Qatar — History and Culture
Before the oil boom of the 20th century, Qatar relied heavily on the pearl industry and trade with eastern Asia. Britain developed a protectorate following the Ottoman’s expulsion from Qatar during WWI. Since then, Qatar and its economy has continued to expand, thanks to British influences and the large amount of oil located off its western coast.
Before Qatar became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1538, the Portuguese controlled the region for about two decades. Prior to this, Qatar first became popular as a stop-off for traders, due to its strategic position between Europe and East Asia. Islam was first introduced long before European traders moved into the area, somewhere before the end of the 7th century. Qatar was heavily influenced by the Persian Gulf – Indian Ocean trade routes of the middle ages.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Qatar thrived as a pearling area, especially in the region known as Zubarah. However, as a result, continuous conflicts between ruling tribal families of modern day Qatar and Bahrain affected the area. Qatar wasn’t officially recognized as an independent entity until British influence in the 19th century. In 1869, the British recognized Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani as representative leader of Qatar.
By 1915, the ruling Ottoman Empire left Qatar and the British quickly established a truce system with Mohammed bin Thani in 1916. The pearling and trade industries continued to dominate the economy, until the oil phenomenon began. In 1935, the Qatar Petroleum Company was established as a 75-year concession, and the first oil discoveries occurred near Dukhan in 1940. The outbreak of WWII ceased drilling operations until exports began until in 1949.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Qatar’s oil economy began to prosper, leading to the modernization of the country. Meanwhile, colonialism around the world began to diminish, leading to Britain’s withdrawal from Qatari and Persian Gulf treaties by 1971. Qatar originally sought to join the sheikdoms union (eventually known as the United Arab Emirates). However, disagreements among Emirate members led to Qatar establishing its official independence on September 3, 1971.
During the Gulf War of the early 1990s, Qatar played a significant role in the defeat of the Iraqi army. In 1995, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani forcefully took over from his father as the leader. Qatar has since become more liberal, including the implementation of women’s suffrage and the creation of a new constitution. Again, in 2003, Qatar was an important site for Allied forces during the invasion of Iraq. Further evidence of Qatar’s growth and development is its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Throughout its history, Qatar was populated by migrants from other regions of the Middle East. Therefore, much of the traditional music, food, dance, and language is shared across the Gulf region. Even though most of the population is Sunni Muslim, the Qatari government has created a more liberal stance on faith. Christians can actively practice their religion, and several churches have been built in recent years. This has come about from the large expat population that now resides within Qatar.
Football is the most popular sport in the country. Visitors should stop to experience an international football match. Fans in Qatar go wild, and a festive atmosphere is always guaranteed.