Discovering Qatar


Qatar, one of the smallest nations in the world, punches well above its weight on the world scene. With the eyes of the world on the nation for the 2022 world cup, the country has rapidly transformed itself from a mostly rural community reliant on pearl fishing, to a thriving economic and cultural powerhouse fuelled by gas and oil profits. Qatar is considered by many measures to be the richest nation in the world.

The State of Qatar, better known as Qatar, is found in the Middle East on the Persian Gulf peninsula. Stretching over some 11.586 km2, it stretches 160 km from north to south is 80 km wide. Qatar is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the South and Bahrain to the West and North-West. It is the 39th smallest nation in the world. Its capital city is Ad Dawha or Doha which is occupied by nearly 80% of the population.

Demography

In 2014, Qatar's population amounted to some 2.1 million inhabitants. The local Qatari population is relatively small. In fact, approximately 80% of residents in Qatar would be considered expatriates. Over half the residents in Qatar come from the Indian subcontinent alone (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal), but there is also a large community from the Philippines as well as other North African Arab nations (Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan) who make up a significant majority of the population. However, Qatar is a very diverse country, with residents from over 87 countries represented.

Qatar's official language is Arabic. However, English is the lingua franca here and is the bridge between all the different communities hosted in Qatar. Moreover, other languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Nepalese are spoken by the various expatriate communities in the country.

Economy

Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world per capita with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 150 billion US dollars in 2016. Contrary to popular belief, Qatar’s vast wealth does not come solely from oil but predominantly from the export of liquid natural gas. Qatar has the 3rd largest gas fields in the world. The country aims at becoming the leading global gas exporter in the coming years.

The government has and is creating opportunities to diversify the economy. Investment in financial services, higher education, and tourism are some of the key beneficiaries of Qatar’s vision for 2030.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund also makes a number of investments around the world to benefit future generations of Qataris.

Due to the current embargo by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the government has looked at a number of ways to reduce reliance on imported goods. This has led to a significant rise in the production of goods manufactured in Qatar.

Politics

Qatar is an emirate, that is, an absolute monarchy. Power is in the hands of the Al Thani royal family, who have been ruling since the declaration of independence in 1971. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is the current Emir of Qatar. The latter is also the head of the State and governs the country with the support of his family. Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani is the country's Prime Minister. An excellent guide to the power dynamics within the country and of other prominent tribes can be found here.

 Important:

Freedom of expression in the written press is restrictive compared to what you may be familiar with in more democratic countries. As a conservative Muslim country, political beliefs are also intertwined with religious beliefs.

Climate

Qatar faces an arid climate with two seasons: the hot season and cool season. The hot season lasts from May to October, with temperatures ranging from 35°C and 40°C, even up to 50°C in July. Due to very high humidity, that is up to 90%, rainfall is quite scarce. You can only expect some 70 to 80mm per year. However, sandstorms are frequent and can occur at any time of the year.

During the cool season, which lasts from December to April temperatures vary between 22°C and 30°C. Nights are very pleasant and cool.