History of Qatar, Part I
My first destination is Doha, Qatar. Though I have seen other countries, I wanted to start with my latest vacation. As I have mentioned in my very first post, history is important when you are travelling anywhere. It brings much more to the surface of your travels, and more understanding of the people. Things like tradition, or why a building is placed along the seaside.
On the east side of Saudi Arabia, along the Persian Gulf, is Qatar. It is small and usually hard to pinpoint on a map because of its size. Though it is important to understand that just because the country is small, it has a lot of money for mostly being a desert. It was originally one of the poorest regions on the planet, then it expanded to be one of the most economically successful countries.
Qatar’s economy is one of the world’s fastest growing economies on Earth with 19% growth. The population boomed to around 1.7 million from only 16,000 (after World War II) and is very little controversy about the people being ruled under an absolute monarchy. This country does so well to maintain its modernity while continuing its use of tradition.
Qatar has always had a community of some sort, mostly made up of fishermen and their families. Many archeological digs and numeral neat finds have been conducted in this region. Much of the digs were done by Danish archeologists. Some stone tools dating from 50,000 BCE was uncovered in 1950; however, they are arguably dated only as far back as 6000 BCE based on carbon dating technology. The newest excavation was done in 2007, during this dig multiple arrowheads were found, likely being 700,000 years of age. These arrowheads were said to be among the earliest signs of humans in South Arabia and possibly the oldest in the world, claimed by a Danish archeologist. Meaning that residents inhabited Qatar throughout history, even if it was only a small population. Evidence was also found that the Qataris were closely connected to the Dilmun civilization which inhabited Bahrain providing a direct trading link to Babylonia. Of course, Qatar has more to its beautiful desert than archeology digs.
During the Golden Age of Islam, the Gulf became a major factor in Qatar’s story. Qatar was a fishing country, and it relied on the pearling industry. The pearls of Qatar gave it a maritime power.
In 1498 the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope, for direct passage to India. The problem was that this moved away from the port. The trading route went towards the Red Sea, cutting off the Gulf ports completely.
By 1622 the Portuguese had difficulty maintaining rule in the Indian Ocean due to the British Empire and Shah Abbas I of Persia. With Britain and Persia in control of the Indian Ocean, it allowed the trades to continue in the Gulf once again from 1630 to 1700. The two dominating companies being the Dutch East India Company and English East India Company.
In 1783 the Al Khalifah led the conquest of nearby Bahrain and extended his reign. With Al Khalifah’s departure, the Qataris brought in the idea of the sheikhs. The first being Rahmah ibn Jabir al Jalahimah who was famously known as a leading pirate of the so-called Pirate Coast.
Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Al Wahhab created an interpretation of Islam called Wahhabis. Wahhabis is a stricter orthodox of Islam and many tribes did not approve of these beliefs, but the Al-Thani people did favour this interpretation. The Al-Thani clan moved out to the east coast of Qatar and began the country’s community today.
In 1867 a major dispute between the Bahraini Al-Khalifah who had held a claim to the Al Zubarah. The Qatari residents and the inhabitants of Bahraini escalated to a huge confrontation virtually destroying Doha. The British then came into save the day, although Qatar was viewed as dependency on Bahraini.
In 1868 an agreement with Britain for protection in return for Al-Thani cooperation and consolidated the position of the Al-Thani tribe (thus theoretically making Britain the rulers of Qatar). This led to a problematic relationship with Britain and the Qataris. This was only the beginning of Qatar’s future step to independence.
Three years later the Ottomans conquered Al-Hasa (Saudi Arabia) and lived in Qatar. The Turkish invaded the Arabian Peninsula and Qatar, which came under the Ottoman takeover. Qasim Al-Thani accepted the Turkish rule while keeping its connection with Britain. In 1893 the Ottoman’s attacked Doha, which was unsuccessful as Al-Thani pushed back the Turkish. This led to a stock increase and a way to unite Qatar. It brought in political and economic prosperity to the Qatari residents. By 1913 the Ottomans had left Qatar on the reconquest of Saudi Arabia.
Britain signed a treaty in 1916 with Qatar’s Abdulla that resembled their earlier agreements with other Gulf states, thus giving Britain authority over foreign policy. In this policy, Britain had guaranteed the safety of Qatar’s agreement not to deal with external powers and to avoid engaging in piracy and slave trading. The problem with this was that Britain did not stick to their treaty. Ibn Saud, leader of the Wahhabi, obtained a lot of control though they had left Qatar. Ibn Saud had a large influence on the Arabian Peninsula without having to invade. When Britain defied the treaty, Abdulla Al-Thani had to pay off Ibn Saud to avoid any invasion.
Finally, the latest and important events in history that allowed Qatar to grow so well economically, oil. In the treaty, Abdullah gave Britain the Anglo Persian Oil Company, for the guarantee of defence from Britain. By 1935 a subsidiary of the Anglo Persian Oil Company, Petroleum Development Qatar Limited, got the rights to explore. Four years later gas began to flow and generated money for Qatar to put on the market. Though it was only in 1963 that Qatar Petroleum Company was formed and could be sold to companies like Shell. This was a full-state control of oil production.
Within finding this gold mine of petroleum, Qatar started building its country into what it is today. They added streets, schools, and hospitals. This was allowing Qatar to have more power, and the Al-Thani dynasty was passed on, generation after generation. Finally, on September 3, 1971, Qatar announced National Day to celebrate its independence. In doing so, they joined the United Nations and Arab League and other international movements and organizations during that year.
I apologize for any misspelled Arabic names I used many sources, all of which, have different spellings. I hope you enjoyed this post! Follow my social media and stay updated with my travels, and subscribe to get email notifications for when I’ve posted! Stay tuned, as I will have a part 2 for the history of Qatar!
Thank you for reading and for travelling with Tyanna!