History of Qatar

The region of today’s Qatar has a long and varied history. Archaeological findings prove that the peninsula was populated more than 50,000 years ago. The inhospitable climate of the heartland forced the inhabitants to settle on the coastal regions. There they cut down flintstone and secured their survival by fishing.

Archaeological records provide evidence of early trade and cultural exchange between residents and people from Mesopotamia as well as India from the fifth millennium BC. In addition to these Stone Age transfers, this region characterized the Bedouin tribes wandering around with their camels, who call themselves – in contrast to the settled ones -‘Arab.

After their conversion to Islam in 628, Qatar was first under rule of the Umayyad (661-750), then under the Abbasids (750-1253) and was then for centuries part of the Ottoman Empire. In the course of the gradually increasing globalization of modern times, the peninsula gained in importance and benefited from its attractive geographic location between the major transit points Hormuz and Basra. Developing as a focal point for pearls, fabrics and purples, the coast became increasingly visible to European world powers. From 1521 to 1670 the country was controlled alternately by Portugal, the Netherlands, England and then again the Ottoman Empire.

With the establishment of the tribe Al-Khalifa began around 1670, the modern history of the country. They migrated, coming from the northwestern al-Hasa region, on the peninsula and drove the previous rulers off.

As a result of the Persian conquest of Basra in 1777, many merchants fled to Az-Zubara in northern Qatar, making the city a thriving commercial center. The prosperous pearl market attracted many Bedouin tribes to the Gulf Coast. Giving up their nomadic way of life, they settled down. Thus, the tribe of the current ruling family Ath-Thani settled in the middle of the 18th century, first with Az-Zubara. A little later, Sheikh Muhammad bin-Thani founded his capital, Al-Bida’, on the east coast. It laid the foundation stone of today’s capital Doha.

Continuing power struggles and disputes between Al-Khalifa and Ath-Thani accumulated in 1867 in an armed conflict that was ended by British intervention. On December 18, 1868 Muhammad bin-Thani decided to make a pact with them. He thereby secured the decisive strategic advantage, so that his tribe was henceforth the strongest power of the country. That day has since marked the national holiday of Qatar.


Four years later, the region was again occupied by Ottoman troops, which were finally defeated everywhere during the First World War. Almost at the same time as the Sykes-Picot agreement, the British signed another treaty with the third Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin-Jasim Ath-Thani in 1916, which made Qatar a British protectorate. Qatar thereby de facto lost its independence, but in return received military protection. This agreement lasted until 1971, when Qatar finally declared its independence.

Despite the abundance of pearls near the Gulf Coast, the harsh living conditions of many locals did not improve: Families were indebted immensely to foreign traders and only a few earned their share of the internationally demanded pearls. The discovery of the cultured pearl in Japan during the 1930s markedly worsened this situation, driving entire sections of the population into ruin.

After the discovery of oil and the founding of Petroleum Development Qatar in 1935, the predecessor of today’s state-controlled Qatar General Petroleum Corporation (QGPC), a new era was ushered in. Four years after the end of the Second World War, oil production began in 1949. The living conditions of the people improved abruptly and today Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. The first school opened its doors in 1952 and in 1959 the first modern hospital followed. Under the leadership of Khalifa bin-Hamad, the nephew of the sheikh, Qatar experienced an infrastructural revolution over the next 15 years, casting the foundations of today’s state.

In the late 1960s, Britain announced that it would give up its military presence on the Gulf. On September 3, 1971, Qatar proclaimed its independence. This date marks the other national holiday. Only six months later, on February 22, 1972, Khalifa relieved his uncle Sheikh ‘Abdullah in a palace revolution of his offices and ruled the country until 1995.

During a stay abroad in Switzerland, his son Hamad put himself in power non-violently and changed his father’s course to modernize and open the country to the west. In the first year of his reign, he founded the world-renowned news channel Al-Jazeera (English: the peninsula), and Qatar was the first state in the region in 1999, introducing the active and passive right for women to vote. Furthermore he led the 2010 FIFA World Cup 2022 in the desert state. In June 2013, Hamad resigned and confided the fortunes of his country to his son Tamim.