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"Qatar". Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001. © 2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.



Qatar, independent state occupying the Qatar Peninsula, jutting into the Persian Gulf from the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. On its southern side it is bordered by Saudi Arabia. Qatar has an area of 11,427 sq km (4,412 sq mi).


The land is stony and largely barren. An extremely hot, arid climate prevails. Humidity is high during the summer (May to October), but the average annual rainfall is less than 127 mm (5 in). Petroleum and natural gas are the natural resources.

Qatar relies heavily on imports of food because it has virtually no agricultural land. Water is scarce, and underground aquifers are useless because of a high mineral content.

The population of Qatar (2002 estimate) is 793,341. This figure includes a large number of migrant laborers from neighboring states. The official language is Arabic, although English is widely used in government and commerce. Most native Qataris belong to the Islamic Wahhabi sect, an orthodox branch of Sunni Muslims. The capital and leading port is Doha, with a population (1986) of 217,294.


In 2000 Qatar's gross domestic product, which measures the value of all goods and services produced, was $14.5 billion, or $24,740 per capita. Petroleum is the dominant source of income and, along with natural gas, accounted for 75 percent of exports in 1994. Oil production in 1999 totaled 284 million barrels; the output of natural gas was 24 billion cu m (850 billion cu ft). Manufactures include cement, fertilizer, and petroleum products. Although some fruits and vegetables are grown, herding is the principal agricultural occupation. In 2001 the country had 179,000 goats, 215,000 sheep, 50,000 camels, and 14,200 cattle. The fish catch totaled 5,034 metric tons in 1997. The unit of currency is the Qatar riyal (3.64 riyal equal U.S.$1; 2000 average). Revenue from oil concessions is being used for a development program; a road network, hospitals, and desalination plants have been built, and the country has a welfare plan that includes free medical care and education.

Qatar is a monarchy. Under the terms of a 1970 provisional constitution, executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The council is appointed by the head of state, the emir, who is also the prime minister. Qatar has no legislative body, although the constitution guarantees to all citizens the basic democratic rights. In 2001 Qatar's well-equipped armed forces included an 8,500-member army, a navy of 1,730, and an air force of 2,100.


Qatar has been settled since the Stone Age, the first known inhabitants being Canaanite tribes. The country was later subject to various rulers, including Sargon of Akkad, who reigned about 2335 to 2279 BC, and it was most likely connected with the federation of Dilmun in the 1st millennium BC. Islam swept the peninsula in the 7th century AD, and Qatar then became a part, successively, of the Arab caliphate and the Ottoman Empire. Iranians long held sway in the country, but in the late 18th century Wahhabis from what is now Saudi Arabia took control. They were replaced in the early 19th century by the Thani dynasty, although its rule after the middle of the century was at the sufferance of the Ottoman government. In 1916 Qatar became a British protectorate but continued to be ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Thanis.

Qatar was proclaimed independent when the British left the gulf area in 1971, and it then joined the United Nations. In 1972 the reigning emir, Ahmad bin Ali al-Thani, was deposed by his cousin Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, who attempted to modernize the country by introducing new industries such as steel and fertilizers. In foreign affairs Qatar has tended to lean close to Saudi Arabia, and it contributed substantially to the Arab struggle against Israel. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Qatar's troops and air force were part of the 28-nation allied forces and were especially noted for their contributions in the air and on the ground, particularly during the retaking of Khafji.

In June 1995 Emir Khalifa was ousted by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in a bloodless palace coup. Hamad was recognized as Qatar's leader by other countries on the Persian Gulf and several additional governments soon after taking power.

"Qatar". Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2002 (2 Aug. 2002)

© 2002 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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