Qatar’s culture is similar to that of other eastern Arab countries and is strongly influenced by Islam. Qatar’s National Day, celebrated annually on 18 December, has played an important role in developing a sense of national identity. It is celebrated in commemoration of the succession to the throne of Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani and the subsequent unification of the country’s various tribes. Since 1 July 2008, Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari has been the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage in Qatar.
Art and museums in Qatar
Several prominent members of the Al Thani family, which rules Qatar, are major collectors of Islamic and contemporary art.
Opened in 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art is considered one of the best museums in the region. This museum, along with several other Qatari museums such as the Arab Museum of Modern Art, is under the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), which is headed by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, sister of the ruling Emir of the State of Qatar, and the eminent collector and patron Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed Al Thani. The QMA also sponsors art events abroad, such as the major exhibitions of Takahashi Murakami in Versailles (2010) and Damien Hirst in London (2012).
Qatar is the world’s largest buyer in the art market by value. The Qatari cultural sector is developing to enable the country to gain global recognition, to contribute to the development of a country that derives its resources mainly from the gas industry.
Media in Qatar
Qatar’s media was classified as “not free” in Freedom House’s 2014 press freedom report. Television broadcasting in Qatar began in 1970. Al Jazeera is a major television station headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Al Jazeera was originally launched in 1996 as an eponymous Arabic satellite news and current affairs television channel, but has since evolved into a global network of several specialised television stations collectively known as the Al Jazeera Media Network.
It has been reported that journalists practice self-censorship, especially against the government and the ruling family of Qatar. It is illegal to criticise the government, the Emir and the ruling family in the media. According to Article 46 of the Press Law, “the Emir of the State of Qatar may not be criticised and no statement may be attributed to him without the written permission of the director of his office”. Journalists are also liable to prosecution for insulting Islam.
In 2014, a law on the prevention of cybercrime was passed. This law would restrict press freedom and provides for imprisonment and fines for common reasons such as endangering local peace or publishing false news. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights described the law as a threat to freedom of expression and called for the repeal of some articles of the law.
The news media has expanded in recent years. There are currently seven newspapers circulating in Qatar, four of which are in Arabic and three in English. There are also newspapers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka whose editions are printed from Qatar.
In terms of telecommunications infrastructure, Qatar ranks first in the Middle East in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator used to determine a country’s level of development in information and communications technology. Qatar ranks 23rd in the NRI 2014, unchanged from 2013.
Music in Qatar
The music of Qatar is based on Bedouin poetry, song and dance. Traditional dances are performed in Doha on Friday afternoons; one of these dances is the ardah, a stylised martial dance performed by two rows of dancers accompanied by a range of percussion instruments, including al-ras (a large drum whose leather is heated by an open fire), tambourines and cymbals with small drums. Other percussion instruments used in folk music include galahs (a large clay vessel) and drinking cups made of tin called tus or tasat, which are usually used in conjunction with a tabl, an elongated drum beaten with a stick. Stringed instruments such as the oud and the rebaba are also commonly used.
Sport in Qatar
Club football is the most popular sport in Qatar, both in terms of the number of players and spectators. Qatar’s U-20 national team finished runners-up at the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship after losing 4-0 to West Germany in the final. In January 2011, Qatar hosted the 15th Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup. It was the second time Qatar hosted the tournament, the other being the 1988 edition.
On 2 December 2010, Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup? despite never having qualified for the World Cup finals. The local organisers plan to build 9 new stadiums and expand 3 existing stadiums for the event. Qatar’s winning bid for the 2022 World Cup was greeted with enthusiasm in the Persian Gulf region, as it was the first time a Middle Eastern country had been chosen to host the event. However, the bid was the subject of much controversy, including allegations of corruption and interference in the investigation of corruption allegations. European football federations also opposed the 2022 World Cup in Qatar for a number of reasons ranging from the impact of hot temperatures on the physical condition of players to the disruption to the calendar of European national leagues if the event was moved to winter. In May 2014, Qatari football official Mohammed bin Hammam was accused of making payments totalling £3 million to officials to support the Qatari bid. However, a FIFA investigation into the bidding process in November 2014 cleared Qatar of any wrongdoing.
The Guardian, a national British daily newspaper, produced a short documentary entitled “Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in emirate’s preparations for 2022”. A 2014 Guardian investigation reported that migrant workers who built luxurious offices for the 2022 World Cup organisers had not been paid for more than a year and that they were “now working illegally in cockroach-infested accommodation”. In 2014, a Nepalese migrant involved in the construction of infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup died every two days. The Qatar 2022 organising committee responded to the various allegations by saying that hosting the World Cup in Qatar would act as a “catalyst for change” in the region.
Although football is the most popular sport, other team sports have also achieved notable success at senior level. In 2015, the national handball team finished runner-up in the Men’s Handball World Cup behind France, who hosted the tournament, but the tournament was marked by many controversies about the host country and its team. In addition, Qatar won the men’s 3×3 Basketball World Cup in 2014.
The Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex in Doha hosted the WTA Tour Women’s Tennis Championships between 2008 and 2010. Every year, Doha hosts the WTA Premier Women’s Open tournament in Qatar. Since 2002, Qatar has hosted the annual Tour of Qatar, a six-stage cycling race. Every year in February, riders compete for six days on the roads of Qatar. Each stage covers a distance of more than 100 km, with the time trial usually being shorter. The Tour of Qatar is organised by the Qatar Cycling Federation for professional riders in the elite men’s category.
The Qatari army parachuting team has several different parachuting disciplines that are among the best in the world. The Qatar National Parachuting Team performs every year on Qatar National Day and at other major events, such as the 2015 Handball World Cup.