Qatar

 

History of Qatar

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The families that rule the northern Arabian Gulf states are, almost without exception, descended from migrants from the central region of the Arabian peninsula in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Al-Khalifas, who today govern Bahrain, also established a settlement on the small peninsula directly opposite the island – modern-day Qatar. The Al-Khalifas were unable to hold on to their mainland possession, however, and were displaced by the Al-Thani clan. The Al-Thanis were part of the original wave of migration, but little else is known about their origins.

As the country rich in history and heritage, Qatar was a former pearl fishing centre. Archaeological discoveries, inscriptions and artifacts in this country prove that the land now known as Qatar was populated from around 4000 BC. During the pre-Islamic era, it was mostly dominated by foreign powers, such as the Persian dynasties, then during the Islamic era Qatar was one of the first areas to convert to Islam.

Qatar remained quite independent during medieval times although races and ideas were introduced into the peninsula from Africa, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Malay archipelago, as a result of Qatar’s participation in ocean commerce.

The British initially became interested in Qatar due to its location, which was a useful and significant vantage point en route to their colonial interests in India. However the British Empire’s dominance over Qatar diminished after the 2nd world war, especially following Indian independence in 1947, and on 3rd September 1971 Qatar became an independent sovereign state. The Emir, His Highness, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, acceded to power on the 27th June 1995 after seizing control of the country in a bloodless coup whilst his father was on holiday in Switzerland. The Emir and his father are now reconciled.

HH the Emir announced the appointment of his son on 5th August 2003, His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani as the Heir Apparent. The ruling Al Thani family was among a tribal group who settled for a long time at the Gibrin oasis in the southern Najd, before their arrival in Qatar during the early 18th century. The name Al Thani is derived from that of the family's ancestor Sheik Thani Bin Mohamed Bin Thani, who was the first Sheikh to rule over modern Qatar during the mid- 19th century. The family is a branch of the ancient Arab tribe, the Bani Tameem, whose descent, can be traced back to Mudar Bin Nizar.

Since his rise to power the Emir has introduced many liberal reforms such as press freedom, extended with the launch of the television news channel Al Jazeera, elections in 1999 (where Qatari women voted for the first time) and the drafting of a new constitution.

Qatar Major Cities and Towns

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Doha
The Capital of Qatar. Doha is Qatar’s largest city and is the economic hub as well as the commercial, cultural and educational centre of the country. It is well placed in the middle of the East Coast Peninsula with 15 major districts. Qatar has a modern seaport, airport and is home to the largest Middle East news network satellite station, Al Jazeera.

Al Wakra
It is a pleasant little town nestled between Doha and Umm Said. Once a tiny fishing village but now Al Wakra has expanded and developed into a small town. Historic architecture is plentiful here, captured in mosques and old homes. The Museum, harbour and beaches are good examples of the small town’s success.

Umm Said Umm Said is mainly an industrial area with various industrial establishments. Umm Siad is located 37 km South of Doha.

Al Khor North of Doha, on the east coast, lays the small seaside town of Al Khor. Traditionally Al Khor was known as a small fishing village. However, it boasts distinguished beaches, a museum, mosques and an historic tower. Many of the expatriates who work in Ras Laffan live here.

Madinat Al-Shamal Madinat Al Shamal is unique because it is surrounded by the Persian Gulf on 3 sides. Although the town is considered to be relatively new, the historic rulers of this area were the Al Thani family. A number of the coastal villages are still administered from here. An hour and a half’s drive from Doha will get you there.

Al Ruwais Famously known for its breathtaking views and traditional Bedouin lifestyle experience, AL Ruwais is located on the northern tip of the peninsula. The 110 km drive from Doha provides an insight into the history and cultural heritage of the region.

Al Zubara Al Zubra is positioned approximately 113 km North West of Doha. Near Zubrah, on the west coast, are the ruins of an early Islamic settlement called Murwah. There is an important fort which was used by the military until the 1980’s and which also served as a coastguard station.

Dukhan West of Doha, after an 89 km drive, you’ll find Dukhan. Several thousand QP (Qatar Petroleum) employees live here. The Importance of this city is based on the discovery of oil in its surrounding areas.

Society, Culture and Lifestyle

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Culture
In general, the Qatari Inhabitants are of Arabic origin and the culture is very much based on Islamic tradition. Islam is the dominant influence on day-to-day life. This rich cultural tradition is present in what they wear, eat and drink. Qataris are known for their generosity and friendliness, thus making Qatar a very welcoming country.

Qatar Lifestyle

In Qatar the lifestyle revolves around two things: money and the weather; and it won't be long before expats realise that both have an impact on nearly everything in this Gulf state.

It is no secret that this country’s existence, in its modern form, is built on its vast gas and oil reserves. The skyline of Doha, Qatar’s capital city, is growing at a breakneck pace. Signs of its new wealth are evident everywhere one goes; from supercars on the roads to VIP shopping experiences in the many malls.

The growth in the population of expat workers is a necessary part of Qatar's development and there is an ever-increasing amount of activities to keep those relocating here occupied. Expats should note that the summer months are a challenge. July and August are characterised by scorching temperatures and high humidity. Outside activities are just not an option, and during this time Doha practically empties of its inhabitants.

Winter is an altogether more refreshing prospect. Dune bashing, camel racing and fishing excursions aboard traditional Dhow boats are only a few invigorating options available. From October onwards many of the hotels will have weekly beach parties with international DJs and other live acts. For those wanting a more laid-back time, it's possible to pack a tent and head out to the desert for a night sleeping under the stars. There is something quite magical about watching the sunrise over the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.

All things considered though, despite its meteoric rise, Qatar remains a conservative country. It is an Islamic state and those who reside here must abide by local laws and respect the Muslim mandate.

Access to alcohol is restricted, dress-code in public areas must be ‘respectful’ and any public sign of affection is not allowed.

The People

There are approximately 2 million people living in Qatar. More than half of the population lives in the capital city of Doha. Three-quarters of the Qatari population are Muslim, while the remaining population practices a variety of other religions. The official language is Arabic, though English is commonly spoken. The thriving economy has attracted a large number of expatriates, particularly from neighboring Arabic states.

Government
Executive power is held exclusively by the Emir, a member of the Al-Thani family, which has ruled Qatar since independence. The Emir serves as both head of state and head of government. There is no independent legislature or political parties. Some decision-making is devolved to a Council of Ministers appointed by the Emir. A 30-strong advisory council with limited powers was created in 1972. The Emir's democrtisation plan envisages a 45 member parliament, of whom 30 will be popularly elected and 15 appointed by him.

Economy
Since the mid-1800s, Qatar has grown from a poor British protectorate known for pearling into one of the world's most important oil and gas producing countries. While there is increasing investment in non-energy sectors, oil and gas still account for more than half of the Gross Domestic Product. Due to oil and gas, the country now has one of the highest incomes per capita in the world.

Currency
The monetary unit of Qatar is the Qatari Riyal (QR), which is divided into 100 Dirhams.
Bank notes in circulation are QR 1, QR 5, QR 10, QR 50, QR 500, coins available are Dh5, Dh 10, Dh 25, and Dh 50.
The exchange rate is linked to the US Dollar at the fixed rate of US$1 = QR3.65

Religion
Islam is the official religion of the country and Shari’a (Islamic) Law is the principal source of legislation and this is applied to family law, inheritance and some criminal acts. The Qatari’s are very dedicated to upholding tradition and deeply religious and you will hear the call to prayers from every mosque five times a day. During this time many Muslims will stop whatever they are doing to go to the mosque or kneel to prayer wherever they are.

Language
The official language of the State of Qatar is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood. All official documents (such as visas, resident permit applications and contracts) must be completed in Arabic.

Transport and driving
Traffic in Qatar drives on the right. Qatar has comparatively liberal laws, for instance women can’t legally drive in Saudi Arabia but they can drive in Qatar. Expats should be cautious and employ defensive driving tactics since the country is known for having accident rates. Taxis are widely available in certain areas although buses are scarce and the rail network, which resumed construction in 2013, is only due for completion in 2030.

The Airport
Qatar's main airport is the Doha International Airport..

Alcohol

Alcohol is permitted in Qatar but is only available at the Qatar Distribution Center (QDC) or in licensed hotels or clubs. Expats that are not Muslim can obtain an alcohol permit that allows them to purchase alcohol at the QDC. Alcohol can only be purchased for personal consumption and you will only be permitted to spend an allotted percentage of your annual salary on alcohol. Although Qatar is seen as liberal in some aspects it is much less liberalised than the UAE or Bahrain.

Tipping
A 10 percent service charge is often added to hotel and restaurant bills, and remains the expected amount when service hasn't been charged for. Taxi drivers also expect a small gratuity, and rounding up the due amount is often enough.

Qatar Weather and Climate

Qatar Current Weather

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Climate
Summer (June to September) is very hot with low rainfall. Winter is cooler with occasional rainfall. Spring and autumn are warm and pleasant.

Required clothing
Lightweight cottons and linens are worn during summer months, with warm clothes for cooler evenings and during the winter. Rainwear is advisable during winter.

Public Holidays

QATAR Public Holidays Year 2014
Holiday Date

Eid Al Fitr 28 - 30 July
Eid Al Adha 04 - 06 October
Qatar Independence Day 18 December
Qatar National Day 18 December


Muslim festivals are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and the dates given above are approximations. During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day and there are restrictions on smoking and drinking. Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha may last anything from two to 10 days, depending on the region.

Travel Advisory

Qatar is one of the choice destinations to visit and live and one of the safest places in the world.

If you travel to Qatar, stay or live in this country respect the Islamic beliefs of Qataris and Bedouins: While there is no legal requirement to wear the hijab, women shouldn't wear tube tops and skimpy outfits, although there is no strict rule and women are free to dress as they feel. It is absolutely acceptable for any nationality to wear the traditional Qatari clothes, the thobe.

If you're dining with a Qatari, don't expose the bottoms of your feet to him/her. Don't eat with your left hand either, since the left hand is seen as the 'dirty hand'. Similarly, don't attempt to shake hands or hand a package with your left hand.

If your Qatari friend insists on buying you something—a meal or a gift—let him! Qataris are extremely hospitable, and typically there are no strings attached. It is generally a custom to argue for the bill.

Emergency numbers

The general emergency number for police ambulances and fire services in Qatar is 999. Operators will often speak English.

Avoid eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan or you may be fined or even go to jail.

As a visitor to Qatar you should exercise a high degree of caution. Take care of your valuables and other personal possessions. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.

Qatar is a Muslim country, you have not to forget it.