Qatar is a country located in a peninsula at the Persian Gulf, in the Middle East, with borders with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The country has an extremely arid territory, with virtually no natural vegetation, and the highest regions are only 40 meters high. Agricultural activities are rather damaged due to the soil’s low fertility, so most of the food consumed in the country is imported.
Immigrants, one of the highest rates in the world, form approximately 75% of the population. Until the end of the 1940s the country was very poor and its economic activities were limited to camel breeding and fishery. With the discovery and the subsequent exploitation of vast oil fields, the country obtained huge economic advance. At present, there are investments on heavy industry and on natural gas extraction, as an alternative to the oil production, since the fields are expected to deplete still in this century. As a preventive economic measure, the Qatari government has heavily invested its petrodollars on the international financial market, aiming to secure its future for when the oil reserves are down.
National Flag: the white color represents peace, the burgundy is a reference to the blood spilled during the many wars involving the country, and the nine points saw tooth line indicates that Qatar is the ninth member of the reconciled Emirates.
Data on Qatar:
Territorial extension: 11.000 km²
Location: Middle East
Most populous city: Doha
Climate: tropical arid
Emir: Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
First Minister: Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani
Independency: From the United Kingdom
Date: September 3rd 1971
Administrative Division: 7 municipalities
Religion: Islamism 82,7%, Christianity 10,4%, others 4,6%, no religion 2,3%
Population: 1.409.423 inhabitants. (men: 1.062.942; women: 346.481)
Ethnical composition: Qatari Arabs 25%, other Arabs 15%, Pakistani 18%, Indians 18%, Iranians 10%, other 14%
Demographical density: 72 inhabitants/km²
Population growth annual average rate: 5,11%
Population residing in urban areas: 95,76%
Population residing in rural areas: 4,24%
Life expectancy at birth: 75,3 years
Homes with access to drinking water: 100%
Homes with access to sanitation: 100%
Human Development Index (HDI): 0,803 (very high)
Currency: Qatari Riyal
Gross Internal Product (GIP): US$ 63.870 million
GIP per capita: US$ 75.978
Extension: 11 437 km² (159.º)
Border: Saudi Arabia
The Qatari government is an absolute monarchy. In an innovative attitude in the Arab world, the Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, 62 years of age, renounced the throne in June 2013, in favor of his son, Prince Heir Tamim, to give room to the new generation. Today, Qatar’s Emir is Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The new Emir is very beloved by his people and there are pictures of him and his father in many places. At the time, Sheik Hamad declared on a TV announcement: “I am convinced that Tamim will place the country’s interests and the prosperity of its people above everything else “.
Sheik Hamad’s abdication is a singular fact in Qatar and in the recent history of the Arab world, where until now no sovereign had ever renounced power voluntarily. He had taken over the throne in 1995, after a revolution in the palace. The new Emir is 34 years old and he is the youngest sovereign of the Persian Gulf monarchies.
A bit of the history and importance of Sheik Hamad:
He threw down his father, Sheik Khalifa, in June 27th 1995, during a revolution inside the palace and inherited a small Emirate, almost unknown, with nearly empty vaults. In 18 years, Qatar has become the richest country in the world, with a GDP per capita of 86.440 dollars in 2011, according to the World Bank, and has become an important protagonist in the Arab world. Qatar is being ruled by a single-family absolute monarchy for more than 130 years. Arab and Western diplomats say they understand that the reason for the resignation being the Emir’s desire to make a peaceful transition for a younger generation. Such transition is unusual for the Persian Gulf States, where leaders generally die in their posts. Sheik Tamim bin Khalifa Al Thani is the Emir’s second son with his second wife, Mozah. Educated in Great Britain’s most exclusive military academies, the Prince Heir is a sports fanatic and he has two wives and six children. Tamin is the Sub captain of the Army Force and President of the Local International Olympic Committee, the body responsible for the organization of the 2022 World Cup.
How did the power transference to his son go?
On the last three years, the Emir had started the transition process, trusting responsibilities in the military area to his son. Hamad has used Qatar’s vast gas reserves to propel the country’s modernization. Despite the transference, the Emir still maintains an influential role in the government. Qatar State is geographically small, with two million people, but it is the major exporter of liquefied natural gas, a global investment potency and a growing force in the international media. The small State of the Persian Gulf has the third biggest natural gas reserve in the world and produces 77 million tons of gas per year.
Qatar Foundation’s trademark is featured on the shirt of one of the biggest clubs in the world, Barcelona.
The non-profit organization was founded by the country’s monarch at the time, Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 1995 and it is presided by Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, his second wife. The foundation’s mission is to improve the educational system and expand research in Qatar. The institution’s campus occupies 15 million square meters and shelters a school covering primary and high school education, a bilingual school, another internal school in partnership with the Army Forces, a support center for students with learning difficulties, a preparation for university course and a faculty of Islamic Studies. In the fall of 2003, the Qatar Foundation has launched the City of E ducation, a prototypical campus of the future, bringing renowned international universities’ branches to Qatar, to provide high-level graduation programs, research sharing and the establishment of enterprises in the community.
A bit more about Sheikha Mozah, the second of three wives of Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and mother of Qatar’s present Emir. Amid the renewed hope and progress of Qatar’s recovering economy, Sheikha Mozza is an elegant woman and a visionary, pressing ahead with ambitious initiatives directed at women, children and education. Extremely concerned with the directions of world education, children’s and women’s rights, she actively works in the struggle against domestic violence, to improve children’s labor and to give the disabled more access to jobs. To stop the spread of extremism among youth, this mother of seven is leading programs in and around Qatar to improve education and increase employment opportunities for young people. A new hi-tech women and children’s reference hospital, the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, is the beneficiary of her $7.9 billion endowment. Sheikha Moza is also active on the international stage, spearheading projects to promote peace and human development throughout the world. The idea is to transform Qatar in a world reference center for education.
One of the most sophisticated addresses in Doha. In addition to shopping for the most famous designers in the world, the space also offers cafés and international restaurants. At the Pearl you will find: Alexander McQueen, Roberto Cavalli, Diptyque, Alfardan Jóias, Chloe, Bottega Veneta, Charriol, Stella McCartney. You can find food from India, Mexico, Italy, France, etc. A good tip is to go through the pedestrian walk, with a wonderful view to the Marina.
The Corniche is one of Doha’s most attractive neighbourhoods. It consists of seven Kilometers [4,4 miles] of pedestrian walkway with palm trees on both sides, extending around Doha’s Bay and the city’s seaside. The place is surrounded by luxury hotels, clubs and apartments, important government buildings, well cared for parks, with family facilities and public buildings, such as museums and one Library. People like to stroll and run along the Corniche, especially during mild evenings and with the city’s and the Persian Gulf’s shiny landscape.
The Souq Waqif is a stroll to be made on foot. Whoever visits the place feels themselves travelling to the past. You really live the culture when you are at the Market. Go without any hurry, observe and enjoy the architecture, the food and the antiques, some are real works of art. Always remember to bargain. The first price is never what it’s worth. The sellers get a bit upset even, if you don’t bargain. The Souq Waqif has become a great tourist attraction for the city of Doha.
The cultural village is a place where people gather to try the cultures of the world. With beautiful theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and high-end facilities. The aim is that in the future Katara can be a reference for multi-cultural activities. What most called my attention was a space just like the Coliseum. It is really sumptuous. Golf cars are available all over the place and you can have a general view of the space.
Located inside Rumeila Park, at the Corniche, the place resembles a Qatari traditional village, and shows the culture and craftwork from the pre-oil period. Sometimes there are exhibitions and folk song performances.
Museum of Islamic Art
Museum of Islamic Art
The modern architecture building, designed by American Leoh Ming Pei (the author of the Louvre’s pyramid) and installed over an artificial island in the Bay of Doha, stands out in the landscape. The new Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) reflects from the outside all the potency of the Persian Gulf’s petrodollars, and inside, it offers an imposing collection of the culture of Muslim civilization between the 17th and 19th Centuries. Qatar’s capital wants to become, like its neighbors Dubai or Abu Dhabi, a culture reference in the Arab world. Manuscripts, calligraphies, pottery objects, metal, glass, ivory, fabrics, wood and precious stones are part of the institution’s collection, which presents itself as the main Islamic museum in the world, with 800 objects picturing the art and the history of this civilization. The idea is to show that the Islam “is a peaceful civilization, which has always appealed to “tolerance and the cohabitation of the people”, according to what Al-Mayassa, the Emir of Qatar’s daughter, during the museum launching for the international press. The five-floor museum, with an extension of 35 thousand square meters, also counts with a library and one pavilion where courses and conferences about art, history and Islamic civilization are held. Its architecture was inspired in the Ahmad Ibn Tulun Mosque, built in Cairo in the 9th Century.
A property of 240 hectares with a stadium, medical facilities, educational services, gym, Mosque, sports club, retail area and parks. Located approximately 8 km away from the Central Business District, in Doha, the complex was projected for the Asian Games in 2006. ASPIRE is also an academy for sports Excellency, where the aim is to discover and develop sports talents, transforming athletes into worldly renowned champions.
Khalifa Tennis Complex and Squash
Tennis is a very popular sport in the country. When I was in Qatar in February, I watched the Qatar Open tennis competition, with the biggest names of the sport.
Al Ghariya Beach
Historically the location of a desert camp for the country’s scouting movement, this beach is now a common weekend getaway for campers. There is a beach resort as well as a popular sandy beach to the north.
Khor Al Adaid
An inland sea to the south of Qatar, Khor Al Adaid shares a side with Saudi Arabia and has a shore in both countries. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary and only experienced drivers should attempt the journey. Local tour operators also organize day trips and overnight camps to the area
The road to the Ras Abrouq beach (70km from Doha) passes by a wild deer reserve and through what looks like a deserted village but was actually built as a film set. The drive to Ras Abrouq affords views of a sweeping half-moon bay, flanked by rocky outcrops.
Also known as 42km beach or the French beach Maroona is a small beach 80km north of Doha. It’s a good place to enjoy the water but the sand is too fine and not quite suitable for pitching tents.
This beach affords an unusual sight of eroded hills meeting the water’s edge. The area has a fine sandy bay with coves that make good picnic spots.
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FEELING AT HOME
-Due to the country’s expansive coastline, camping on beaches or at the desert are popular options for the adventurous. Some of the best beaches here include Fuwairit Beach, Dukhan Beach, Simaisma Beach as well as the most popular of them, Sealine Beach in Mesaieed where dune bashing is a popular sport. Dune bashing basically involves people riding up and down the large sand dunes in a SUV vehicle. Dune buggies are available for rent at Sealine Beach Resort in Mesaieed. If you are lucky, you might even catch female hawksbill turtles laying eggs on the shore of Fuwairit Beach during the spring.
-The summer in Doha is usually quite harsh with temperatures flaring upto 50 degrees Celsius. Most people like staying indoors but evenings are slightly cooler. With sunscreen, a hat on and by keeping yourself constantly hydrated when outdoors, you should be fine. However, winters are much cooler and although the nights can get a little chilly, it is the perfect season to sit outdoors, enjoy camping and a BBQ at the beach or at the desert, or sit outdoors at the city’s many parks and enjoy a picnic or people watching.
-Karak tea is one of the most popular beverages among local and expatriate residents alike in Qatar. A number of eateries serve this delicious, milky tea, which is infused with cardamom and ginger in some places. Some popular places that serve karak and have even served variations of this are Tea Time and Chapati & Karak (in Katara Cultural Village). If you’re feeling peckish, a number of small Lebanese outlets serving shawarma (for the meat-eaters) or falafel (for the vegetarians or vegans) are easy grab-and-go options. You could simply park outside many and just wait for someone to come get your order.
There is no shortage of inexpensive Arabic restaurants in Doha and lots of small South Asian restaurants. Most fast food chains are represented here and some even offer an Arabic twist to their menu. The city’s top hotels and the Pearl-Qatar offer fine dining experiences and the popular ‘brunch’. Some of the world’s top chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy have opened signature restaurants here.
Getting out of Doha
A get-away desert safari is a must for your first weekend. Khor al-Adaid, the Inland Sea, is a good choice and a mere 90 minute drive from Doha. You can swim or watch the locals “bash” the dunes or just chill and enjoy a barbeque. You’ll need to go in a four wheel drive but there are several travel agencies offering day or overnight trips.
Shopping in Doha
A number of modern shopping malls in Doha can be found within, relatively short distances of each other. Qatar also has international chain stores and smaller shops selling goods imported from America, Europe and East Asia:
It has high street and high-end shops, cafes, a food court, an indoor amusement park and an ice rink. The Villagio shopping mall, in the Aspire Zone, offers a good mix of shops, restaurants and recreation. Based on a Venetian theme, the mall has a canal that visitors can navigate using a genuine Venetian Gondola. The mall also offers an indoor Olympic-sized skating rink and a 22,000-sqm theme park. It’s one of my favorites.
Also a good mix of dining, shopping and entertainment, Landmark shopping mall, in Al Gharaffa, is believed to have marked the beginning of mall culture in the country. It is smaller and much quieter. It looks like a traditional fort from outside and holds a children’s play area called Circus Land.
City Center Doha
At the heart of Doha’s West Bay district .One of the largest malls in the Middle East, City Center Doha boasts five levels of shopping peppered with bowling options, an ice skating rink, a gaming area, a water park and an amusement park. There’s also a large food court to complement all the activities.
To purchase jewelry or avail of personal shopping services head straight to Royal Plaza. This exclusive mall is for the deep-pocketed connoisseurs of luxury items.
For a different shopping experience, visit Souq Waqif. Modeled on a traditional market place, its warren of narrow alleyways are lined with shops selling craftworks, carpets, clothes, spices, souvenirs and Arabic perfume. Bargaining with the shopkeepers is expected! There are also popular shisha cafes, restaurants and a couple of boutique hotels in the Souq. Boasting restaurants serving traditional Qatari food and various specialties from the Middle East.
North of Saha St. 95, Area 66
West Bay, Doha, Catar (Map)
Sunday to thursday, from 8a.m to 1p.m