“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking, welcome on board flight 230, destination Qatar. We will be landing In Doha airport very shortly. Please fasten your seatbelts and refrain from smoking. We wish you a pleasant stay in Qatar and hope you fly with us again.”
Welcome to Qatar, the little peninsula in the Arabian Gulf that has adopted me since the last 2 or so years. It is a place of Date palms, white sands, blue seas and the ever wonderful Arabic words “Marhaba”(welcome ) and “Ahlan wa sahlan” which literally means “Make as though you are at home” with those heart catching smiles. As it is the general custom in the Arab world coming from the Islamic upbringing, hospitality is unavoidable here. Wherever you go people are so keen to help or to invite you for lunch, dinner or even
just a cup of “shai” tea or may be “Kahwa” Arab style coffee. I was amazed the first time I came here 2 ½ years ago from London, as I was going for job interviews, every office I walked in, I was always offered a cup of tea or coffee and even dates too sometimes. If I had ten interviews in one day just think about it. The hospitality is absolutely fantastic. There always a smile on the faces of those who greet you and shake your hands. You ask yourself sometimes how they do it. Hospitable, generous and kind, Qatari's make visitors to their country feel very welcome. Qatar is an ideal family location and a very safe place to visit, live and work. I had even met some neighbors who were complete strangers and since I came here in the beginning alone without the family, they too had left families behind while they were working here. They did not let me cook a day’s meals, I was either invited with them to somebody’s place for food or I was taken to a restaurant for the local foods or I was called over for dinner or lunch when ever they cooked. Then after the family came things moved on. Allow me to take you on a tour around this beautiful little peninsula small in size (one third of the size of Belgium).
Qatar: Geographical Information
Qatar, officially State of Qatar, 11,437 sq kms (4,260 sq miles) in size borders Saudi Arabia from the south, The United Arab Emirates from the east and Bahrain form the west, and Iran from the North, is almost completely surrounded with water. Its capital and the largest city is Doha.
Geographically the country of Qatar almost feels like a large desert island. From the capital Doha the Saudi border is only about 100kms.
The terrain is generally flat. However, there are some hills and sand dunes, which reach an altitude of 40 meters above sea level in the areas of Dukhan and Jebel Fuwairit in the western and northern parts of the country and Khor al Udeid in the south.
Fresh water is scarce and Qatar has several large desalination plants. It has a large, artificial deepwater port, which was opened in 1969 and serves as a major transshipment center for cargo of the Persian Gulf nations. Shrimping and shrimp processing are important industries.
Temperatures in winter start from 20c to as hot as 50 c in the summer.
Archeological discoveries, inscriptions, stone spearheads and collections of exquisite pottery handcraft which were found in scattered areas in the country by some archeological expeditions have proven that the land of Qatar was populated as early as 4000 B.C.
Qatar has been settled since the Stone Age, the first known inhabitants being Canaanite tribes. The country was later subject to various rulers, including Sargon of Akkad, who reigned about 2335 to 2279 BC, and it was most likely connected with the federation of Dilmun in the 1st millennium BC.
In the Islamic history a special credit was attributed to Qatar for its fine skill in the improvement and fine finish of spears, (known at the time as The Khottiyah Spears), and for its fine stripped woven cloaks (known at the time as The Qatari Cloaks). The ancient geographer, Ptolemy, showed in his map of the Arab world a town believed to be the present Qatari town of Zubarah. Danish, French and British expeditions have discovered inscriptions, rock carvings and fine pottery in the peninsula.
|Here is another ancient inscription on a stone found in Doha.|
The Qataris are descended through ancient Arabian lines of kinship. This is due to the country's geographical location and proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, on one hand, and to the close historical heritage, which the State shares with the rest of the States of the Arabian Peninsula, on the other.
Islam in Qatar Islam swept the entire Arabian region in the 7th century, overturning the idol worshippers. With the spread of Islam in Qatar, Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) sent his first envoy Al Ala Al-Hadrami to Al-Mundhir Ibn Sawa Al-Tamimi, the ruler of Bahrain, which extended the coast from Kuwait to the south of Qatar including al-Hasa and Bahrain Islands, in the year 628, inviting him to accept Islam. Mundhir responding to the Prophet’s call announced his conversion to Islam, and all the Arab inhabitants of Qatar including some Persians living in Qatar also became Muslim, heralding the beginning of the Islamic era in Qatar. Consequently, Al Ala Al-Hadrami was appointed by the Prophet as his representative in Bahrain to collect the Jizya (religious tax).
During this early phase of Islam Qatar was famous for the robes which were woven there and exported to the various places. It is said that the Prophet to have worn a Qatari robe, as did his wife Aisha. Umr Ibn Al-Khattab had a Qatari cloak patched with feather. Above is a picture of a large vase dating to early Islamic times found in Qatar. Historical document indicate that Qatar was especially renowned for the skill of its people in weaving and cloth making as well as for the quality of its horses and camels. Here is an example of the Beautiful Qatari woven material often used here to cover furniture.
Even the Portuguese had conquered Qatar in the year 1515 but they could not retain a hold on the little peninsula. While the invading Portuguese forces confined their naval activities in and around Hormuz, the Portuguese commercial empire exported gold, silver, silks, musk, cloves, pearls and seed pearls, amber, horses etc, through various ports in the Gulf including Qatar. Apparently, to preserve their commercial interest in Qatar, the Portuguese naval squadron attacked the coastal villages of Qatar in January 1625. However, the Portuguese misrule and atrocities came to an end when the Imam of Muscat drove them out of the Gulf by force in 1652. (Reference)
In the 19th century ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s, Qatar transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues. The city became the administrative center of the British Qatar protectorate in 1916. The traditional Qatar economy was built around pearling and the town of Zubara in the north was the main centre for pearl diving. With the advent of the cultured pearl, the pearl industry collapsed in the 1930s. Although oil was discovered in Qatar in the late 1930s, it was not until a decade later that production began in earnest. It grew rapidly after petroleum exports, begun from Umm Sa'îd (Musayid) in 1949, brought vast new revenue sources to the national government.
On 3 September 1971 Doha became the capital of the independent state of Qatar. On 27 June 1995, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani took over power from his father. With his accession Qatar entered a new era of modernization and embarked on the development of a strong base for democracy.
|Sheikh Hamad in Army uniform.||
|Sheikh Hamad, the father, with one of his sons, Khalid.|
|Sheikh Hamad with his people performing a folk dance. As you can see, the traditional Arab dress with the white head cover called the “Gotra” (some wear red and white too) and the black band that surrounds it is called the “Iqal”, with the long white attire called the “Kamis”. This is traditionally worn by all Arab nations.||
|This is a picture of the Emir (prince) of Qatar with his favorite hobby (horses).|
People and the Country
Total population of Qatar is about 840,290 (July 2004 est.) of which 30-40 % are Qatari nationals, the rest is a build up of an amalgamation of other nations living and working here, ranging from Pilipino, to Indian, British, Canadian, American and other Europeans. Also, Arabs from many Arab countries namely Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq Egypt, Sudan and the United Arab emirates and from Iran to name just a few. Most of the inhabitants live in Doha the capital but many others live in other cities such as Al Wakra, Al Khor etc. The inhabitants are predominantly Muslim which make up for about 95% of the population. The official language being Arabic, the language of the Quran and the language that is spoken by majority of the neighboring countries yet English is widely used and spoken in the country as a second language.
Qatar is a peninsula that houses beautiful Mosques, which could be found in practically every 500 metres almost. Mosques here are also found in all places of work, and study and some corner street port cabins too. The call for prayer (the Adhan) can be heard from loudspeakers, from almost every corner of Qatar and from almost every masjid too as well as the Friday sermons and the prayers in Ramadhan. This is Abu Bakr masjid which can house approximately two thousand worshippers may be more including women.
As shown above in the pictures of the Emir, the traditional dress of the Qataris is the traditional dress of the rest of the Arab world, with the white gown and the head dress, however, all other non Arab inhabitants are not obliged to dress the same way. Below is another example of the Arab traditional dress an also some pictures of the beautiful children of this beautiful little peninsula that makes you even forget about home.
Places to visit in Qatar
Qatar is very family orientated and not to my surprise it is very safe too. One can walk down the down the Corniche (2-3 km stretch of the sea) in Doha, at any time of the day or night without any worries of being attacked or mugged, some go there to jog or exercise and even women alone are never harassed, others just for the sea air and to have a picnic and families enjoying the nice weather. Many times some people just go for a drive just to see the beach and the lights.
Or you can even go to the Big shopping centres where you will find the big shops form Europe and the US selling the big makes. It is like home form home, just much more beautiful. May be you would like to go to the outdoor markets in Doha where you can find spices of every colour or anything else you may require, ready made clothes made by tailors. Where else in the world would I ever think of forgetting my mobile phone in the car all day, to come back and find it intact? Such security and safety.
|Also from the Corniche, there are boats that can take people to Palm Tree Island, which is just off the Corniche.|
On the other side of the Corniche one can sample beautiful parks with fountains and playgrounds for the children. All beautiful by day and by night.
There is even the pearl monument that is a fountain all lit up at night.
|The fountain at the Pearl Monument is lit up all night.|
|Some times of the year when there are celebrations one can see people playing the folkloric drums and singing the folkloric tunes inherited from the ancestors.|
Usually on a nice day, especially the week ends, you find many families in the parks and a lot of activities taking place. Nowadays you find many young children on skates and many bring their bikes too.
Still in Doha, there are other very nice places to go to; such as the Museum (which used to be a former palace) offers a lot of the history of Qatar of much of it goes way back too. There is all the old stuff going way back to the Stone Age, as Illustrated in some of the pictures above.
|The views of Sheraton hotel form the distance, which also lies on the Corniche.|
|If you feel too hot you can take a dip in the outdoor pool at the Ritz Carlton hotel.|
Does this wet your appetite a bit? I guess you want to jump on the next flight that brings you here. Be my guest! But don’t forget to feed the pets enough food in advance because you may be here for along while.
Doha has a very nice theme park too called Aladdin’s Kingdom, where one can spend the day on the ride and not get fed up.
Below is another beautiful picture of Doha by night.
Before we move on to the next part of this illustrious tour of this beautiful little country, allow me to remind you of something. WAKE UP! The nice dream has come to an end.
To be continued ...
So until the next time I, bid you farewell, and greet you:
Peace be upon you
Aboo Mohammad may be reached at email@example.com.