Great Britain that conferred British protection over the emirate, forbade Qatar to have relations with or cede territory to other states without British agreement, and gave special rights to Great Britain and its subjects in Qatar.

Like the other Persian Gulf Arab states, Qatar's pearling industry, virtually its sole source of income before oil, was devastated in the 1930s due to the influx into the world market of cultured pearls produced in Japan. In 1935 a concession was granted to a subsidiary of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later British Petroleum). The modest concession payments enabled Abdullah ibn Qasim to solidify his position and that of the Al Thani clan, a process completed when the ruling family began to earn oil export income after 1949. Political independence was thrust upon Qatar in 1968, when the United Kingdom decided to end its protective relationships with the lower Gulf states by the end of 1971. It declared its independence on 3 September 1971 after the failure of efforts to join Bahrain and the seven Trucial Emirates in a federation.


Earnings from oil and natural gas production have given Qataris one of the world's highest per capita incomes and have made dramatic economic development possible. In 1991 Qatar began production of gas from its vast North Field. As part of the second phase of development of the North Field, the country built a liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and export facility at Raʾs Laffan, which began exports in 1996. The country's modern physical infrastructure includes excellent roads linking Qatar with the other Gulf states, an international airport, and a large, modern port at Doha. Attempts have been made to diversify the economy by building cement plants and flour mills, and expanding the shrimping industry. Modern techniques in agriculture have made possible vegetable and chicken production sufficient to meet an increasing local demand.

Government and Politics

In 1970, a year before independence, Qatar became the first of the lower Gulf states to adopt a written constitution. It provided for a council of ministers or a cabinet to be appointed by the ruler, and an elected advisory council. Members of the ruling family dominate the cabinet and the advisory council has thus far consisted only of members appointed by the ruler. With perhaps as many as 20,000 members, the Al Thani family is the largest ruling family in the region and has dominated most important areas of government. In June 1995 Shaykh Hamad ibn Khalifa overthrew his father, Shaykh Khalifa ibn Hamad Al Thani. Hamad has attempted to open the country's social and political environment. In
1996 he allowed the creation of al-Jazeera, a semi-independent satellite television network that has become world famous for its groundbreaking coverage of Arab issues, including the United States's conflict with Osama bin Ladin and al-Qaʿida. In addition, the ruler oversaw Qatar's first elections, which were held in March 1999 for members of the largely consultative Municipal Council.

Foreign Relations

Apart from its wider oil interests, Qatar has focused its foreign policy largely on Persian Gulf affairs, seeking to maintain close and friendly relations with the other traditional, dynastic Arab states. Two long-standing and contentious border disputes, with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, were resolved peacefully in 2001. Hamad has pursued a more active and independent foreign policy than did his deposed father. Qatar agreed to the deployment on its soil of U.S. and other non-Arab military forces during the Gulf Crisis in 1990 and 1991, and its troops participated in the fighting to liberate Kuwait. In the wake of increased U.S. military activities in the region after 11 September 2001 and the reluctance of Saudi Arabia to accede to U.S. military requests, Qatar permitted the construction of a large airbase called al-Udayd where U.S. command and control facilities and other assets were transferred from Saudi Arabia in 2002 and 2003 during the U.S. buildup for its war on Iraq.

see also al khalifa family; al thani family; al thani, hamad ibn khalifa; angloiranian oil company; bahrainiqatari wars; doha; jazeera, al-; muwahhidun.


Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. New York; Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Metz, Helen Chapin. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3d edition. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1994.

Peterson, J. E. The Arab Gulf States: Steps toward Political Participation. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Zahlan, Rosemarie Said. The Creation of Qatar. New York: Barnes and Noble; London: Croom Helm, 1979.

malcolm c. peck
updated by anthony b. toth

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Qatar or Katar (both: kŭ´tər, gŭ–, kətär´), officially State of Qatar, independent emirate (2005 est. pop. 863,000), c.4,400 sq mi (11,400 sq km), E Arabia, coextensive with the Qatar peninsula, which projects into the Persian Gulf. The capital and largest city is Doha.

Land and People

Qatar is largely barren, flat desert. Water is scarce, and agriculture is minimal. Once a nomadic society, Qatar now has little rural population. Doha, the main urban center, is on the eastern coast of the peninsula. About 40% of the inhabitants are Sunni Arabs of the Wahhabi sect of Islam. There are Christian and other minorities. Other ethnicities include South Asians, Iranians, and Palestinians. Less than one fifth of the population are native Qataris; most of the workers associated with the important oil and gas industries are foreigners. Arabic is the official language, although English is widely used.


Qatar imports the majority of its food. Agriculture is limited to fruits, vegetables, and livestock, and there is some fishing. Oil and natural gas, the mainstays of the economy, account for roughly 85% of the country's export earnings. Although total oil reserves are somewhat modest in comparison to other Persian Gulf countries, Qatar is one of the largest natural-gas producers in the world. The vast North Field gas reserve, an underwater field northeast of the Qatar peninsula, began production in the 1990s. Natural gas, crude oil, refined petroleum, and petrochemicals are produced, and ammonia, fertilizers, and steel are some of Qatar's developing diversified industries. The country has also become a regional banking center. Native Qataris have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. In addition to oil and gas products, steel and fertilizer are exported, while machinery, transportation equipment, food, and chemicals are imported. Japan, South Korea, France, and the United States are the major trading partners.


Qatar is a traditional monarchy headed by the emir, who is the head of state. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the emir. A new constitution came into force in 2005, providing for a 45-seat consultative council, two thirds of whose members would be elected and one third appointed by the emir, but it has not yet been established. The previous provisional constitution (1972) called for elections to the 35-seat advisory council (Shura), but none were held. Council members, appointed by the ruling family, have had their terms extended since 2005; elections for the new council are slated for 2013. Administratively, the country is divided into ten municipalities.


The area occupied by Qatar has been settled since the Stone Age. After the rise of Islam in the 7th cent. AD it became part of the Arab caliphate, and later of the Ottoman Empire. In the late 18th cent. it became subject to Wahhabis from the region of present-day Saudi Arabia; they were later supplanted by the Al Thani dynasty. During the Turkish occupation from 1871 to 1913, senior members of the Al Thani family were named deputy governors; subsequently, Qatar became a British protectorate, with Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani recognized as emir. In 1971, Qatar became independent of Great Britain. In 1972 the reigning emir, Ahmad ibn Ali al-Thani, was deposed by his cousin Khalifa ibn Hamad al-Thani. He in turn was deposed in June, 1995, by his son and heir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who as crown prince was credited with having launched a major industrial modernization program.

In 1981, Qatar joined neighboring countries in the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to strengthen economic relations among the participating nations. The country's stability was threatened by the Iran-Iraq War throughout the 1980s. Territorial disputes with Bahrain over the Hawar Islands and gas fields in the separating sea erupted in 1986, and there were armed clashes with Saudi Arabia in 1992 over their common border. These disputes were not completely settled until 2008.

During the Persian Gulf War (1991), international coalition forces were deployed on Qatari soil. Palestinians were expelled from Qatar in retaliation for the pro-Iraqi stance of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but since the war relations with the Palestinians have returned to normal. After the Persian Gulf War, Iraq was still regarded as a threat to Qatar's oil interests; Qatar signed a defense pact with the United States but also restored relations with Iraq.

Adopting a moderate course of action, Emir Hamad in the late 1990s eased press censorship and sought improved relations with Iran and Israel; his government worked to mediate a number of international conflicts. He also moved steadily to democratize the nation's government and institute elections. In 2003 voters approved a constitution establishing a largely elected advisory council with the power to pass laws, subject to the emir's approval; women have the right to vote and hold office. The constitution was endorsed by the emir in 2004 and came into force in 2005. The Al Udeid air base, in S central Qatar, has been used by the United States military since late 2001, and is the site of the U.S. Combined Air and Space Operations Center. The U.S. Central Command established forward headquarters in Qatar prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During the Arab Spring Qatar was supportive of uprisings in Libya, Egypt, and Syria, and was seen as politically allied with Muslim Brotherhood groups in number of Arab nations. Sheikh Hamad abdicated as emir in 2013 and was succeeded by his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Preparations for the 2022 World Cup, to be hosted by Qatar, threw light on the country's labor laws and the conditions of migrants working there. Under the country's system of kafala, or sponsorship, workers cannot leave the country or change jobs without their sponsor's permission; there were accusations of abuse of foreign workers involved in construction projects. In 2014 there were tensions with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates over Qatar's support for Islamists in foreign countries.


See R. S. Zahlan, The Creation of Qatar (1979); B. Reich, Qatar (1989); A. J. Fromherz, Qatar: A Modern History (2012); M. Kamrava, Qatar: Small State, Big Politics (2013).

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Official name: State of Qatar

Area: 11,437 square kilometers (4,416 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Qurayn Abu al Bawl (103 meters/338 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 160 kilometers (100 miles) from north to south; 90 kilometers (55 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: 60 kilometers (37 miles) total boundary length, all with Saudi Arabia

Coastline: 563 kilometers (350 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Qatar consists of a tiny peninsula projecting northward into the Persian Gulf from the larger Arabian Peninsula. With an area of 11,437 square kilometers (4,416 square miles), Qatar is almost as large as the state of Connecticut.


Qatar has no territories or dependencies.


Qatar has a desert climate that is characterized by extremely hot and dry summers, from May to October, and mild winters. Mean temperatures in June are 42°C (108°F), dropping to 15°C (59°F) in winter. Average annual precipitation is less than 8 centimeters (3 inches). Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter months, sometimes only in localized heavy downpours. Humidity along the coast frequently reaches 90 percent during summer.


Qatar's terrain is mostly a flat and barren desert covered with loose sand and gravel, with some low hills and a central limestone plateau.


Qatar borders the Persian Gulf on the north, east, and southeast and the Gulf of Bahrain on the west.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

A notable feature of the coastal area is the prevalence of salt pans, which are shallow depressions made up of salt flats (sabkhas ). Their presence at the base of the peninsula suggests that Qatar was an island at one time. Coral reefs impede navigation in the coastal seas surrounding Qatar, as does the shallowness of these waters.

Sea Inlets and Straits

In the southeast there is a jagged inlet of the Persian Gulf that is known as Khōr al-'Udeid (the Inland Sea). Along the southwest coast lies the Dawhat Salwah, an inlet of the Gulf of Bahrain.

Islands and Archipelagos

Qatar includes a few islands in addition to the main peninsula. The most important island is Halul, which lies about 90 kilometers (60 miles) east of Doha and has an area of only about 1.5 square kilometers (0.6 square miles). It is used for storing oil found in offshore wells and loading it onto ships for trade.

Coastal Features

The coastline of Qatar is part of a regional low desert plain, and it contains two natural harbors. The capital of Doha is located on a sizable, though shallow, port. Umm Said also provides a commercial harbor. Qatar also has two important capes: Ra's Rakan at its north-ernmost point and Al-Maţbakh, which juts into the Persian Gulf just north of Al-Khawr. The inlet known as Khōr al-'Udeid (the Inland Sea) is surrounded by extensive sand dunes.


Limited natural freshwater resources have increased Qatar's dependence on large-scale desalination facilities.


Though Qatar has no perennial rivers, there are rainwater-draining basins in the north and central areas of the country.


Qatar is an extension of the Arabian Peninsula's Rub'al-Khali (Empty Quarter) desert, which reaches northward from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Massive sand dunes surround Khōr al-'Udeid in the south of Qatar.


Qatar is mostly flat, with scanty vegetation. Hills and sand dunes reach an altitude of 40 meters (131 feet) in the western and northern parts of the country.


There are no mountains in Qatar.


Qatar's karst limestone topography includes at least ten large caves. Many of the depressions in Qatar's terrain are actually collapsed caverns.


A low central limestone plateau, which contains a number of shallow wadis, rises from the east and north. There are elevated limestone formations, called the Dukhān anticline, along the west coast; underneath them lies the Dukhān oil field.


Except for the harbors at Doha and Umm Said, all of Qatar's ports are artificial, created by digging channels to deepen Qatar's shallow coastal waters. Among these man-made ports are those at Al-Khawr and Al-Wakrah.



Ferdinand, Klaus. Bedouins of Qatar. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993.

Vine, Peter. The Heritage of Qatar. London: IMMEL Publications, 1992.

Winckler, Onn. Population Growth, Migration and Socio-Demographic Policies in Qatar. Tel Aviv: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 2000.

Web Sites

ArabNet: Qatar. (accessed May 7, 2003).

Energy Information: Qatar. (accessed May 7, 2003).

Library of Congress Country Studies: Qatar. (accessed May 7, 2003).

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Qatar Sheikhdom on the Qatar peninsula in the Persian Gulf; the capital is Doha. The low-lying land is mostly stony desert, with some barren salt flats. Qatar's territory includes several offshore coral islands, the most important being Habal – an oil storage and export terminal. The climate is hot and humid, and a scant water supply has to be supplemented by desalination schemes. Forty percent of Qatar's population are Sunni Muslims, although only 25% are native Qataris, who descend from three Bedouin tribes. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, Qatar was a British Protectorate from 1916 to 1971, when it achieved independence. It is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and OPEC. It is an absolute monarchy: Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani became Emir after a coup in 1972. During the 1980s, the regional dominance of Iran and Iraq and a territorial dispute with Bahrain threatened Qatar's status. In the Gulf War (1991), Allied coalition forces deployed on Qatar's territory and Qatar expelled Palestinian migrant workers because of the pro-Iraqi stance of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1995, the Emir was overthrown and replaced by his son, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. A further coup attempt in 1996 was foiled. Qatar heavily depends on food imports. The sheikhdom's high standard of living (2000 GDP per capita, US$20,300) derives from its oil and gas reserves. Oil was first discovered in 1939, and today accounts for c.90% of exports and 80% of income. Oil revenue has been used to diversify Qatar's industrial base and develop agricultural projects. The economy relies heavily on an immigrant workforce, many from India or Pakistan. Area: 11,437sq km (4415sq mi). Pop. (2000) 499,000.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name



Identification. Residents of Qatar can be divided into three groups: the Bedouin, Hadar, and Abd. The Bedouin trace their descent from the nomads of the Arabian Peninsula. The Hadar's ancestors were settled town dwellers. While some Hadar are descendants of Bedouin, most descend from migrants from present-day Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and occasionally are referred to as lrani-Qataris. Alabd, which literally means "slaves," are the descendants of slaves brought from east Africa. All three groups identify themselves as Qatari and their right to citizenship is not challenged, but subtle sociocultural differences among them are recognized and acknowledged.

Location and Geography. Qatar is a small peninsula on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf that covers approximately 4,247 square miles (6,286 square kilometers). The landmass forms a rectangle that local folklore describes as resembling the palm of a right hand extended in prayer. Neighboring countries include Bahrain to the northwest, Iran to the northeast, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to the south. Qatar and Bahrain both claim the uninhabited Hawar Islands just west of Qatar. Until recently, only small semipermanent seasonal encampments existed in the interior desert. Water resources near the coast combined with opportunities for fishing, pearl diving, and seagoing trade have supported larger, more permanent settlements. These settlement patterns have contributed to the social differentiation between Bedouin and Hadar.

Demography. In 1998, the population was estimated at 579,000. Most estimates agree that only about 20 percent of the population are Qatari, with the remainder being foreign workers. A total of 91.4 percent live in urban areas, mostly in the capital. Because male foreign laborers come without their families, there is an imbalance of males and females in the total population. The foreign workers, mostly from India and Pakistan, cannot obtain citizenship and reside in the country on temporary visas.

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is Arabic. English, Farsi, and Urdu are widely spoken. Arabic is closely associated with the Islamic faith; thus, its use reinforces the Islamic identity of the nation and its citizens. The Qatari dialect of Arabic is similar to the version spoken in the other Gulf States and is called Arabic. The adjective khaleeji ("of the Gulf") that is used to describe the local dialect also distinguishes citizens of the six Gulf States from north African and Levantine Arabs.

Farsi, the official language of Iran, is also widely spoken by families that trace their descent from that country. As a result of the influx of foreign workers, many other languages are commonly spoken, including English, Urdu and Hindi, Malalayam, and Tagalog. While many Qataris speak more than one language, it is very rare for immigrants to learn Arabic. Interactions between Arabs and foreign workers are conducted in English or the language of the expatriate.

Symbolism. Symbols of national identity include the family, items associated with the nation's past, and images of the ruler. Qataris often employ an idiom of kinship and/or tribalism, referring to compatriots as "brother," "sister," or "cousin." This linguistic convention signals the inclusion of those sharing citizenship while excluding foreign workers. Images and ideas associated with desert nomadism and maritime trade that are used to evoke Qatar's past include Bedouin tents and carpets, falcons used for hunting, camels, weapons, sailing vessels, and pearls and pearl diving equipment. Traditional architectural features also serve as national symbols, such as the wind towers that cooled homes before the introduction of electricity and the carved gypsum panels on buildings erected before 1940.

The date on which Qatar received independence from Great Britain in 1971 and the anniversary of the ruler's accession to office are celebrated as national holidays. The nation's flag, the state seal, and photographs of the rulers are displayed prominently in public places and local publications. Qataris also celebrate Islamic holidays.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In the 1760s, members of the Al-Khalifa of the Utub tribe migrated to Qatar from Kuwait and central Arabia and established a pearling and commercial base in Zubarah in the north. From there the Al-Khalifa expanded their territory by occupying Bahrain, which they have ruled ever since. The Al-Thai, the current ruling family, established themselves after years of contention with the Al-Khalifa, who still held claims to the Qatar peninsula through most of the nineteenth century. In 1867, Britain recognized Mohammad bin Thani as the representative of the Qatari people. A few years later, Qasim Al-Thani (Mohammad's son) accepted the title of governor from the Ottoman Turks, who were trying to establish authority in the region. Qasim Al-Thani's defeat of the Turks in 1893 usually is recognized as a confirmation of Qatar's autonomy. In 1916, Abdullah bin Qasim Al-Thani (Qasim's son) entered an agreement with Britain that effectively established the Al-Thani as the ruling family. That agreement provided for British protection and special rights for British subjects and ensured that Britain would have a say in Qatar's foreign relations. The increase in state income from oil concessions strengthened the Al-Thani's position.

When Britain announced its intention to withdraw from the region, Qatar considered joining a federation with Bahrain and the seven Trucial States. However, agreement could not be reached on the terms of federation, and Qatar adopted a constitution declaring independence in 1971. The constitution states that the ruler will always be chosen from the Al-Thani family and will be assisted by a council of ministers and a consultative council. The consultative council was never elected; instead, there is an advisory council appointed by the ruler. Despite periodic protests against the concentration of power and occasional disputes within the ruling family, the Al-Thani's size, wealth, and policies have maintained a stable regime.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Doha, the capital, houses more than 80 percent of the population. Its parks, promenade, and award-winning waterfront architecture are considered as the centerpiece of Doha. The large-scale land reclamation project undertaken by the government to create those waterfront properties is recognized as a major engineering feat and a symbol of the country's economic and technological advancements.

Smaller towns such as Dukhan, Um Said, and Al Khor have become centers of the oil industry, and Wakrah, Rayyan, and Um Slal Mohammad have grown as suburban extensions of Doha. Smaller villages are spread throughout the desert interior. Village homes often are kept as weekend retreats for urban residents and as links to the tradition of desert nomads.

Doha's cityscape represents an attempt to fuse the modern with the traditional. At the start of the building boom in the 1960s, little thought was given to aesthetics; the objective was to build as quickly as possible. As the pace of development slowed, more consideration was given to developing a city that symbolized Qatar's new urban character and global integration. Designs were solicited that used modern technologies to evoke the nation's past. The main building of the university has cube-shaped towers on the roof. Those towers, with stained glass and geometric gratings, are a modernist rendition of traditional wind towers. The university towers are decorative rather than functional; however, they are highly evocative of Qatar's commitment to the lifestyles of the past while encouraging economic and technological development. Similar examples are found in government and private buildings. Many building designs incorporate architectural elements resembling desert forts and towers or have distinctively Islamic decorative styles executed in modern materials.

Homes also symbolize people's identities. The homes of Qatari citizens are distinct from the residences of foreign workers. The state provides citizens with interest-free loans to build homes in areas reserved for low-density housing. Foreign workers live in rental units or employer-provided housing and dormitories.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The presence of foreign workers has introduced foods from all over the world. Qatar's cuisine has been influenced by close links to Iran and India and more recently by the arrival of Arabs from North Africa and the Levant as well as Muslim dietary conventions. Muslims generally refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol, and neither is served publicly.

Foods central to Qatar's cuisine include the many native varieties of dates and seafood. Other foods grown locally or in Iran are considered local delicacies, including sour apples and fresh almonds. The traditional dish machbous is a richly spiced rice combined with meat and/or seafood and traditionally served from a large communal platter.

The main meal is eaten at midday, with lighter meals in the morning and late evening. However, with more Qataris entering the workforce, it is becoming more common to have family meals in the evenings. The midday meal on Friday, after prayers, is the main gathering of the week for many families. During the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, elaborate and festive meals are served at night.

Coffee is a central feature of the cuisine. Arabian coffee made of a lightly roasted bean that is sweetened and spiced with cardamon is served in small thimble-shaped cups to guests in homes and offices. Most households keep a vacuum jug of coffee and sometimes tea ready for visitors. Another beverage, qahwa helw (sweet coffee), a vivid orange infusion of saffron, cardamon, and sugar, is served on special occasions and by the elite.

In recent years, restaurants and fast-food franchises have opened. Those establishments primarily serve foreign workers. Qataris, especially women, are reluctant to eat in public places; but will use the drive-through and delivery services of restaurants. Qatari men sometimes socialize and conduct business in restaurants and coffeehouses.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The primary axes of social stratification are the nationality and occupation. The practice of hiring foreign workers has created a system in which certain nationalities are concentrated in particular jobs, and salaries differ depending on nationality. The broadest division is between citizens and foreigners, with subdivisions based on region of origin, genealogy, and cultural practices.

Despite this inequality, the atmosphere is one of comfortable and tolerant coresidence. Foreign workers retain their national dress. Their children can attend school with instruction in their native languages. Markets carry a broad range of international foods, music, and films. Foreigners are permitted to practice their religion publicly, and many expatriate religious institutions sponsor community activities and services.

Qataris are internally stratified according to factors such as tribal affiliation, religious sect, and historical links to settlement patterns. For example, Qataris with genealogical links to Arabia are likely to identify with Bedouin cultural values and be adherents of Sunni Islam, whereas Qataris with genealogical links to the northeastern side of the Gulf are likely to identify with settled townsfolk and may be adherents of Shi'a Islam. Genealogical and geographic subdivisions among citizens correlate with occupational categories. The crafts are viewed as the province of Irani-Qataris, and freed slaves are disproportionately represented in certain professions, such as entertainment and the police force.

Political Life

Government. Qatari is technically an "Emirate," ruled by an Emir. Since independence the country's rulers have been of one particular family, the Al Thani. The Emir and many of the cabinet of ministers, as well as other high ranking officials are members of the Al Thani family (a large patrilineally related kin group) and are overwhelmingly male. However, some high level appointments have been made outside of the ruling family. Because of the concentration of power within the Al Thani, divisions or disputes among members of this large kin group will influence political relations. In 1998, Qatar held open elections for a "municipal council." This was the first election ever held in Qatar, and the campaigning was not only lively but drew in large portions of Qatar's citizenry. While a number of women ran for office, none were elected in this first vote. Both women and men turned out to vote for representatives from their residential sectors. The Municipal Council represents local residential sectors to other governmental bodies.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

After independence, Qatar developed extensive social welfare programs, including free health care, education through university, housing grants, and subsidized utilities. Improvements in utility services, road networks, sewage treatment, and water desalination have resulted in a better quality of life. In recent years, institutions have been established to support low-income families and disabled individuals through educational and job training programs.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

A number of international NGO's have offices and operations in Qatar, such as UNESCO, UNICEF, and the Red Crescent Society. Since 1995, the Emir's wife Shaikh Mouza, has been instrumental in encouraging and facilitating the establishment of organizations to serve women, children, family and the disabled. These service organizations have made significant headway particularly in the areas of health and education.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Schooling is gender-segregated. After completing schooling, men and women can obtain employment in government agencies or private enterprise. Qatari women tend to take government jobs, particularly in the ministries of education, health, and social affairs. High-level positions are held predominantly by men. While the presence of the foreign workforce has put more women in the public sphere, those women work primarily in occupations that reinforce the division of labor by gender. Foreign females are hired mostly as maids, nannies, teachers, nurses, and clerical or service workers.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender roles are relatively distinct. Men engage in the public sphere more frequently than do women. Women have access to schooling and employment and have the right to drive and travel outside the country. However, social mores influenced by Islam and historical precedent leave many women uncomfortable among strangers in public. Instead, their activities are conducted in private spaces. To provide women with more access to public services, some department stores, malls, parks, and museums designate "family days" during which men are allowed entry only if they accompany their families.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Most marriages are arranged. Usually the mother and sisters of the groom make initial inquiries about prospective brides, discuss the possibilities with the young man, and, if he is interested, approach the family of the prospective bride. That woman has the opportunity to accept or refuse the proposal. Marriages often are arranged between families with similar backgrounds, and it is common for several members of two lineages to be married to each other. Marriages between Qataris and other Gulf Arabs are common, but the government discourages marriage to non-Gulf citizens. One must get official permission to marry a noncitizen, and the citizen may have to give up the promise of government employment and other benefits.

Polygyny is religiously and legally sanctioned. While it remains common among the ruling family, the number of polygynous marriages has dropped in recent years. A wife can divorce her husband if he takes another wife, and with more education and economic options, women are more likely to do that now than they were in the past. Another reason for the decrease in polygyny may be the rising cost of maintaining more than one household.

The divorce rate has risen sharply since 1980. Both women and men may seek a divorce, and custody is granted in accordance with Islamic law. Young children are kept with the mother; once they reach adolescence, custody reverts to the father.

Domestic Unit. Extended, joint, and nuclear households are all found today. The preference is to live with or at least near the members of the husband's family. This patrilineal proximity is accomplished by means of a single extended household, walled family compounds with separate houses, or simply living in the same neighborhood.

Kin Groups. "Family" in Qatar refers to a group larger than the domestic unit. Descent is reckoned through the male line, and so one is a member of his or her father's lineage and maintains close ties to that lineage. After marriage, women remain members of the father's lineage but are partially integrated into the lineages of their husbands and children. Children of polygynous marriages often identify most closely with siblings from the same mother. As children mature, such groups sometimes establish separate households or compounds.


Child Rearing and Education. Children are important in family life. If a marriage is barren, the couple may resort to medically-assisted conception, polygyny, or divorce. Child care is the province of adult females, although children have close ties to their male relatives as well. The employment of foreign nannies has introduced new child care practices and foreign influences.

Higher Education. Public schooling has been available since the 1950s. In 1973, a teacher's college was opened and in 1977 the colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences, Science, and Sharia and Islamic were added to form the University of Qatar. Subsequently the College of Engineering, College of Administrative Sciences and Economics, and the College of Technology were added to the original four. Qataris can attend kindergarten through university for free. Students who qualify for higher education abroad can obtain scholarships to offset the costs of tuition, travel, and living abroad.


Social behavior is conducted in a manner respectful of family privacy, hospitality, and the public separation of genders. Visits with unrelated persons occur outside the house or in designated guest areas separate from the areas regularly used by the family. One does not inquire unnecessarily about another person's family. Despite this strong sense of family privacy, it is considered rude not to extend hospitality to strangers. Tea, coffee, food, and a cool place to sit should be offered to any visitor. Conversely, it is rude not to accept hospitality. When greeting a member of the opposite sex, it is best to act with reserve, following the Qatari's lead. Some Qatari women feel comfortable shaking hands with a man, but others refrain. Similarly, men may refrain from extending the hand to women or sitting beside them.


Religious Beliefs. The majority of the citizens and the ruling family are Sunni Muslims, specifically Wahhabis. There is, however, a large minority of Shi'a Muslims. Recent events such as the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War, and alleged discrimination against Shi'a Muslims have exacerbated sectarian tensions. These divisions are rarely discussed openly.


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The native population of Qatar (about 100,000) descends from Bedouin (or Bedu) tribes. Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians, and Gulf and Palestinian Arabs are among the leading immigrant groups.

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Qatar •Qatar • Telstar • sitar • Ishtar • co-star •lodestar • sunstar • megastar •superstar • avatar • earthstar

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