Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Qatar Country Page

Doha. Photo: STRINGER / AFP


Qatar (official name: the State of Qatar) is an independent emirate on the western coastline of the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

The country is located on a small desert peninsula extending to the north from the Arabian Peninsula. It had been inhabited sporadically and in modest numbers since the Prehistoric Age. Qatar covers an area estimated at 11,586 km2.

It shares a land border with the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia as well as with the northwestern part of the United Arab Emirates.Doha is the capital city of Qatar and it is located on the eastern coast of the Peninsula that overlooks the Gulf. More than one-fifth of Qatar’s population lives within the borders of the city.

Doha has a mixture of modern architecture, new office buildings, shopping centers, and residential compounds. Due to its marine coral reefs and shallow waters, Doha has long been a locally important port and it was once a center for pearling.

Qatar’s traditions rely on the nomadic past and centuries-old practices of handmade falconry products. However, the country’s urban and coastal population and daily life are quite modern, and its rulers have sought to promote civil liberties.

While adhering to religious beliefs and traditions, the Qataris are proud of their tolerance toward other cultures and beliefs.

Map of Qatar
Map of Qatar. @Fanack

After the advent of Islam, the area became under the Islamic caliphate’s rule. Subsequently, it was ruled by a number of domestic and foreign dynasties before it came under the control of the Al Thani dynasty in the 19th Century.

The Al Thani family had sought the protection of the British against rival tribal groups and against the Ottoman Empire — which occupied the country in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

In contrast, the United Kingdom controlled Qatar’s foreign policy until the latter gained independence in 1971.

After that, Britain continued to sponsor [Qatar’s] strong relations with Western powers as an essential pillar of its national security.

Qatar has one of the largest reserves of oil and natural gas in the world. It employs large numbers of foreign workers in the upstream industry. Thanks to its oil wealth, the Qatari population enjoys high living standards and a well-established social service system.

The population was estimated at 2.93 million, according to estimates for the year 2021. Estimates for the year 2015 indicate that non-Qatari expatriates make up 88.4 percent of the total population, while Qatari nationals do not account for more than 11.6 percent.

Arabic is the official language of the country and English is commonly used as a second language.

According to 2020 estimates, Muslims make up 65.2 percent of the total population, compared to 13.7 percent for Christians, 15.9 percent for Hindus, 3.8 percent for Buddhists, and 1.4 percent for Jews and other ethnic groups.

The local currency is the Qatari Riyal, and Qatar’s natural resources include petroleum, fish, and natural gas.

In military terms, Qatar ranked 65th out of 145 among the countries listed by in the 2023 Global Firepower Index.

The growth of the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel has largely dominated Qatar’s media environment in the 21st Century. The channel strengthened its position as one of the major international media outlets that had unparalleled access to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Jazeera established English-language services in 2006 as part of its expansion plans.

However, the channel’s popularity has begun to decline since then amid accusations of bias during its coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

Besides, competitive pressure applied by Saudi Arabia also plays a role in dropping the popularity of Al Jazeera, especially through the Saudi-owned Arabic-speaking news channel, Al Arabiya TV.

Qatar ranks 119 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 World Press Freedom Index

According to a study conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar in 2016, television is considered to be the most popular media in the country. Some 75 percent of respondents confirmed that they watch television (the study included 1,000 people, including 504 Qatari citizens).

Only 40 percent of the respondents watched Qatari programs, while programs from the Middle East, India, and the West were popular due to the large number of expatriates living in Qatar.

Among the prominent figures in Qatar are Sheikha al-Mayassa, the patroness of arts in Qatar; and Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, a persecuted Qatari poet who is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The sports culture in Qatar combines traditional sports for Arab desert dwellers with modern Western sports. Traditional sports include Arabian horse racing, camel racing, and falconry, all of which are rooted in the country’s Bedouin history. Contemporary Western sports include basketball, handball, golf, swimming, football, table tennis, and volleyball. Football is considered the most popular.

Doha hosted the 15th Asian Games in December 2006, making it the first Arabian Gulf city and the second West Asian city to host the event (after Tehran in 1974). This was the first time that all 45 members of the Olympic Council of Asia participated in the sporting event. EUROSPORT broadcasted the event, marking the first time that the European Continent could watch the event.

The Qatari National Team won the AFC Asian Cup title in 2019 for the first time in its history and won the Arabian Gulf Cup three times in 1992, 2004, and 2014. In 1981, the Qatari Youth Team, along with the West German team, reached the final match of the World Youth Championship held in Australia. In 2014, Qatar won the AFC Under-19 Championship in Myanmar 2014, and the Qatar Olympic Team won the 2006 Asian Games title in Doha.

Qatar’s climate is mild and dry in winter and humid and very hot in the summer. The terrain is a mostly flat and barren desert.

The list of prominent touristic destinations includes Pearl Island, the Doha Castle

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