One of the richest states in the whole region, Qatar (Arabic: قطر Qaṭar), officially known as the State of Qatar (Arabic: دولة قطر Dawlat Qaṭar), is a little appendix in the Arabian Peninsula. It's the only country in the world to begin with a "Q", and also lacks the typical "Qu" formation. Originally governed as part of Bahrain, the place became a hotspot for commercial activity, being a good place to stop between the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Ocean. Later it became a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire until the Ottomans wanted to turn “protecting” into “conquering”, when they were expelled for good from the area. In the last parts of 19th century and early 20th century, Qatar approached the British to help them dissociate from the Al Khalifa clan of Bahrain, essentially turning themselves into a protectorate from one country to another. In 1971, it became an independent state. Today the country is an absolute monarchy led by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who deposed his father Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani in a bloodless coup (he had already been practically running the country before anyway) and has continued the modernization progress started by his father, including women’s suffrage and a new constitution. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia, but less than the UAE. It is also, surprisingly, one of the few Arab states willing to take Israel to the negotiations table. Its recent economic growth has been driven in many ways by immigrant labour from India and the Greater Middle East, to the point where four-fifths of Qatar's 1.5 million people are foreign workers with temporary residence. Sadly, these foreign workers have not been treated over well, with many being forced to sign contracts in languages they do not speak, being prohibited from forming trade unions, and work in poor conditions. The International Trade Union Congress and the Guardian estimate, for instance, that at least 4,000 workers will die building the World Cup infrastructure - more than players who will take to the field. The average per capita annual wage for an immigrant worker is $2,500, whilst the average per capita annual wage for the natives is $102,000. This has led some commentators to compare the nation with ancient Sparta; a clique of sybarites and dilettantes secured in power by vast slave labour. Qatar is a huge tract of desert, so most of the cities are on the coast. It’s also full of oil, making it the country with the highest GDP per capita in the world. Religiously, Qatar is strictly conservative, being one of the only two nations in the world (alongside Saudi Arabia) to officially adopt as state religion the Salafi school of law of Sunni Islam, a very strict, puritanical branch that rejects any modern modifications and sometimes interprets laws highly literally; for your information, stealing is punishable by the cutting of arms, and death sentences such as decapitation and crucifixion are allowed by law. If you're still not familiar with it, well...it's an ideology that's currently adopted by, ahem, fundamentalist groups such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda...though theirs are obviously ramped Up to Eleven. Football fans may know the country as the future host of the 2022 World Cup, a selection that is widely believed to have been influenced by cash. Fans of sport in general (especially in Asia) may also remember the capital, Doha, as candidate city for the 2020 Olympic Games, and was host of the 2006 Asian Games, best known as the games whose opening ceremony featured Mohammed bin Hamad, a son of Sheikh Hamad and captain of Qatar's equestrian team, galloping with his horse carrying the Torch up the stands to light the cauldron perched atop the bleachers. Al Jazeera is also based in Qatar.
The Qatari flag
White and maroon (supposed to be red, but the dye traditionally used to make that color was known for turning purple when dried under the sun) symbolizes peace and the blood of Qatar's fallen freedom fighters, respectively, while the nine-pointed serrated line denote Qatar as the ninth and last Gulf emirate to enter into a protection deal with Britain in 1916, joining Bahrain and the seven that would form the United Arab Emirates.