Qatar has strong historical and cultural ties to the sea. Pearl fishing was the traditional mainstay of the economy until oil and gas took over when it was first discovered in the early 1950’s. Although ‘pearling’ as it is known, is no longer Qatar’s key economic driver, it has left a legacy of skills, stories, music and art that is a source of identity and pride for Qataris today.
Ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s, Qatar was occupied first by the Ottomans in the 18th Century and then by the British who continued to rule the country as a ‘Protectorate’ state until 1971. During this time, the economy was badly damaged with poor economic direction.
After independence and through the 1980’s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy continued to stagnate under the unimaginative rule of the then Emir, Shaikh Khalifah, who overthrew his uncle in 1972.
Shaikh Khalifah himself was finally deposed in favor of his son by an internal Al-Thani family council in June, 1995. The new Emir, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani, quickly inaugurated a far reaching and extremely progressive program to modernize Qatar politically, socially and economically.
This modernisation programme is still active today, turning Qatar into a modern, desirable community not only within the Gulf Region but for International Expatriates and tourists alike.
The significance of this development is reflected by the Qatar Tourism Authority whose work goes beyond that of many tourist authorities. Their work includes turning Qatar into a leading quality destination for business, culture, education, sport as well as health tourism.
The Tourism Masterplan released in May 2004 highlighted new projects worth in excess of US$ 15 billion, the long term aim being to reduce the economies reliance on Oil and Gas.
New project include the New Doha International Airport, new museums, cultural sites and the increase in hotel rooms to 10,000 by 2010. By increasing hotel space and improving airpoert facilities, Qatar aims to position itself as a key business hub to rival Dubai.
The ‘Qatar experience’ as it is called, will become a unique blend of adventure, leisure and Arabian tradition, from desert dune driving to exciting water sports, from fascinating museums to traditional markets. Qatar offers world-class hotels, restaurants and spa facilities and activities for all the family in a safe and secure environment.
The Pearl of Qatar sees the countries first true International Building Project – a man made island that invites all nationalities to participate in Qatars growth.
Today, Qatar is an excellent example of a country that can punch well above its weight and in conjunction with its oil revenues, Qataries enjoy the higest Per Capita income of almost anywhere in the world at almost $40,000 per head.
Conclusion: Qatar will soon be spoken of in the same High regard as it Gulf competitor, Dubai!
Some Useful Social Conventions
Visitors should be fully aware of Muslim religious laws and customs. Women should always dress modestly. It is also worth noting that, while it is acceptable to cross legs, showing the sole of the foot or unknowingly pointing it at a person is considered an insult. At business and social functions, the traditional Qatari coffee, in tiny handleless cups, will invariably be served. This is a ritual of welcome with strict rules: guests are served in order of seniority – a few drops at first, then, after three or four others have been served, the server returns to fill the first cup; always hold the cup in the right hand; two cups are polite, but never take only one or more than three.