Qatar

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The State of Qatar (Arabic: قطر), an emirate in the Middle East, occupies a small peninsula off the larger Arabian Peninsula. It borders Saudi Arabia to the south; otherwise the Persian Gulf surrounds the country.

دولة قطر
Dawlat Qatar'
125px 85px
(In Detail) (In Detail)
National motto: n/a
File:LocationQatar.png
Official language Arabic
Capital Doha
Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani
Prime Minister Sheikh Abdallah ibn Khalifah Al Thani
Area
 - Total
 - percent water
Ranked 158th
10,360 km²
Negligible
Population
 - Total (July 2005)
 - Density
Ranked 154th
863,051
79/km²
HDI (2003) 0.849 (40th) – high
Independence
 - Recognised

September 3, 1971
Currency Riyal (QR) = 100 dirhams 1 Us dollar = 3.642 riyal
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem As Salam al Amiri
Internet TLD .qa
Calling Code 974

Contents

History

Main article: History of Qatar

Qatar forms one of the newer emirates in the Arabian Peninsula. Control and power over Qatar has changed hands for many centries from waring tribes, the last of which is Al-Thani clan, who currently rule Qatar. Qatar became an independent state on September 3 1971. Unlike most nearby emirates, Qatar declined to become part of the United Arab Emirates.

Although the peninsular land mass that makes up Qatar has sustained humans for thousands of years, for the bulk of its history the arid climate fostered only short-term settlements by nomadic tribes. Clans such as the Al Khalifa which would later ascend the thrones of Bahrain swept through the Arabian peninsula and camped on the coasts within small fishing and pearling villages. The clans battled each other for lucrative oyster beds and lands, frequently forming and breaking coalitions with one another in their attempts to establish territorial supremacy.

The British initially sought out Qatar and the Persian Gulf as an intermediary vantage point en route to their colonial interests in India, although the discovery of oil and hydrocarbons in the early 20th century would re-invigorate their interest. During the 19th century (the time of Britain’s formative ventures into the region) the Al Khalifa clan reigned over the Northern Qatari peninsula from the off-shore island of Bahrain to the west. Although Qatar legally had the status of a dependency, resentment festered against the Bahraini Al Khalifas along the eastern seaboard in the fishing villages of Doha and Wakrah. In 1867 the Al Khalifas launched a successful effort to quash the Qatari rebels by sending a massive naval force to Wakrah. Bahraini aggression however violated an 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty, and the diplomatic response of the British Protectorate set into motion the political forces that would eventuate in the founding of the state of Qatar. In addition to censuring Bahrain for its breach of agreement, the British Protectorate (per Colonel Lewis Pelly) asked to negotiate with a representative from Qatar. The request carried with it a tacit recognition of Qatar’s status as distinct from Bahrain. To negotiate with Colonel Pelly the Qataris chose a respected entrepreneur and long-time resident of Doha, Muhammed bin Thani. His clan, the Al Thanis, had taken relatively little part in Gulf politics, but the diplomatic foray ensured their future participation and dominion as the ruling family, a dynasty that continues to this day. The negotiation results left Qatar with a new-found sense of political selfhood, although it did not gain official standing as a British protectorate until 1916.

The imperial reach of the British Empire diminished during the Second World War, and it diminished even more when India became independent in 1947. Momentum for a British withdrawal from the Gulf emirates increased during the 1950s, and the British welcomed Kuwait’s declaration of independence in 1961. Seven years later, when Britain officially announced that it would disengage (politically, not economically) from the Gulf in three years time, Qatar joined Bahrain and seven other Trucial States in a federation. Regional disputes however quickly compelled Qatar to resign and declare independence from the coalition that would evolve into the seven-imarat United Arab Emirates. Thus 1971 marked the inauguration of Qatar as an independent sovereign state.

Since 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has ruled Qatar: he seized control of the country from his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani while the latter holidayed in Switzerland. Under Emir Hamad, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalisation, including the enfranchisement of women, a new constitution and the launch of Al Jazeera, the controversial Arabic satellite television news channel.

Qatar served as the headquarters and one of the main launching sites of the US invasion of Iraq [1] in 2003.

In 2005 a suicide-bombing that killed a British teacher at the Doha Players Theatre shocked the country, which had not previously experienced acts of terrorism.

The United States Armed Forces Unified Combatant Command unit for the Middle East theater, known as CENTCOM (US Central Command), has its headquarters in Qatar. Qatar also hosts a large United States Air Force base.

Qatar will host the 15th Asian Games in 2006.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Qatar

To Western eyes, the Qatari authorities seem to keep a relatively tight rein on freedom of expression and moves for equality; but when compared to neighbours like Saudi Arabia Qatar boasts one of the best standards-of-living and quality-of-life in its region.

In Qatar, the ruling Al Thani (الثاني) family continued to hold power following the declaration of independence in 1971. The Emir functions as head of state, and the right to rule Qatar resides within the Al Thani family. Politically, Qatar has started to evolve from a traditional society in the direction of a traditional modern welfare state. In order to meet the requirements of social and economic progress, the authorities have established Government departments.

The Basic Law of Qatar (1970) institutionalized local customs rooted in Qatar's conservative Wahhabi heritage, granting the Emir pre-eminent power. Continuing traditions of consultation, rule by consensus, and the citizen's right to appeal personally to the Emir all influence the Emir's role. The Emir, while directly accountable to no one, cannot violate the Shari’a (Islamic law) and, in practice, must consider the opinions of leading notables and of the religious establishment. The Advisory Council, an appointed body that assists the Emir in formulating policy, has institutionalized the position of such influential groups. Qatar has no electoral system, and a ban on political parties.

The influx of expatriate Arabs has introduced ideas that call into question the tenets of Qatar's traditional society, but no serious challenge to Al Thani rule has emerged.

In February 1972, the Deputy Ruler and Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad, and assumed power. The key members of Al Thani supported this move, which took place without violence or signs of political unrest.

On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Emir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. Emir Hamad and his father reconciled in 1996. Increased freedom of the press followed, and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television channel (founded in late 1996) has acquired a unique reputation as a free and uncensored source of news in Arab countries.

Governorates

Template:Seemain Qatar is divided into 9 governorates or provinces (Arabic: muhafazat, singular - muhafadhah):

Economy

Main article: Economy of Qatar

Before the discovery of oil the economy of the Qatari region focussed on fishing and pearling. After the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearl onto the world market in the 1920s and 1930s, Qatar's pearling industry faltered. But the discovery of oil reserves, beginning in the 1940s, completely transformed the nation's economy. Now, the country has a high standard of living, with many social services offered to its citizens and all the amenities of any modern nation.

Qatar's national income primarily derives from oil and natural gas exports. The country has oil reserves estimated at 15 billion barrels (2.4 km³). Qataris' wealth and standard of living compare well with those of Western European nations. Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the developing world ($39,607 as of 2005).

While oil and gas will probably remain the backbone of Qatar's economy for some time to come, the country seeks to stimulate the private sector and develop a "knowledge economy". In 2004 it established the Qatar Science & Technology Park to attract and serve technology-based companies and entrepreneurs, from overseas and within Qatar.

Geography

File:Qa-map.PNG
Map of Qatar

Main article: Geography of Qatar

The Qatari peninsula juts 160 km (100 miles) into the Persian Gulf from Saudi Arabia. Much of the country consists of a low, barren plain, covered with sand. To the southeast lies the spectacular Khor al Adaid or 'Inland Sea', an area of rolling sand dunes surrounding an inlet of the Gulf.

The highest point in Qatar occurs in the Jebel Dukhan to the west, a range of low limestone outcrops running north-south from Zikrit through Umm Bab to the southern border, and reaching about 90m ASL. This area also contains Qatar's main onshore oil deposits, while the natural gas fields lie offshore, to the northwest of the peninsula.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Qatar

Nearly all Qataris profess Islam. Besides ethnic Arabs, much of the population migrated from various nations to work in the country's oil industry. Arabic serves as the official language, but many residents understand English.

Expats form the majority of Qatar's residents. The petrochemical industry has attracted people from all around the world. Most of the expats come from South Asia and from surrounding non-oil-rich Arab nations.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Qatar

Qatar explicitly uses Wahhabi law as the basis of its government, and the vast majority of its citizens follow this specific Islamic doctrine. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab founded Wahhabism, a puritanical version of Islam which takes a literal interpretation of the Koran (also known as the Qu'ran) and the Sunnah. In the 18th century Abd Al-Wahhab formed a compact with the al-Saud family, the founders of Saudi Arabia, and purged the "idolatrous" practices of Sufism and Shiism from their domains.

In the early 20th century, when the Al-Thanis realized that converting to the doctrine of their larger neighbor might bode well for the survival of their régime, they imported Wahhabi Islam from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. Perhaps as an effect of the importation, Wahhabism takes a less strict form in Qatar than in Saudi Arabia, though it still governs a large portion of Qatari mores and rituals. For example, almost all Qatari women wear the black abaya (also donned in Saudi Arabia) - however, Qataris do not universally impose the style on foreigners.

See also:

Qatari law

In comparison to Arab states such Saudi Arabia (the location of Mecca) or Kuwait, Qatar has quite liberal laws. Women can drive in Qatar, whereas they cannot do so in Saudi Arabia. The country has undergone a period of liberalization and modernization after the current Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, came to power after overthrowing his father. For example, women can dress pretty much as they please in public (although in practice local Qatari women generally don the black abaya). The laws of Qatar tolerate alcohol to a certain extent. However, public bars in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels (whereas the emirates of Dubai and Bahrain allow the establishment of nightclubs and other venues). A further liberalization may take place in order to accommodate the 12th Asian Games in 2006.

Education

Main article: Education in Qatar

In recent years Qatar has placed great emphasis on education. Along with the country’s free healthcare to every citizen, every child has free education from kindergarten through college. The country has a university, the University of Qatar, and a number of higher educational institutions. Additionally, with the support of the Qatar Foundation, major American universities have opened branch campuses in Education City, Qatar. These include Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Weill Cornell Medical College. In 2004 Qatar established the Qatar Science & Technology Park at Education City to link those universities with industry.

In November of 2002 the Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani created, by decree number 37, the Supreme Education Council, which includes among its council members the Emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missnad. The Council directs and controls education for all ages from the pre-school level through the university level, including the "Education for a New Era" reform initiative.

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