Qatar is one of the most rapidly changing and exciting countries in the world. The country, centered in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, is a melting pot of old and new.
Topping the Forbes list of the World's richest countries, Qatar has the world's highest per capita GDP as a result of its enormous oil and natural gas revenues. The country has one of the highest standards of living and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The population of Qatar is approximately 2 million people, the majority of which are expatriates. Approximately 300,000 of the population are Qatari nationals.
Qataris are well known for their generosity and friendliness. The country has a rich Arab culture, which is reflected in the wealth of its customs and traditions. While Arabic is the official language, the most commonly spoken language is English, and Islam is the official religion. Traditional Islamic festivals are an integral part of the culture of Qatar and there are numerous religious holidays to reflect this. Islamic influence can be seen throughout Qatari society and is evident in clothing, eating and drinking practices.
In Qatar, a high quality of free or highly subsidized health care is provided to all nationals and expatriates. Life expectancy has risen to 78 years on average and the country enjoys the region's lowest maternal mortality rate. The most prevalent diseases include cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and cancer. Qatar is investing heavily in improving the quality of its healthcare provision. Central to these efforts is the commitment to provide international standards of care within a comprehensive and integrated healthcare system. To realize this vision, Qatar's Supreme Council of Health has undertaken a five-year program of reforms, which builds on the foundation of Qatar's National Vision 2030.
Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world and is ranked 19th out of 162 countries in the Global Peace Index. Incidents of violence are rare in Qatar and crime rates are generally low. The Qatar police force is highly visible and capable, and has acted to safeguard locals and expatriates alike, providing a high standard of security. Confidence in Qatar's security and political environment was highlighted by the state receiving the rights to host the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup.
Education has been a major focus of the Qatar government in recent years, with particular focus on women's education. Every child has free education from kindergarten through high school and there is a large number of private and international schools in Qatar. Qatar follows a policy of compulsory education until the end of elementary stage.
The Supreme Education Council, created by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Ministry of Education, directs and manages education at all levels, from pre-school level to university.
There are a total of 567 schools in operation within Qatar and nine universities serving 12,489 students. In addition, Qatar Foundation's Education City, created as a center of educational excellence, houses international universities from the U.S., UK, and France.
Qatar is investing heavily in research. In 2006, the nation established the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) to support the development of a research culture in Qatar. Today, 2.8% of Qatar's annual gross domestic product (GDP) is allocated for funding and promoting research and development, with funding awarded to both local and international researchers through the QNRF.
Qatar's currency (QAR or QR) is the Riyal and occurs indenominations of 1, 10, 50, 100 and 500 notes. The Qatari Riyal is equivalent to approximately £0.17 and $0.27 USD.
Qatar has one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a GDP growth rate of 16.3% and GDP per capita of $179,000. The country is the fourth largest exporter of natural gas and oil in the world, which account for more than 50% of Qatar's GDP. As well as natural gas and oil, the country is investing thoughtfully in other industries particularly the financial and tourism sectors, as well as infrastructure, aviation and utilities. The country is becoming a major international center for sports and energy events. The successful bid to host the football World Cup 2022 has raised Qatar's profile globally, and will attract a large number of tourists to the country.
Geography and Weather
Qatar is a peninsula, surrounded by the Arabian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. The land is primarily flat and desert-like; however, there are beaches and large sand dunes in the southeast along the Inland Sea.
Doha is the capital of Qatar and the seat of government. Doha is also home to the country's main sea port and international airport. Other major cities in Qatar include Al Wakra, famous for its ancient Islamic architecture; Mesaieed, known for its fine sand beaches; and Dukhan, the center of onshore oil production.
The climate is characterized by a mild winter and a hot summer. The country has a low annual rainfall, which occurs during the winter months. Autumn and spring are warm with maximum temperatures between 25 - 35°C, and the summer (June to September) is hot with temperatures reaching 40°C and above.
Travel and Transport
Doha International Airport is Qatar's commercial air link and receives all international flights. There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Qatar and most European and American citizens can apply for a visa upon arrival. There is no rail network, however, the public bus service covers 35 routes and charges minimal fares. Private cars remain the most popular form of transportation, followed by taxi and limousine services.
Food and Drink
Hospitality is ingrained in Qatari culture, and food and drink play an important role. Commonly, dates and Arabic coffee are presented to guests as part of local hospitality. Pork products are illegal in Qatar and Muslims must consume meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, which is referred to as 'halaal.' Alcohol is available for expatriates and can be purchased in Western establishments throughout the country, principally in hotels. Alcohol to be consumed at home may be purchased with a permit.
In accordance with Islamic law, Qatari women typically cover their heads with a scarf known as a 'hijab'. In public, they may also wear the 'abaya', a long black robe worn over the woman's clothes; and in some cases, women choose to wear a thick black veil, which leaves only the eyes showing. Most Qatari men wear the 'dishdha' or 'thobe', a white, tunic-like garment reaching to the ankles, with headdress called a 'gutra.' Western dress is widely accepted and, in
fact, is the norm in Qatar. However, it is recommended to dress in a way that respects local culture, which emphasizes modesty.
Living in Qatar for Women
Initiatives driven by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Father Emir and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser have ensured that women are granted full rights, including voting, driving and working rights. Qatar Labor Law states that women should have equal pay, training, and promotion opportunities for similar duties. Many Muslim women choose to wear traditional Islamic clothing, while Western women normally wear Western clothing. Out of respect for the culture, it is recommended that women cover their shoulders and do not wear shorts or see-through fabrics. However, there is no law or code. Qatar is an Islamic society and many women choose to live in this tradition. Overall, there is widespread respect and appreciation for ethnic, religious and cultural differences.
Entertainment and Leisure
There is a wide variety of entertainment options in Qatar for adults and children alike. The mild climate makes outdoor leisure activities very popular, from day trips to the mangrove swamps on Qatar's north shore to enjoying one of Qatar's many white sand beaches. As well as entertainment parks, shopping centers and cinema complexes, Qatar caters for those interested in nightlife with numerous bars and night clubs. Many international brands are available in the malls, creating a home away from home for the large expatriate population. The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, a "Cultural Village", and the annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival are just a few of Qatar's cultural attractions.
Sport is considered an important national and social activity in Qatar. The country has facilities for virtually all types of sport, including tennis, golf, horse racing, water sports, camel racing, and falconry.
International Sporting Events
Qatar hosts many high profile sporting events throughout the year including the ATP tennis tour, and has previously hosted the 2006 Asian Olympic Games, and the 2011 Asian Football Confederation's Asian Cup. The country is now gearing up to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Art and Architecture
Qatar features a dynamic and active art scene. Local and international artists' work is displayed throughout the country in art galleries and public spaces. Qatar's world-famous Museum of Islamic Art, designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, opened in 2008 and houses an impressive collection of Islamic Artifacts and Arabic art.
Working and Business
Approximately 20 to 30% of the Qatari population are estimated to be Qatari nationals, suggesting that possibly as many as 80% of the population are expatriates. English is the language most commonly used in business. The standard work week runs from Sunday to Thursday, but work hours vary depending on the organization. The business culture of Qatar emphasizes personal relationships between business associates.
Source: Sidra website
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