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Islamic Countries - Qatar

Ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s,Qatar transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the amir, who had ruled the country since 1972. He was overthrown by his son, the current Amir HAMAD bin Khalifa Al Thani, in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Oil and natural gas revenues enableQatar to have a per capita income not far below the leading industrial countries of Western Europe.


Location:Middle East, peninsula bordering thePersian Gulf and Saudi Arabia

Geographic coordinates: 25 30 N, 51 15 E.
total: 11,437 sq km; water: 0 sq km; land: 11,437 sq km

Climate: arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers

Coastline: 563 km


Population:817,052 (July 2003 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.87% (2003 est.)

Sex ratio: total population: 1.9 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
noun: Qatari(s)
adjective: Qatari

Ethnic groups Arab 40%, Pakistani 18%, Indian 18%, Iranian 10%, other 14%
Arabic (official), English commonly used as a second language


 Oil and gas account for more than 55% of GDP, roughly 85% of export earnings, and 70% of government revenues. Oil and gas have given Qatar a per capita GDP comparable to that of the leading West European industrial countries. Proved oil reserves of 14.5 billion barrels should ensure continued output at current levels for 23 years. Production and export of natural gas are becoming increasingly important to the economy.Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas exceed 17.9 trillion cubic meters, more than 5% of the world total and third largest in the world. Long-term goals feature the development of offshore natural gas reserves. Since 2000, Qatar has consistently posted trade surpluses largely because of high oil prices and increased natural gas exports, andQatar's economy is expected to receive an added boost as it begins to increase liquid natural gas exports.

Industries crude oil production and refining, fertilizers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars, cement

Agriculture products: fruits, vegetables; poultry, dairy products, beef; fish


Telephones main lines in use:142,000 (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular: 43,476 (1997)

Telephone System: general assessment: modern system centered inDoha
Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus three repeaters) (2001)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)

Internet users: 75,000 (2001)


Railways: 0 km
Highways: total: 1,230 km; paved: 1,107 km; unpaved: 123 km (1996)
Waterways: none
4 (2002)


Conventional long form: State of Qatar
conventional short form: Qatar
local short form: Qatar
note: closest approximation of the native pronunciation falls between cutter and gutter, but not like guitar
local long form: Dawlat Qatar

Government type: traditional monarchy

Capital: Doha

Administrative divisions:10 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah); Ad Dawhah, Al Ghuwayriyah, Al Jumayliyah, Al Khawr, Al Wakrah, Ar Rayyan, Jarayan al Batinah, Madinat ash Shamal, Umm Sa'id, Umm Salal

Independence: 3 September 1971 (from UK)

Constitution: provisional constitution enacted 19 April 1972; in July 1999 Amir HAMAD issued a decree forming a committee to draft a permanent constitution; in the 29 April 2003 referendum, 96.6% of Qatari voters approved the new constitution
Legal system:discretionary system of law controlled by the amir, although civil codes are being implemented; Islamic law dominates family and personal matters

Executive branch:

chief of state: Amir HAMAD bin Khalifa Al Thani (since 27 June 1995 when, as crown prince, he ousted his father, Amir KHALIFA bin Hamad Al Thani, in a bloodless coup); Crown Prince JASIM bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, third son of the monarch (selected crown prince by the monarch 22 October 1996); note - Amir HAMAD also holds the positions of minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the armed forces

Head of government: Prime Minister ABDALLAH bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother of the monarch (since30 October 1996); Deputy Prime Minister MUHAMMAD bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother of the monarch (since 20 January 1998)

Cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the monarch

Elections: none; the monarch is hereditary

Note: in April 2003,Qatar held nationwide elections for a 29-member Central Municipal Council (CMC), which has consultative powers aimed at improving the provision of municipal services; the first election for the CMC was held in March 1999

Judicial branch: Court of Appeal

Political parties and leaders: none


 Muslim 95%


Archaeological digs have shown that the Qatar peninsula was inhabited during the Stone Age, when the region's climate was milder than it is today. But the archaeologists have found little evidence of habitation between the most ancient of times and the modern era, and Qatar is the only significant place in the Gulf to have no Portuguese ruins of any sort. Since the Portuguese conquered, or at least attacked, just about everywhere else in the Gulf, this strongly implies that 16th century Qatar was either uninhabited or very nearly so.

For most of its recorded history, Qatar has been dominated by the Al-Thani family, who arrived in the mid-18th century, when Qatar was already well established as a pearling centre, and became the peninsula's rulers about 100 years later.

Qatar's first Al-Thani emir established his capital atDoha in the mid-19th century. To strengthen his position vis-a-vis the other tribes in the area, he signed a treaty withBritain in 1867. He and his son who followed became masters at maintaining their independence by playing the British off against the Turks. In 1872 the emir signed a treaty with the Turks allowing them to place a garrison in Doha. Over the years the small Turkish garrison began to seem more destabilizing than reassuring. The garrison was forced to be withdrawn from Qatar in 1915, after Turkey entered WWI on the side of Germany. With Britain and Turkey on opposite sides in the war, and the British controlling the rest of the Gulf, switching alliances seemed like a wise move, especially since Qatar had to worry about the founder and future king of Saudi Arabia, who was then in the process of conquering most of eastern Arabia.

Even before the collapse of the pearl market around 1930, life in Qatar was rough. With poverty, hunger and disease all widespread, the emir welcomed oil prospectors who first arrived in the early 1930s. A concession was granted in 1935 and the prospectors struck oil in 1939. Because of WWII, however, production did not begin for another 10 years. At that point things began to move very quickly.

Qatar's oil reserves were not huge, but the country's tiny population had plenty of cash to go around. Much of the early revenue went to modernizing the country: the first school opened in 1952 and health care facilities were upgraded. The injection of funds did wonders for the emirs' lifestyle, and from the mid-1950s, successive emirs took less and less interest in government and more and more interest in falconry, jet-setting and fancy cars. Despite this, the amount of wealth, more or less evenly distributed, blunted the political interests of most Qataris, and there were few calls for democracy or an end to the monarchy.

Since independence,Qatar has retained its close defense ties withBritain and has increased defense cooperation with both the US and France. For many years Qatar's foreign policy followed the lead ofSaudi Arabia, but in the 1990s that began to change.Doha ruffled some feathers around the Gulf by seeking closer ties withIran. In 1993 Qatar became the first Gulf country to have open diplomatic contact with Israel and then in 1995 to start an economic relationship with the Jewish state, agreeing to supply Tel Aviv with natural gas. In June 1995 Emir Shaikh Khalifa was unexpectedly deposed by his son Hamad, until then the crown prince and defense minister, in a bloodless coup. The new emir quickly won widespread foreign and domestic support for his regime; his father eventually returned to public coffers US$3.6 million he'd squirreled away as emir in a gesture interpreted as grudging support for Hamad's policies.

Shaikh Hamad continues to establish Qatar as a maverick voice within the Gulf. He lifted official censorship of the press, although prudent journalists exercise some self-censorship, particularly when covering the royal family. Despite a difficult relationship with former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Qatar managed to maintain diplomatic relations withIsrael, as well as Iran and Iraq. The May 1998 election of the 18-member Chamber of Commerce and Industry, prestigious positions that had been subject to the emir's appointment alone since independence, marked Qatar's first exercise in democracy. Although only a fraction of the population registered to vote, women not only cast their ballots but ran for office in the historic 1999 elections; all six ladies lost, but did manage to usher in a new political era along the way.

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