Qatar is a peninsula of 11,437 sq. km. located halfway down the west coast of the Arabian Gulf. The territory includes several islands including Haloul, Sheraouh, Al Beshairiya, Al Safliya and Al Aaliya. The coastline covers 563 km with shallow coastal waters in most areas, as there are many coves and inlets. The terrain is flat and rocky, covered with sand flats and dunes. There are some exceptional low-rising limestone outcrops in the north and northwest.
The country is centrally placed among the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups it with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
Latest estimates released put Qatar’s population at more than 1.5 million – nearly double the figure recorded in the last census in 2004. Out of this figure approximately 29% are female. Almost 50% of the population resides in the city of Doha, which is the business and administrative capital.
Other population centres include Dukhan on the west coast, Mesaieed and Al Wakra in the south, and Ras Laffan and Al Khor in the north. Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLIC) is creating a population expansion in Al Khor and areas adjoining Ras Laffan
Archaeological discoveries, inscriptions and artefacts prove that Qatar was populated as early as 10,000 – 8,000 BCE. In the middle of the 1st century CE, Pliny the Elder referred to the nomads of the area as the “Catharrei” – an apparent reference to their constant search for water.
One of the world’s earliest maps, The Map of Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE, shows the word “Catara” at the head of the bay.
Qatar played an important role in the Islamic civilisation when its inhabitants participated in the formation and provision of the first naval fleet.
During the 16th century, the Qataris aligned with the Turks to drive out the Portuguese. Subsequently, along with the entire Arabian Peninsula, they fell under the nominal rule of the Ottoman Empire for four successive centuries – with the real power and control remaining in the hands of the sheikhs and princes of local Arab tribes.
The country has a moderate desert climate with hot summers and mild winters. Winter nights can be cool, but temperatures rarely drop below 7°C. Temperatures and humidity rise in coastal cities and towns during summer.
Rainfall is scarce (average 70 mm per year), falling on isolated days mainly between October and March.