Qatar, once one of the poorest Gulf states, is one of the richest countries in the region today.
Qatar is using income from its large gas reserves to bankroll its regional and global ambitions. It has been involved attempts to achieve an Afghan peace deal and won a controversial bid to host the 2022 Football World Cup.
Not all of its regional interventions are popular with other Arab leaders, like its support for the Palestinian Hamas faction in Gaza and Islamist groups in Egypt and Syria.
It also faces some problems at home. Oil money funds an all-embracing welfare state, with many services free or heavily subsidised, but the treatment of migrant workers is frequently criticized by rights groups.
Emir: Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani took over from his father in a peaceful transfer of power in June 2013.
He is deputy commander of the armed forces and head of the National Olympic Committee, and in recent years had taken on increasing military and security responsibilities.
Like his father, he was educated in Britain: he went to Sherborne school in Dorset and the Sandhurst, the British military academy.
Influential pan-Arab and international TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the government, has raised Qatar’s media profile.
Al-Jazeera Arabic can be outspoken on subjects deemed as sensitive in the region, but avoids criticism of Qatar and its Gulf allies, specifically Saudi Arabia. It has faced curbs in several Arab countries where it has ruffled feathers.
Qatar’s main daily newspapers have links to the ruling family and there is little or no critical reporting of domestic or foreign policy affairs. The government also filters the material available to the 2.2 million people online in the country, blocking material deemed offensive to Islam, pornographic content and online privacy resources.
Some key dates in Qatar’s history:
1700s – Migrants establish pearling and trading settlements along the coast of present-day Qatar.
1916 – Deal signed under which Britain controls Qatar’s external affairs in return for guaranteeing its protection.
1939 – Oil reserves discovered. Exploitation is delayed by Second World War, but oil comes to replace pearling and fishing as Qatar’s main source of revenue.
2005 June – Qatar’s first written constitution comes into effect, providing for some democratic reforms.
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