US DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
BACKGROUND NOTES:  Qatar

April 1992
Official Name:  State of Qatar

PROFILE

Geography

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.

People

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%.

Government

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.

Economy

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 
is imported).
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 
suppliers. 
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. 

PEOPLE

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.

HISTORY

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 
protection.

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, 
1971.

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 
Thani
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).

DEFENSE

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 
Shield/Storm. 

ECONOMY

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 
consumption.

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.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

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.

US-QATARI RELATIONS

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
Ambassador--vacant 
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.  

Travel Notes

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 
time.  

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