Qatar is an Arabic word which is believed to have been derived from ‘Qatara’, the name of the Qatari trading port and region named Zubara during the ancient days. Popularly referred to as the State of Qatar by other countries in the world and locally as Dawlat Qatar, it is an Arab country in Middle East Asia which occupies the north-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole neighbour is Saudi Arabia in the south and in the rest of the directions the nation is surrounded by the Arabian Gulf.
Courtesy of the high natural reserves of oil and gas, a poor British protectorate which was dependent on pearl diving for a meagre income is now one of the leading industrial countries boasting of an above average per capita income.
Visitors from most countries who arrive in Qatar are supposed to land at the capital city Doha wherein they are granted visas to enter the country. This rule is not applicable to the residents of the Middle East Gulf countries who can enter without any of the visa formalities. The airport at Doha is one of the entry points in the country and apart from serving as the base for Qatar Airways it hosts a number of different international airlines as well. It is possible to visit Qatar by car and bus as well although there is only a single land route from Saudi Arabia and fixed bus routes within the country. Having been surrounded by water on all sides but one, Qatar is bound to have plenty of sea traffic in form of commercial freight boats which comes from all over the world, the smaller ones coming from neighbouring countries like Dubai and Iran.
Within Qatar, there are three modes of public transportation namely buses, taxis and limousines and eco friendly means of transport like bicycles or simply walking are also recommended. The cheapest amongst these is the bus service which commenced in October, 2005, and the most expensive, albeit the most comfortable, is the limousine service.
Some of the main cities in Qatar are the capital city of Doha followed by the second largest city Rayyan, the northern municipality of Al Khor and the southern municipality of Wakra. A region of particular interest is Khor Al Udeid, meaning inland sea, characterized by racing tracks weaving in and out of the rolling sand dunes and it is here that tourists can enjoy a traditional Arab meal while seated around a campfire after having spent the entire day in sweltering heat.
The official language of the country is Arabic with a Gulf dialect with English following closely as the most common second language. Since Qatar features a mixed population due to the presence of a large number of immigrant workers, English is used as the de facto medium of communication and even a little bit of knowledge of a few Arabic words could prove to be extremely helpful.
Qatar’s culture is a reflection of the Arabian traditions with slight variations which may be attributed to the individual differences amongst tribes arriving from different areas. It is the Sharia law which is upheld as the ultimate carrier of justice and is taught in schools as well.
Although Qatar as a country features a spectrum of religions, it is Islam which is the predominant religion with its sects and sub-sects. Protestant and Catholic Christians are allowed to conduct mass in the churches but no missionary groups are allowed to operate openly. Much of the Hindu and Sikh community hails from India, the Buddhists come from South, South-East and East Asia and the Baha’i population is indigenous of Iran.