US DEPARTMENT OF STATE
BACKGROUND NOTES: Qatar
Official Name: State of Qatar
Area: 11,437 sq. km. (4,427 sq. mi.); about the size of Connecticut and
Rhode Island combined. Cities: Capital--Doha (pop. 300,000). Other
cities--Umm Said, Al-Khor, Dukhan, Ruwais. Terrain: Mostly desert,
flat, and barren. Climate: Hot and dry.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Qatari(s). Population: 400,000.
Ethnic groups: Arab 55%, South Asian 33%, Iranian 6%. Religion: Islam
95%. Languages: Arabic (official), English. Education: Years
compulsory--ages 6-16. Attendance--98%. Literacy--65%. Life
expectancy--58 yrs. Work force (primarily foreign): Industry,
services, and commerce--70%, Government--20%, Agriculture--10%.
Type: Traditional emirate. Independence: September 3, 1971.
Constitution: None; the 1970 Basic Law serves as a constitution.
Branches: Executive--Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--
Advisory Council (has assumed only limited responsibility to date).
Judicial--independent. Subdivisions: Fully centralized government.
Political parties: None. Suffrage: None.
Flag: Maroon with white serrated border.
GDP (1992 est.): $5.2 billion. Annual growth rate (1992 est.): 4%.
Per capita income (1992 est.): $13,000.
Natural resources: Petroleum, natural gas, fish.
Agriculture (about 1% of GNP): Products--fruits, vegetables, (most food
Industry: Types--oil production and refining (32% of GNP), natural gas
development, fishing, cement, power/desalinization plants,
petrochemicals, steel, and fertilizer.
Trade: Exports (1992 est.)--$2.2 billion: principally oil (75%-80%).
Major markets--UK, Japan, US, Western Europe. Imports (1992 est.)--$1.4
billion: industrial and consumer goods. Major suppliers in 1989 were
Japan (16%), UK (12%), and US (9%). Germany and Italy are also major
Official exchange rate (March 1992): US$1=1.4 Qatari riyals.
Economic aid sent (1980-86 est.): $360 million, mainly to other Arab
states, Palestinians, and developing countries.
Natives of the Arabian Peninsula, most of the Qatari people are
descended from a number of migratory tribes which came to Qatar in the
18th century to escape the harsh conditions of the neighboring areas of
the Nejd and Al-Hasa. Some Qataris are descended from Omani tribes. The
population is about 400,000, the great majority of which live in Doha,
the capital. Foreign workers with temporary residence status make up
75%-80% of the population. Most are South Asians (from India, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka), Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians, and
Iranians. The resident British community numbers about 5,000 in 1989,
and about 500 US citizens reside there.
For centuries, pearling, fishing, and trade were the main sources of
wealth. At one time, Qataris owned nearly one-third of the Persian Gulf
fishing fleet. With the world recession in 1928 and the introduction of
Japan's cultured pearl industry, pearling in Qatar declined drastically.
The Qataris are mainly Sunni ("Wahhabi") Muslims. Islam is the official
religion, and Islamic jurisprudence is the basis of Qatar's legal
system. Arabic is the official language, and English is the lingua
franca. Education is compulsory and free for all Arab residents 6-16
years old. The Qatari literacy rate, estimated at 65%, is increasing.
Qatar has been inhabited for millennia. In the 19th century, the
Bahraini Al Khalifa family dominated until 1868, when, at the request of
Qatari nobles, the British negotiated the termination of the Bahraini
claim, except for the payment of tribute. The tribute ended with the
occupation of Qatar by the Ottoman Turks in 1872.
When the Turks left, at the beginning of World War I, the British
recognized as ruler Shaikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani. The Al Thani
family had lived in Qatar for 200 years. The 1916 treaty between the
United Kingdom and Shaikh Abdullah was similar to those entered into by
the British with other Gulf principalities. Under it, the ruler agreed
not to dispose of any of his territory except to the United Kingdom and
not to enter into relationships with any other foreign government
without British consent. In return, the British promised to protect
Qatar from all aggression by sea and to lend their good offices in case
of a land attack. A 1934 treaty granted more extensive British
In 1935, a 75-year oil concession was granted to the Qatar Petroleum
Company, a subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was owned by
Anglo-Dutch, French, and US interests. High-quality oil was discovered
in 1940 at Dukhan, on the western side of the peninsula. Exploitation
was delayed by World War II, and oil exports did not begin until 1949.
During the 1950s and 1960s, gradually increasing oil revenues brought
prosperity, rapid immigration, substantial social progress, and the
beginnings of Qatar's modern history.
When the British Government announced a policy in 1968 (reaffirmed in
March 1971) of ending the treaty relationships with the Gulf shaikhdoms,
Qatar joined the other eight states then under British protection (the
seven trucial shaikhdoms--the present United Arab Emirates--and Bahrain)
in a plan to form a union of Arab emirates. By mid-1971, however, the
nine sheikhdoms still had not agreed on terms of union, and the
termination date (end of 1971) of the British treaty relationship was
approaching. Accordingly, Qatar sought independence as a separate
entity and became the fully independent State of Qatar on September 3,
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The head of state is the emir, and the right to rule Qatar is passed on
within the Al Thani, the ruling family. Politically, Qatar is evolving
from a traditional society into a modern welfare state. Government
departments have been established to meet the requirements of social and
economic progress. The basic law of 1970 institutionalized local
customs rooted in Qatar's conservative "Wahhabi" heritage, granting the
emir preeminent power. The emir's role is influenced by continuing
traditions of consultation, rule by consensus, and the citizen's right
to appeal personally to the emir. The emir, while directly accountable
to no one, cannot violate the Shari'a (Islamic Law) and, in practice,
must consider the opinions of leading notables and the religious
establishment. Their position was institutionalized in the Advisory
Council, an appointed body that assists the emir in formulating policy.
An electoral system has not been set up. Political parties are banned.
The influx of expatriate Arabs has introduced ideas that call into
question the tenets of Qatar's traditional society, but there has been
no serious challenge to Al Thani rule.
In February 1972, the deputy ruler and Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh
Khalifa, deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad, and assumed power. This move
was supported by the key members of the Al Thani and took place without
violence or signs of political unrest.
Principal Government Officials
Emir, Acting Prime Minister--HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani
Crown Prince and Minister of Defense--HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Mubarak Ali Al-Khater
Ambassador to the United States--Hamad Abdulaziz Al-Kawari
Ambassador to the United Nations--Dr. Hassan Ali Hussain Al-Ni'mah
Qatar maintains an embassy in the United States at Suite 1180, 600 New
Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC (tel. 202-338-0111). Construction
of a new chancery has begun in the Van Ness Embassy Center in
Washington, DC. The Permanent Mission to the United Nations is at 747
Third Avenue, 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-486-9335).
Qatar maintains a modest defense establishment, including an army (5,000
troops), an air force (1,000), a navy (800), and a police force (6,000).
Qatar has purchased arms and equipment from the United Kingdom and, most
recently, from France. Modern equipment in the Qatari inventory
includes the F-1 Mirage and Combattante Patrole boats. Qatar plays an
active role in the collective defense efforts of the Gulf Cooperation
Council (the regional organization of Arab states in the Gulf). Qatari
forces played a disproportionately important role in Operation Desert
Oil revenues are the basis of Qatar's economy and provide more than 80%
of government revenue. In 1973, oil production and revenues increased
sizably, moving Qatar out of the ranks of the world's poorest countries
and providing it with one of the highest per capita incomes. Despite a
marked decline in levels of oil production and prices since 1982, Qatar
remains a wealthy country.
Qatar's economy was in a downturn from 1982 to 1989. OPEC (Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries) quotas on crude oil production, the
lower price for crude oil, and the generally unpromising outlook on
international oil markets reduced oil earnings, the state's main source
of revenue. The Qatari Government's spending plans had to be cut to
match lower income. The resulting recessionary local business climate
caused many firms to lay off expatriate staff to cut costs. With the
economy finally beginning to recover, expatriate populations,
particularly from Egypt and South Asia, are growing again. The overall
number of Westerners appears still to be declining.
Observers expect that Qatar's oil production and revenues will decline
toward the end of the century.
Oil production will not return to earlier peak levels of 500,000 barrels
per day (b/d), due to gradual depletion of oil fields, but the partial
recovery of oil prices in 1989, along with production of close to
400,000 b/d, has begun taking Qatar's economy out of the doldrums. The
economy was also boosted in 1991 by completion of the $1.5 billion Phase
I of North Field gas development.
North Field reserves (350 trillion cubic feet) are among the world's
largest. Their exploitation will influence Qatar's future plans and
public spending significantly. Recent official statements indicate that
Qatar is about to start development of Phase II, for domestic
Further phases of North Field gas development involving exports via
pipeline and/or gas liquifaction may cost $5-6 billion, not counting
associated industrial projects.
Qatar's heavy industrial projects, all based in Umm Said, include a
refinery with a 50,000 b/d capacity, a fertilizer plant for urea and
ammonia, a steel plant, and a petrochemical plant. All these industries
use gas for fuel. Most of them are joint ventures between European and
Japanese firms and the State-owned QGPC. Although the United States is a
major equipment supplier for Qatar's oil and gas industry, and US
companies are playing a major role in North Field gas development, to
date there has been little American investment in Qatar. At least one
US company is conducting some oil/gas exploration and development.
Qatar pursues a vigorous program of "Qatarization," under which all
joint venture industries and government departments strive to move
Qatari nationals into positions of greater authority. Growing numbers of
foreign-educated Qataris, including many educated in the United States,
are returning to Qatar to assume key positions formerly occupied by
expatriates. In order to control the influx of expatriate workers,
Qatar, over the past few years, has tightened the administration of its
foreign manpower programs. Security is a principal basis for Qatar's
strict entry and immigration rules and regulations.
Qatar achieved full independence in an atmosphere of cooperation with
the United Kingdom and friendship with its neighboring states. Most
Arab states, the United Kingdom, and the United States were among the
first countries to recognize Qatar, and the state promptly gained
admittance to the United Nations and the Arab League. Qatar established
diplomatic relations with the USSR and China in 1988. It was an early
member of OPEC and a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Qatar and Bahrain dispute ownership of the Hawar Islands. In October
1991, the two countries agreed to let the International Court of Justice
at The Hague decide whether it would accept jurisdiction over the case.
Although Qatar is still a foreign aid donor, financial assistance to
other countries has been sharply reduced since 1985.
Bilateral relations are cordial. The US Embassy was opened in March
1973. The first resident US Ambassador arrived in July 1974.
In the summer of 1986, the former Minister of Education, Sheikh Mohammed
bin Hamad Al Thani, third-ranking official in the government, visited
the United States as guest of US Secretary of Education, William J.
Bennett. In October 1987, Energy Secretary John S. Herrington led a
delegation on a visit to Qatar which included calls on the emir and the
heir apparent and meetings at the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum.
Secretary of Energy Henson Moore led a delegation to Qatar in October
1991. Over 400 Qataris study at US universities.
Principal US Officials
Economic/Commercial Officer--Margarita Ragsdale
Consular Officer--Kathleen A. Smith
Administrative Officer--Scott R. Heckman
Public Affairs Officer--John F. Berry
The US Embassy in Qatar is located in Doha. The address is PO Box 2390,
(tel. 974-864-701/2/3; telex. 4847 AMEMB Doha; fax: 974-861-669). The
embassy is open Saturday through Wednesday (Qatar's workweek) and closed
for American and Qatari holidays.
Climate and clothing: May through mid-October is extremely hot in
Qatar, and light-weight attire is recommended. From mid-October through
April, spring and fall clothing is comfortable. One should dress
conservatively in public.
Visas: American citizens require valid visas to enter Qatar.
Generally, travelers are required to show evidence that a Qatari citizen
or company will sponsor them during their stay in Qatar. Visas are also
available through the major hotels for intended guests, but arrangements
must be made several weeks in advance.
Communications: Allow 2 weeks for airmail delivery between the US and
Qatar. Letters, videos, and packages are subject to inspection and
censorship. Cable and telex lines to leading hotels and places of
business are good. Telephone connections are excellent, and faxes are
widely available. Qatar is eight time zones ahead of eastern standard
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