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History of Qatar

People have been living in the Qatar Peninsula for tens of thousands of years, but over time the land was overcome with desert and become somewhat inhospitable and nearly abandoned for thousands of years. The only way to survive in the region during these times was by living on the water, which provided the only true source of food.

The peninsula was never wholly abandoned though and from the 700s to 1200s AD the number of people here grew until Abbasid rulers. After the Abbasids the region was ruled by numerous groups, including the Portuguese and Ottomans, both of whom tried to control the lucrative pearl trade in the region.

In 1732 the Bani Utbah people, led by the Al Khalifa family, arrived from what is today Kuwait and ruled the region for some time. However, they almost always had a larger country protecting, or controlling, them. This began in 1777 with Persian control and the fleeing of many people back to Kuwait. However their occupation also encouraged a growth in the pearl trade.

By 1782 the relationship has soured as the Persians wanted greater control; this led to a revolt and the eventual overthrow of Persian power over both Qatar and Bahrain. This then led to a flood of people moving from Qatar to Bahrain.

In the early 1800s violence continued though as the Persians tried to retake control as the Omanis and Ottomans also showed interest in taking the region. Additionally, as international trade was flourishing, the British came in to establish bases and secure passage through the Persian Gulf. The British signed a number of treaties with Bahrain and viewed Qatar as a part of those treaties, viewing the two as one land, but the people of Qatar didn't see it that way. Due to this, when the people of Qatar broke agreements in these treaties, the British attacked in 1867. The benefit from this attack was that Qatar and Bahrain were permanently separated politically.

British control lasted a short while though, when in 1872 the Ottomans arrived from the Arabian Peninsula as the Qataris accepted this rule instead of fighting. However relationships soon took a turn for the worse and by 1893 the two were embattled, with Qatari success. This led to Ottomans giving up control over Qatar in 1913.

In 1916 Qatar gave up its international power to Britain in exchange for protection. However the British stayed out of domestic affairs and in Qatar there were numerous groups fighting the Sheikh and arguing his policies, something the British left to the Sheikh to solve. These disputes continued until the 1930s when oil was discovered.

As the oil was finally being produced in the 1940s domestic tensions again arose as the people wanted more money from the oil industry. At the time the Sheikh was old so turned power over to his son with guaranteed British protection. In the 1950s development moved forward as technology and other infrastructural improvements were undertaken as the police force was improved and grew to support and protect the Sheikh. The Sheikh, Ali bin Abdullah spent excessively on a personal level though and by 1960 was forced to abdicate.

In the 1960s, under Sheikh Ahmad ibn Ali and his second in command, Khalifa ibn Hamad the country continued to grow. In 1970 the British moved out of the region and Qatar, after briefly considering joining the Trucial states (the United Arab Emirates) decided to declare independence in 1971. The following year though Khalifa ibn Hamad overthrow Ahmad ibn Ali. Khalifa immediately put more money into education, healthcare, and housing. This path and his rule continued into the 1990s.

In 1995 Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father and in 2003 the new Sheikh introduced limited democracy. These changes and introductions, including free press and a representative government are being undertaken, but only aspects have been implemented.

This page was last updated: March, 2013