Officially known as the State of Qatar, it is a sovereign state in Western Asia that occupies a small Qatari peninsula on the north-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The only land border is in the south with Saudi Arabia, the rest of the territory is surrounded by the Persian Gulf. A narrow strait in the Persian Gulf divides Qatar from its neighbour Bahrain and also shares maritime borders with the UAE and Iran.
After Ottoman rule, Qatar became a British protectorate at the beginning of the 20th century until it gained independence in 1971. Since the beginning of the 19th century, Qatar has been ruled by the House of Thani. The Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani was the founding father of the modern state of Qatar. Qatar is a hereditary monarchy and its head of state is Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Mohammed Al Thani. Whether it is a constitutional or an absolute monarchy is a matter of opinion. In 2003, the constitution was adopted in a referendum with an overwhelming majority of almost 98% of votes in favour. In 2013 the total population of Qatar was 1.8 million: 278,000 Qatari citizens and 1.5 million foreigners.
Qatar is a high-income economy and an industrialised country with the third largest natural gas and oil reserves in the world. It also has the world’ s highest income per capita. Qatar has been rated as a country with very high human development by the UN and has been the most advanced Arab country in terms of human development. Being one of the biggest powers in the Arab world, during the Arab Spring Qatar provides support to a number of rebel groups both financially and through its expanding media group Al Jazeera Media Network. Qatar exerts a disproportionate influence in the world due to its size and has been identified as a middle power. Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, making it the first Arab country to do so.
The Qatar Peninsula extends 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Saudi Arabia into the Persian Gulf. It is situated within the latitudes 24° and 27° N with the longitude 50° and 52° E. The largest part of the country consists of a low, barren plain covered with sand. In the southeast is located the Khor al Adaid (“Inland Sea”), an area with rolling sandy dunes which surrounds an inlet of the Persian Gulf. It has mild winters but very warm and humid summers.
Its highest peak is Qurayn Abu al Bawl at 103 metres (338 ft) in Jebel Dukhan in the west, a range of low limestone outcroppings running north-south from Zikrit via Umm Bab to its southern border. Jebel Dukhan’s area also includes Qatar’s main onshore oil reserves, while its natural gas fields are situated off the coast in the north-west part of the peninsula.
Biodiversity and environment
Qatar signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992 and acceded to the Convention on 21 August 1996. It subsequently drew up a national biodiversity strategy and action plan, which were adopted by the Convention on 18 May 2005. A total of 142 species of mushrooms from Qatar were recorded. A recent book released by the Ministry of the Environment has documented the lizards that are known or believed to be found in Qatar, which is based on the research conducted by an internationally renowned team of scientists and other staff.
For two decades Qatar has had the highest per capita emissions in the world, at 49.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita (2008). With a consumption of around 400 litres of water per capita and day, Qatar is also one of the countries with the highest per capita consumption.
In 2008, Qatar launched its National Vision 2030, which highlights environmental development as one of Qatar’s four main goals for the next two decades. In the National Vision, Qatar commits to developing sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based energy to preserve the local and global environment.
The number of people living in Qatar varies considerably depending on the season, as the country is heavily dependent on migrant workers. In 2013, the total population of Qatar was 1.8 million, of which 278,000 were Qatari citizens (13 percent) and 1.5 million were living abroad. Non-Arab foreigners make up the vast majority of the Qatari population; Indians are the largest community with 545,000 in 2013, followed by 341,000 Nepalis, 185,000 Filipinos, 137,000 Bangladeshis, as well as 100,000 Sri Lankans and 90,000 Pakistanis and several other nationalities.
Qatar’s first demographic records date back to 1892 and were made by Ottoman governors in the region. On the basis of this census, which includes only the urban population, the total population in 1892 was 9,830.
In the 2010 census, the total population was recorded at 1,699,435 inhabitants. According to the Qatar Statistical Office, in January 2013, the country’s population was estimated at 1,903,447, of which 1,405,164 were men and 498,283 women. At the time of the first census in 1970, the population was 111,133. The population has tripled from just over 600,000 people in 2001 to 2011, so that the proportion of Qatari nationals in the total population is less than 15%. The influx of male workers has distorted the gender balance, and women now make up only a quarter of the population.
Forecasts by the Qatari Statistical Office indicate that the total population of Qatar could reach 2.8 million by 2020. The National Development Strategy of Qatar (2011-16) was estimating that the population of the country will reach 1.78 million by 2013, 1.81 million by 2014, 1.84 million by 2015 and 1.86 million by 2016 – the annual growth rate was only 2.1 percent. But the country’s population had risen to 1.83 million by the end of 2012, which represents a 7.5 percent growth rate compared to the previous year. Qatar’s total population reached a record level of 2.46 million in November 2015, an increase of 8.5 percent over the previous year and far exceeding official forecasts.
Sunni Islam is the predominant religion in Qatar and enjoys official status. Most Qatari citizens belong to the Salafi Muslim movement of Sunni Islam, with about 20% of the population belonging to Shiite Islam. According to the 2004 census, 71.5% of the population are Sunni Muslims and about 20% Shiite Muslims, 8.5% are Christians and 10% belong to other religions. According to the Qatari Constitution, the Sharia is the main source of Qatari legislation.
In 2010, the Pew Forum estimated the religious affiliation in the country at 67.7% Muslims, 13.8% Christians, 13.8% Hindus and 3.1% Buddhists. Other religions and people not bound by religion made up the remaining 1.6%.
The Christian population consists almost exclusively of foreigners; a study from 2015 estimates that only 200 Muslims converted to Christianity. Since 2008, Christians have been allowed to build churches on land donated by the government, although foreign missionaries are officially advised against doing so. Among the active churches are the Church of Mar Thoma, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church of the Epiphany.
There are also two Mormon stations.
Although they are home to significant Hindu and Buddhist communities, neither religious group has an official church.
Before oil was discovered, Qatar’s economy was largely based on fishing and pearl hunting. A report drawn up in 1892 by the local governors of the Ottoman Empire states that the total income from pearl hunting in 1892 was 2 450 000 crowns. The Qatari pearl industry collapsed after the introduction of Japanese cultured pearls to the world market in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1940 oil was discovered in Qatar in the Dukhan field. The discovery changed the state’s economy. Today the country has a high standard of living for its legal citizens. Since there is no income tax, Qatar (together with Bahrain) is one of the countries with the lowest tax rates in the world. The unemployment rate was 0.1% in June 2013. Company law stipulates that Qatari nationals must hold 51% of all companies in the emirate.
From 2014 Qatar will have the highest GDP per capita in the world according to the World Atlas Factbook, and about 14% of households will be dollar millionaires. The emirate relies heavily on foreign labour to grow its economy, with 86% of the population and 94% of the workforce being migrant workers. The International Trade Union Confederation has been critical of Qatar. Qatar’s economic growth is based almost exclusively on its oil and gas industry, which started in 1940. It has been estimated that Qatar will invest more than 120 billion dollars in the energy sector over the next ten years in 2012. The country is a member state of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which it joined in 1961.
In 2012, Qatar retained its title as the world’s richest country (in terms of per capita income) for the third consecutive year, after overtaking Luxembourg for the first time in 2010. According to the study published by the Washington-based Institute of International Finance, Qatar’s GDP per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) was US$ 106,000 (387,000 QR) in 2012, helping the country maintain its title as the richest nation in the world. Luxembourg came second with almost US$80,000 and Singapore third with a per capita income of around US$61,000. The study estimated Qatar’s GDP for 2012 at $182 billion and said it had reached an all-time high due to rising gas exports and high oil prices. Its population amounted to 1.8 million people in 2012. The same study published that the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) ranked 12th among the world’s richest sovereign wealth funds, with assets of $115 billion.
The Qatar Investment Authority, established in 2005, is the country’s sovereign wealth fund specialising in foreign investment. The Qatar government has channelled investments to the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, using billions of dollars in surplus from the oil and gas industry. From 2013 onwards, stocks have been estimated at $100 billion. Qatar Holding represents an international investment branch of QIA. Since 2009 Qatar Holding has received 30 to 40 billion dollars annually from the government.
In 2012, Qatar has proven oil reserves of 15 billion barrels and gas fields, representing more than 13% of the world’s resources. This makes it the world’s richest state per capita. None of its 2 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and less than 1% are unemployed.
Qatar’s economy slowed down from 1982 to 1989. OPEC quotas for crude oil production, falling oil prices and generally poor prospects on international markets reduced oil revenues. On the other hand, the Qatari government’s spending plans had to be reduced to compensate for the decline in revenues. The resulting recession for local businesses has led many companies to lay off their employees working abroad. When the economy recovered in the 1990s, the number of expatriates, particularly from Egypt and South Asia, increased again.
Oil production will not remain at the maximum level of 500,000 barrels (80,000 m³) per day for long, as oil fields are expected to be largely depleted by 2023. However, there are large reserves of natural gas off the north-eastern coast of Qatar. Qatar’s proven gas reserves are the third largest in the world and exceed 250 trillion cubic feet (7,000 km³). The economy was boosted in 1991 with the completion of Phase I of the $1.5 billion North Field gas development. Qatar Gas project launched the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan in 1996. Other multi-billion dollar North Field gas development phases are in various stages of planning and development.
Qatar’s heavy industry projects, all located in Umm Said, include a 50,000 barrel (8,000 m³) per day refinery, a urea and ammonia fertilizer plant, a steel mill and a petrochemical plant. All these industries use gas as a fuel. Most of them are joint ventures between European and Japanese companies and the state-owned Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (QGPC). The United States is the main supplier of equipment to Qatar’s oil and gas industry, and US companies play an important role in the development of the North Field gas.
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 has made investment in renewable resources a key objective for the country for the next two decades. Qatar is pursuing a vigorous “qatarisation” programme, with all joint ventures and ministries striving to place Qatari nationals in positions of greater authority. An increasing number of foreign-trained Qatari nationals, many of whom were educated in the United States, are returning to their home countries to take up key positions previously held by expatriates. To control the influx of foreign workers, Qatar has tightened the management of its foreign labour programmes in recent years. Security is the main basis for Qatar’s strict rules and regulations on entry and immigration.