Qatar is a sovereign Arab country located in Western Asia, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its territory surrounded by the Arabian Gulf. A strait in the Arabian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island kingdom of Bahrain. In 2013, Qatar’s total population was 1.8 million; 278,000 Qatari citizens and 1.5 million expatriates. In 2014, the population was estimated at approx. 3 Mio. Most estimates agree that only about 20 percent of the population is Qatari, with the remainder being foreign workers.
Qatar time is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 7/8 hours ahead of New York EST/DST. There is no daylight savings time in Qatar
The Qatari Riyal (QR) is the currency of the country and $1 U.S. purchases QR3.65 (fixed rate). Most major establishments accept major credit cards; some will accept U.S. Dollars
Qatar has a pleasant climate nine months of the year with hot summers and relatively warm winters. In the summer, the temperature ranges between 35-45 degrees Celsius with high humidity. The temperature is eased by air conditioning in the vast majority of homes and workplaces. During the summer, most people take holidays or spend more time indoors. Sports, entertainment and leisure facilities are available in a vast array of recreation areas including clubs and hotels. Winter is dry and resembles early fall in North America. Temperatures range from 20 – 25 degrees Celsius, with the cooler temperatures prevailing in the evenings. Rainfall is minimal, averaging three inches per year. Sand storms, haze and dust storms are common. A peninsula of some 5,000 square miles, Qatar has a landscape of sand dunes in the south and flat, rocky desert with scattered cultivation in the north.
Flag of Qatar
The flag of Qatar (Arabic: علم قطر) is in the ratio of 11:28. It is maroon with a broad white serrated band (nine white points) on the hoist side. The white portion of the Qatar flag symbolizes peace. The maroon, which was formerly red, represents the Kharijite Muslims of Qatar and the bloodshed in Qatar’s many wars. The serrated edge represents Qatar as the 9th member of the ‘reconciled Emirates’ of the Arabian Gulf at the conclusion of the Qatari-British treaty in 1916. It is very similar to the flag of the neighboring country Bahrain, which has fewer points, a 3:5 proportion, and a red color instead of maroon. Qatar’s flag is the only national flag having a width more than twice its height.
The flag was adopted just before Qatar gained independence from Britain on September 3, 1971. Qatar modified its entirely red flag with the addition of a white vertical stripe at the hoist to suit the British directive in the mid-19th century. The nine-pointed serrated edge was added to the Qatar flag in the mid-20th century and the maroon color was adopted in 1949, thus creating the modern day national flag. In 1855, Shaikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani already used a flag with similar pattern and the colour red and white. The flag’s colour was tinted darker by the sun. Thus the color was adopted, creating Qatar red. The flag was officially adopted on July 9, 1971, although a nearly identical flag (only differing in proportion) had been used since 1949.
Residents of Qatar can be divided into three groups: the Bedouin, Hadar, and Abd. The Bedouin trace their descent from the nomads of the Arabian Peninsula. The Hadar’s ancestors were settled town dwellers. While some Hadar are descendants of Bedouin, most descend from migrants from present-day Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and occasionally are referred to as lrani-Qataris. Alabd , which literally means “slaves,” are the descendants of slaves brought from east Africa. All three groups identify themselves as Qatari and their right to citizenship is not challenged, but subtle socio-cultural differences among them are recognized and acknowledged.
Location and Geography
Qatar is a small peninsula on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf that covers approximately 4,247 square miles (6,286 square kilometers). From the north to the south the country length is of approx. 180 km & from the east to the west of approx. 80 km. The landmass forms a rectangle that local folklore describes as resembling the palm of a right hand extended in prayer. Neighboring countries include Bahrain to the northwest, Iran to the northeast, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to the south. Qatar and Bahrain both claim the uninhabited Hawar Islands just west of Qatar. Until recently, only small semipermanent seasonal encampments existed in the interior desert. Water resources near the coast combined with opportunities for fishing, pearl diving, and seagoing trade have supported larger, more permanent settlements. These settlement patterns have contributed to the social differentiation between Bedouin and Hadar.
The official language is Arabic. English, Farsi, and Urdu are widely spoken. Arabic is closely associated with the Islamic faith; thus, its use reinforces the Islamic identity of the nation and its citizens. The Qatari dialect of Arabic is similar to the version spoken in the other Gulf States and is called Arabic. The adjective khaleeji (“of the Gulf”) that is used to describe the local dialect also distinguishes citizens of the six Gulf States from North African and Levantine Arabs. Farsi, the official language of Iran, is also widely spoken by families that trace their descent from that country. As a result of the influx of foreign workers, many other languages are commonly spoken, including English, Urdu and Hindi, Malalayam, and Tagalog. While many Qataris speak more than one language, it is very rare for immigrants to learn Arabic. Interactions between Arabs and foreign workers are conducted in English or the language of the expatriate.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Doha, the capital, houses more than 80 percent of the population. Its parks, promenade, and award-winning waterfront architecture are considered as the centerpiece of Doha. The large-scale land reclamation project undertaken by the government to create those waterfront properties is recognized as a major engineering feat and a symbol of the country’s economic and technological advancements. Smaller towns such as Dukhan, Um Said, and Al Khor have become centers of the oil industry, and Wakrah, Rayyan, and Um Slal Mohammad have grown as suburban extensions of Doha. Smaller villages are spread throughout the desert interior. Village homes often are kept as weekend retreats for urban residents and as links to the tradition of desert nomads. Doha’s cityscape represents an attempt to fuse the modern with the traditional. At the start of the building boom in the 1960s, little thought was given to aesthetics; the objective was to build as quickly as possible. As the pace of development slowed, more consideration was given to developing a city that symbolized Qatar’s new urban character and global integration. Designs were solicited that used modern technologies to evoke the nation’s past. The main building of the university has cube-shaped towers on the roof. Those towers, with stained glass and geometric gratings, are a modernist rendition of traditional wind towers. The university towers are decorative rather than functional; however, they are highly evocative of Qatar’s commitment to the lifestyles of the past while encouraging economic and technological development. Similar examples are found in government and private buildings. Many building designs incorporate architectural elements resembling desert forts and towers or have distinctively Islamic decorative styles executed in modern materials.