Qatar was once controlled by the sheikhs of Bahrain, but in 1867, war broke out between the people and their absentee rulers. To keep the peace in the Persian Gulf, the British installed Muhammad ibn Thani al-Thani, head of a leading Qatari family, as the region's ruler. In 1893, the Ottoman Turks made incursions into Qatar, but the emir successfully deflected them. In 1916, the emir agreed to allow Qatar to become a British protectorate.
Oil was discovered in the 1940s, bringing wealth to the country in the 1950s and 1960s. About 85% of Qatar's income from exports comes from oil. Its people have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. In 1971, Qatar was to join the other emirates of the Trucial Coast to become part of the United Arab Emirates. But both Qatar and Bahrain decided against the merger and instead formed independent nations.
The written history of Qatar begins in grand fashion with a mention by the 5th-century Greek historian Herodotus, who identifies the seafaring Canaanites as the original inhabitants of Qatar. Thereafter, however, Qatar appears to be the subject more of conjecture than history. Although there is evidence, in the form of flint spearheads, pottery shards (in the National Museum), burial mounds near Umm Salal Mohammed and the rock carvings of Jebel Jassassiyeh to support the early inhabitation of Qatar (from 4000 BC), the peninsula has surprisingly little to show for its ancient lineage. Take Al-Zubara, for example: the famous ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy tantalisingly includes ‘Qatara’ in his map of the Arab world. This is thought to be a reference to Al-Zubara, Qatar’s main trading port right up until the 19th century. A visitor to the small modern town, however, would have difficulty imagining a dhow (traditional wooden boat) dodging the sandbanks at low tide, let alone a fleet of cargo ships moored in the harbour. Even Al-Zubara Fort, one of only a few in Qatar, was built as recently as 1938 and, although some 9th-century excavations further down the coast have revealed remnants of a sizable city with two mosques and a fort, as well as hints of life in other centuries, the surrounding desert is marked by absence rather than by strong historical presence.
Qatar (pronounced KAH-ter) occupies a small peninsula that extends into the Persian Gulf from the east side of the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is to the west and the United Arab Emirates to the south. The country is mainly barren.
Taliban Opens Office in Qatar
In June 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, and its representatives held a press conference with an international media contingent. The U.S. said it would begin long-delayed peace talks with the group. Afghanistan was expected to do the same, but instead said it would not engage in any dialogue with the Taliban, saying such discussions lent the militants credibility.
Places to Visit in Qatar
- The Corniche
- Film City
- Barzan Tower
- Ash-Shahaniyah attractions
- Madinat Ash Shamal
- Museum of Islamic Art
- Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
- Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art
- Islamic Culture Center
- Qatar National Museum and Aquarium