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June 2013



Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani announced his plans to abdicate in favor of his son, Sheikh Tamim. Qatar is a peninsula jutting into the Persian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia. It is slightly smaller than Connecticut, with an arid climate that is mild, pleasant in winters, but with very hot, humid summers. The terrain of Qatar is mostly flat and barren desert covered with loose sand and gravel. Its highest point is Tuwayyir al Hamir 103 m.

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. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the Amir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Amir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, overthrew the father in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. As of 2007, oil and natural gas revenues had enabled Qatar to attain the highest per capita income in the world. Qatar has not experienced the level of unrest or violence seen in other Near Eastern and North African countries in 2010-11, due in part to its immense wealth. Qatar's international image is bolstered in part by the Doha-based Al Jazeera news network, which has provided comprehensive coverage of the Near East and North African Arab revolutions.

The population of Qatar is approximately: Arab 40%, Indian 18%, Pakistani 18%, Iranian 10%, and other 14%. The official language is Arabic, although English is commonly spoken as a second language. The government of Qatar is an emirate and has seven municipalities: Ad Dawhah, Al Khawr wa adh Dhakhirah, Al Wakrah, Ar Rayyan, Ash Shamal, Az Za'ayin, and Umm Salal. Qatar uses a mixed legal system of civil law and Islamic law (in family and personal matters). Its unicameral Advisory Council or Majlis al-Shura has 45 seats: 15 members appointed and 30 members to be elected by popular vote. The Advisory Council has limited legislative authority to draft and approve laws, but the Amir has final say on all matters. Qatar's first legislative elections are expected to be held in 2013.

The natural resources of Qatar include: petroleum, natural gas, and fish. Natural hazards facing the country are: haze, dust storms, and sandstorms. Limited natural freshwater resources requires Qatar to depend on large-scale desalination facilities.

CIA World Factbook, 5/2013