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Qatar National Day is almost upon us once again. On December 18th, citizens will celebrate Qatar as a country, and as a way of life on National Day. It marks the day when Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani succeeded his father as ruler of the Qatari Peninsula, and came to be known as the founder of a nation. Al Thani is credited as fighting back both the Ottoman and British Empire in his bid to keep his nation independent and the tribes within it autonomous, earning himself great respect, and solidifying his standing as a man of physical and mental fortitude. Descendants of the Al Thani family still rule Qatar today.
National Day was originally celebrated on the 3rd September, the day of Qatar’s independence. However, by Emiri decree, the date was changed to 18th December, to align with the day Sheikh Jassim took power, and thus inspire pride in the nation’s history.
So National Day is a time to learn more about Qatar, its values and its customs. In that tradition, we decided to create a blog post about the “10 Qatar Facts You Didn’t Know”.
1. Qatar is home to over 180 Nationalities
That makes it one of the most diverse countries in the world, along with its Middle Eastern neighbour, the UAE. There are over 2.9 million people in Qatar and most are expats. Men greatly outnumber women, accounting for about 75% of the population overall.
2. Independence Day and National Day are not the same
As mentioned before, Qatar celebrates National Day on the 18th of December, the day Sheikh Jassim took power in 1878. However, Qatar didn’t actually gain independence until 3rd September 1971, until which time it was under Ottoman, then British rule. Qatar became a British protectorate on 3 November 1916, when the United Kingdom signed a treaty it under its Trucial System of Administration.
When Britain officially announced in 1968 that it would politically disengage from the Persian Gulf in three years’ time, Qatar joined Bahrain and seven other Trucial States in a federation. Regional disputes, however, quickly compelled Qatar to resign and declare independence from the coalition which would eventually evolve into the United Arab Emirates.
3. Criticising the Emir could get you arrested
A new constitution in 2005 was supposed to guarantee press freedom, but in 2012, poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al Ajami was sentenced to life in prison (later commuted to 15 years) for making fun of the Al-Thani Regime. Even so, politics are discussed quite freely and you’d be hard pressed to find a Qatari that didn’t have a view on how their country is run!
4. It’s even richer than you thought
Qatar is one of the biggest exporters of gas and oil in the world, has one of the fastest growing economies in the world (faster than economic powerhouse China) and has the highest income per capita in the world too (even higher than the UAE!). So yes, Qatar is seriously rich.
5. Oil is cheap, everything else isn’t
It’ll cost you less to fill up your Hummer with fuel than it will to buy a meal at McDonalds, or two coffees at Starbucks. Gas fields cover almost 50% of the country, while agriculture accounts for just over 5%. Oil and gas reserves are aplenty in Qatar, but the nation imports over 90% of its food from other countries, making it all terribly expensive.
6. The best airport in the world
If you’re travelling to Qatar and you fly into Hamad International Airport, you’re in for a treat. In 2021, it was voted the best airport in the world and you’ll see why. With smooth processes, clean and luxurious surroundings and a host of public art (which unsurprisingly includes a falcon!), it’s not the usual airport experience.
7. Alcohol is frowned upon and very difficult to get
Being a Muslim country which adheres to Islamic law, the only option to get alcohol is from the Qatar Distribution Company on the far outskirts of Doha. There are two in the entire country, and both are difficult to get access to. You need to get permission from your sponsor (employer) first which says that they do not object to you drinking. To get access to the store, you need the letter, your Residence Permit, and a 1,000 Riyal deposit. You then have a quick interview in an office upstairs where you have to attest that you are not Muslim. If you break any of the rules such as getting caught giving alcohol to anyone who is not an immediate family member, you lose your license and the deposit.
8. You can travel with a falcon on planes
Qatar Airways, among Middle Eastern flight companies allow their passengers to fly with their pet falcons on-board in the cabin! As the national bird of a number of Gulf countries, the falcon is seen as a symbol of force and courage in much of the Middle East while falconry is considered a traditional sport. Each falcon is charged at three times the normal excess baggage rate. Qatar also has a dedicated falcon hospital in Souq Waqif, one of the oldest souqs in the world.
9. Where sand meets sea
When you think of desert, you imagine sandy dunes as far as the eye can see. Water is only a figment of the imagination in this dry landscape, only appearing as mirages to thirsty travellers. But actually, in Qatar, there’s an area where the desert actually meets the sea; one of the few places in the world where this happens. Qatar is trying to have Khor Al Adaid protected as a UNESCO site, due to its rarity and beauty.
10. Don’t forget your bicycle clips
Qatar is the second flattest country in the world, and you know what that is perfect for – cycling! Ashghal built the longest continuous cycle path in Qatar which was completed in 2010. It travels along underpasses to make sure a smooth and uninterrupted journey, and runs for just over 20 miles. Not content with the record for the longest cycle path, they also laid the longest piece of asphalt in one go in order to construct it. Now that sounds like a wonderful way to see this country!
Did you find these Qatar facts interesting? Maybe you’re even thinking about moving there at some point. If you are, you’ll need to attest your degree certificate. Luckily, we’ve written a blog post about that too! Just click here to find out more.
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Until next time!