History

Natives of the Arabian Peninsula, most Qataris are descended from a number of migratory tribes that came to Qatar in the 18th century to escape the harsh conditions of the neighboring areas of Nejd and Al-Hasa. Some are descended from Omani tribes. For centuries, the main sources of wealth were pearling, fishing, and trade. At one time, Qataris owned nearly one-third of the Persian Gulf fishing fleet. With the Great Depression and the introduction of Japan’s cultured-pearl industry, pearling in Qatar declined drastically.

Qatar in Early History

Evidence of early habitation in Qatar that can be traced as far back as to the 4th century BC appeared in many artifacts such as inscriptions, rock cravings, flint spearheads and examples of pottery, which were all uncovered by the Danish (1965), the British (1973) and the French (1976) expeditions.

In the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus referred to the seafaring Canaanites as the original inhabitants of Qatar.

The Greeks came to the Gulf with Alexander the Great and settled in Failaka in Kuwait, in Bahrain, in the Emirate of Sharjah and had logged all the ports that could be turned into profitable trading posts. It was in the first century AD that Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer, used the work “Catharrei” to refer to the people who lived in this area.

In the following century, Ptolemy, the famous Greek geographer, added the word “qatara” over the peninsula on his map of the Arab countries, which is believed to refer to the Qatari town of Zubarah.

Qatar in the Islamic History

In the middle of the 7th century AD, the Qatar peninsula and the surrounding region were under the rule of the Al Munzir Arabs. Their king, al-Munzir Ibn Sawi al Tamimi, embraced Islam, making Qatar to enter, ever since, the realm of the Islamic civilization and participate in all its successive stages and eras.

Records of Arabic Islamic history reflect the presence of the skilled seafaring Qataris and acknowledge their valuable contribution towards the formation and provision of the first naval fleet, which was assembled to transport the Islamic army under the leadership of Abu al-Al’a al-Hadrami.

Under the Abbasid state during the 8th century AH, Qatar experienced great economic prosperity and pledged a great deal of financial support towards maintaining the Caliphate in Baghdad.

During the 10th century AH, the Qataris aligned with the Turks to drive out the Portuguese.

Subsequently, Qatar, like the entire Arabian Gulf region, came under the Turkish rule for four successive centuries. Ottoman sovereignty, however, was only minimal as the real power and control were in the hands of the sheikhs and princes of local Arab tribes.

Qatar in the 20th century

In the early 18th century, Al-Thanis who had come from the oasis of Jebrine became the rulers of Qatar. Initially they stayed in the north of the peninsula before moving to Doha in the mid 19th century under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Thani. In 1878, Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammed al Thani came to power.

In 1913, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Jassim Al Thani reigned. It was during his time when the First World War ended and the Turkish rule in Qatar came to an end. Qatar signed a protection treaty with Britain in 1916. However, the British influence in the country was limited to supervision of some administrative matters. Oil exploration also started during his term.

In 1940, Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani ruled Qatar. In 1949, Sheikh Ali Bin Abdullah Al Thani’s term followed. Offshore oil resources opened a whole new era for Qatar, an era of modernization.

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Ali Al Thani succeeded Sheikh Ali Bin Abdulla Al Thani in 1960. Qatar officially became an independent country, the Emirate of Qatar, in September 3, 1971.

In 1972, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad al Thani ruled the country. There was a real economic boom in Qatar. Construction sector grew quickly. Hospitals were built.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al Thani assumed power on the 27th of June 1995, supported by the ruling family and the Qatari people.

POLITICAL 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 Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani as Ruler. The Al Thani family had lived in Qatar for 200 years. The 1916 treaty between the United Kingdom and Sheikh 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 U.K. 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 Qatar Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was owned by Anglo-Dutch, French, and U.S. interests. High-quality oil was discovered in 1940 at Dukhan, on the western side of the Qatari Peninsula. World War II delayed exploitation, and oil exports did not begin until 1949.

During the 1950s and 1960s, in beginnings of Qatar’s modern history, increasing oil reserves brought prosperity and social progress for the country When the U.K. announced a policy in 1968 (reaffirmed in March 1971) of ending the treaty relationships with the Gulf sheikdoms, Qatar joined the other eight states then under British protection (the seven crucial sheikdoms–the present United Arab Emirates–and Bahrain) in a plan to form a union of Arab emirates. By mid-1971, however, the nine 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.

In February 1972, the Deputy Ruler and Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad, and assumed power. This move was supported by the key members of Al Thani and took place without violence or signs of political unrest.

Present Political Situation

Located in the heart of the Gulf region, Qatar has been politically stable.  Strict Police vigilance and internal security system has ensured, despite a wide diversity of expatriate residents, a low crime rate.  Expatriate communities are screened before taking up work and residence in Qatar.  Follow-up on law violations is strict.  Deportation is a common practice here for persons who cause or may cause disturbances of any kind.

There are no political parties, labor unions or trade associations.  There is no known organized domestic political opposition. These facts combine to limit the possibility of dissent.  In Qatar, family and tribal ties are strong.  On almost all national occasions, heads and leading members of all tribes renew their loyalty to the Head of State, other leading members of the ruling family and to the Government.  It should be noted that the bloodless coup that installed Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani enjoyed broad support within the Al-Thani family and entailed almost no disruption to key domestic or foreign policies. Again the peaceful power transformation from Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani to his son sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin al-Thani was also welcomed globally and enjoyed full support from the ruling family and Qatari nationals.  

The recent elections for the current board of directors of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Qatar Central Municipal Council (with both men and women participated in the latter) are the genesis of an ambitious democratization process in the near future.   In accordance with the Emir’s earlier promise of an elected Advisory Council (Parliament), a committee was formed in to draw up a comprehensive and permanent Constitution, which was approved by a landslide referendum.

HISTORICAL BACK GROUND OF GULF AS A WHOLE

Two and a half decade back, the Gulf area was not very much known to the out side world, especially to the west. The region was just emerging from centuries of isolation, obliviously due to the intricacies of world politics, economics and strategy.

The Gulf has long been a strategically important waterway, and the region witnessed great rivalry between various European countries, notably Portugal, Holland, France and Britain. During most of the sixteenth century, the entire Gulf came under Portuguese influence, and its presence was marked by a hostile and violent attitude towards the locals. The later part of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when Britain was carving out a huge empire, saw the growth of British interests in the Gulf as means of protecting her valuable trade route to India.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Gulf was prey to considerable wrangling between the rival powers, each anxious to gain a footing in the region. In 1895 the French, who enjoyed a strong position in Muscat, wanted to establish a port, which could provide ships with necessary fuel. The Germans and Russians were also attempting to exert influence in the area, but remained unsuccessful. 1913 witnessed the demise of the Ottoman Turks, mainly as the result of a resurgence of Wahhabism into the forefront of Gulf politics and the ungratified Anglo-Turkish convention of July 19th, whereby the Ottoman Empire renounced all claims to Qatar. The year 1913 is considered as the turning point in Qatar’s history, marking the end of an era and ushering in a new and totally different situation, where Qatar was well on the way to forming two new relationships that cancelled and replaced its ties of the nineteenth century with Bahrain and the Ottoman Empire: the first was with the Wahhbis, the second with the British government.

Before the discovery of oil and the subsequent improvement in the living conditions, the people in this area was led a settled or semi-settled existence on its shores as fishermen or pearl divers. The lack of natural resources made their lives totally dependent on the sea, though some did try their luck at agriculture and herding. During this time, most individuals lived on a subsistence economy. Indeed before the oil explosion most of the inhabitants were practically destitute, with the notable exception of a few fortunate merchants. Since the Gulf was an important waterway, commerce flourished, though never a scale large enough to bring affluence to its poverty-stricken shores. In addition to trading, pearling and fishing there did exist other breadwinning activities; building cottage industries, making simple household utensils, pottery, fishing nets and so on. These cottage industries sufficed to meet the immediate requirements of Gulf societies, but sadly most of them vanished following the oil boom.

As a result of the harsh geographical and climatic conditions of the Gulf, its people are mostly of Bedouin origin. Some settled in cities or wherever they could find greenery, while others have remained attached to the Bedouin tradition. The society can therefore be separated into three different segments: nomadic, rural and urban. This basically tribal society consists of extended families, closely linked by matrimonial ties, which have also absorbed many other cultures. For instance, in Qatar many people are of Persian origin, and it is estimated that in the 1930s almost twenty per cent of the settled population of this country was Persian.

The Gulf States became increasingly visible global actors during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Their significant reserves of hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) and advantageous geographical position between West and East positioned the oil-rich GCC states as a central pivot in the shifting global economic landscape. This was facilitated by the surge in oil prices from $22 per barrel in 2002 to a peak of $147 per barrel in 2008 and the massive capital inflows that resulted. Collectively, the six GCC states3 were estimated to have acquired some $912 billion in foreign assets over the five years between June 2003 and June 2008.4 While exact statistics are hard to pin down, gross oil income in Saudi Arabia rose from an estimated $42 billion in 1999 to $307 billion in 2008, from $13 billion to $87 billion in the UAE, and from $4 billion to $27 billion in Qatar over the same period.5 Qatar also benefited from a decade of far-sighted investment in its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) infrastructure, enabling it to maximise its control of the world’s third-largest reserves of natural gas. This produced average economic growth of 13% per year during the 2000s, and, when production reached its targeted peak of 77 million tons per year in 2010, its gas income was nearly double its oil revenue.

Apart from economically, the gulf area has been in a dominating position in world politics especially in the whole Arab world after the Arab spring started in 2011.