Qatar is difficult to pronounce. One commonly used pronunciation is "KUH-tar", but the pronunciation "kah-TAR" is surely incorrect. According to VOA, Qatar is pronounced something between "cutter" and "gutter." An audio pronunciation of "Qatar" on the Merriam Webster Dictionary website sounds closer to "Kotter" (as in "Welcome back, Kotter"). But Qatar should be pronounced something between "cutter" and "gutter."
Qatar is ranked as not free in Freedom in the World, receiving a score of 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties. The problems seen elsewhere in the Gulf pertain, particularly labor trafficking involving fraud about the nature of the work to come, slavery-like work and living conditions, effective debt bondage, and confiscation of passports and papers, as well as anemic protection or deportation of victims.
Qatar is located on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia. It is approximately 160km long and 50-80km wide with a total land area of 11,435 sq km, about the size of Connecticut. Sand dunes dominate the south of the country. A major oil and natural gas exporter, Qatar in recent years has developed its economic status to become a global player in the financial sector. Qatar currently produces over 800,000 barrels of oil per day and its economy depends increasingly on gas. The income from oil and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports accounts for an estimated 60-65% of government revenue.
Qatar had the world’s highest per-capita gross domestic product in 2010 of over $60,000, and far more than that, if only Qatari citizens are considered. Economists generally agree, however, that this statistic obscures more than it reveals, as Qatar's wealth is unevenly distributed. First, a high percentage of national income -- particularly the proceeds from oil and gas -- goes to the government. Second, Qatari citizens only account for a fraction of Qatar's population, so the number of people who benefit from official "welfare" programs is relatively small. Personal income in Qatar generally falls into four categories: Asian laborers eking out an existence, Western and other expatriates making a comfortable living working in management and advisory roles, average Qataris getting by on a government job and state welfare benefits, and well-connected Qataris who have significant business interests and multiple sources of income.
Qatar's actual population roughly doubled from 2004 to 2008, by which time Qatari citizens only accounted for less than one-fifth of Qatar's estimated population of over 1 million people. The official population figure for Qatar as of 2008 was 1.5 million, though the actual number was closer to 1.7 million. Estimates of the population range from approximately 1.5-2.0 million, of whom approximately 225,000-250,000 are citizens. Between 60% and 80% of Qatari population is non-native labor according to estimates from the CIA and State Department. The range of estimates reflects fluctuations from year to year in the number of foreign workers in the country. Indians account for the largest national group in Qatar with more than 450,000 people - about twice the number of Qataris. The Qatar Statistics Authority reported in October 2012 that the total population of 1,750,000 included 250,000 Qatari nationals.
The majority of Qataris are not making money at the same rate as the country's elites. Many Qataris are increasingly frustrated with the pace of change around them and the fact that they do not seem to be directly benefitting from much of it. Most Qataris do not see the benefit of Qatar's rapid economic growth and instead are suffering from increasingly high inflation. Meanwhile, they gripe about having to speak English to third country nationals in their own country, and want to stick with tradition in the face of rapid change.
Qatar is a constitutional monarchy headed by Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.The emir exercises full executive power. The 2005 constitution provides for continued hereditary rule by the emir's male branch of the Al-Thani family. Shari'a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation. Qatar’s political system is evolving from a traditional tribal system towards a more modern, democratic one. The pace of political reform, along with wider economic and social development, has accelerated since the present Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, replaced his father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
Under the Emir, Qatar has experienced a notable amount of sociopolitical liberalisation, including the endorsement of women’s right to vote, drafting a new constitution and the launch of Al Jazeera, a leading Arabic and English news source which operates a website and satellite television news channel. The Emir appointed Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, his son, as Heir Apparent in 2003 and in April 2007, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani as Prime Minister, while also continuing to act as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Al Jazeera, the television network with an Arabic-speaking audience of some 60 million, is based in Qatar and funded by the State of Qatar. The network's coverage, particularly by its Arabic service (there is also an English service, a children's channel, a public affairs channel and a number of sports channels) on issues important to the U.S., has long been an irritant in the bilateral US relationship. The US Government nevertheless recognize the value of officials appearing on Al Jazeera in order to ensure that officials appearing on Al Jazeera are heard in the Arab world. Because it is funded by the State of Qatar, Al Jazeera avoids critical reports on Qatar. In any event, its Arabic service remains an important source of outreach to Arabic speakers around the world, especially on Israel and Palestinian issues.
Natives of the Arabian Peninsula, many Qataris are descended from a number of migratory tribes that came to Qatar in the 18th century from the neighboring areas of Nejd and Al-Hasa. Some came from neighboring Gulf emirates and others are descended from Persian merchants. Most of Qatar's inhabitants live in Doha, the capital. Foreigners with temporary residence status make up about three-fourths of the population. Foreign workers comprise as much as 85% of the total population and make up about 90% of the total labor force. Most are South and Southeast Asians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, Yemenis, and Iranians. About 8,000 U.S. citizens reside in Qatar.
For centuries, the main sources of wealth were pearling, fishing, and trade. At one time, Qataris owned nearly one-third of the Persian Gulf fishing fleet. With the Great Depression and the introduction of Japan's cultured-pearl industry, pearling in Qatar declined drastically.
The Qataris are mainly Sunni Muslims. Islam is the official religion, and Islamic jurisprudence is the basis of Qatar's legal system, although civil courts have jurisdiction over commercial law. Arabic is the official language, and English is widely spoken. Education is compulsory and free for all government employees' children from 6-16 years old. Qatar has an increasingly high literacy rate.
Qatar's impressive economic growth was accompanied by increasing economic and social challenges, particularly soaring levels of consumer debt. Meanwhile, the government was trying to wean its citizenry off a welfare state mentality but its own policies and the lack of public financial awareness undermine this goal. This unhealthy mix of easy money and a paternalistic government posed a major challenge to a country that provides remarkable educational opportunities to its citizens while offering few incentives to work hard and spend responsibly.
Qatari divorces tripled between 1986 and 2007, and anecdotal evidence suggests that larger numbers of Qatari women have decided to remain unwed. Observers expect these trends, which some Qatari observers refer to as a "social calamity waiting to happen," to continue as long as the percentage of Qatari women achieving secondary and tertiary degrees far outstrips men. The Qatari Government's implementation of a remedy - an educational reform plan designed by RAND and considered one of the most ambitious in the world - will not produce measurable results quickly. The reform, which is converting all Qatari public schools to something resembling U.S. charter schools, aims to make education more interesting and meaningful for students while preparing them to compete in today's globalizing job market.
Air temperatures have been known to reach 120F. This is the temperature in the shade! Also there is considerable retention of heat by many structures including ships at night. The combination of temperatures and humidity from June to September make physical activity difficult and dangerous. Don't undersetimate the impact of heat stress! While temperatures may drop a little at night, the humidities will increase and maintain a high risk of heat disorders. Suspended dust and sand can further add to the risk. The dramatic drop in temperatures from outdoors to air-conditioned spaces (up to 50°F drop) also has an impact on personnel. At these extremes spontaneous combustion of certain materials is possible.
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