Celebrating Qatar’s History On National Day
Qatar National Day is soon approaching, and with it we would like to take the opportunity to celebrate Qatar and its rich history.
Today, Qatar is a small prosperous state with great quality of life and high life satisfaction. Qatar is rich in history and culture, and every year thousands of expats and Qatari nationals celebrate in honor of Qatar and its independence.
Early Human Settlement
According to archaeological evidence, humans have occupied the Qatar Peninsula as far back as 50000 years in the past, where small groups of Stone Age inhabitants built seasonal encampments and sites. More permanent settlements started popping up around 8000 to 7500 years in the past. One of the oldest known settlements in Qatar is Wadi Debayan, situated on the northwest coast.
In classical antiquity Qatar was occupied and influenced by various empires and kingdoms, including the Assyrians, the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, and the Parthians. Classical historians have written about the peninsula and its population around this time, such as Herodotus describing its inhabitants as “sea-faring Canaanites”, and Pliny the Elder describing them as nomads who constantly roamed in search of water and food.
The Origin of “Qatar”
The origin of Qatar’s name can be traced as far back as the second century, during which Ptolemy produced the first known map to depict the peninsula, referring to it as “Catura”. Later on under Sassanid reign after Christianity had begun to spread in the region, Qatar was known by the Syriac name “Beth Qatraye” or “Beth Catara”, which translated means “region of the Qataris”.
Most Arab tribes in Qatar converted to Islam in 628 under Persian rule when a Muslim envoy, Al-Ala`a Al-Hadrami, was sent to a Persian ruler in Eastern Arabia named Munzir ibn Sawa Al Tamimi. After the adoption of Islam, the Arabs led the Muslim conquest of Persia which resulted in the fall of the Sassanian Empire.
During the period of the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), Qatar was described as a famous horse and camel breeding centre. In 750, discontent in the caliphate had reached a critical level due to the treatment of non-Arab citizens of the Empire. The Abbasid Revolution resulted in the overthrow of the Umayyad Caliphate, ushering in the Abbasid period.
Several settlements, including Murwab, were developed during the Abbasid period. Murwab fort is the oldest intact fort in the country and was built over the ruins of a previous fort which was destroyed by fire. The town was the site of the first sizable settlement established off the coastal area of Qatar.
The Abbasid era resulted in substantial development for the pearling industry in Qatar. It is suggested from archaeological remains from the 9th century that greater wealth, perhaps from pearl trade, allowed Qatar’s inhabitants to build higher quality homes and public buildings. However, when the prosperity of the Abbasid caliphate declined, so too did it in Qatar.
Qatar is mentioned in 13th-century Muslim scholar Yaqut al-Hamawi’s book, Mu`jam Al-Buldan (Dictionary of Countries), which alludes to the Qataris’ fine striped woven cloaks and their skills in improvement and finishing of spears, known as khattiyah spears. The spears acquired their name as an homage to the region of Al-Khatt which encompassed present-day Qatif, Uqair and Qatar.
Post-Islamic Golden Age
Much of Eastern Arabia was controlled by the Usfurids in 1253, and then by the prince of Ormus in 1320. During this time Qatar’s pearls provided one of the mains sources of income for the kingdom. By 1521, the Portuguese seized Bahrain and mainland Qatar. The Portuguese focused on creating a commercial empire in Eastern Arabia, and exported gold, silver, silks, cloves, amber, horses and pearls. The population of Al-Hasa submitted voluntarily to the rule of the Ottomans in 1550, preferring them to the Portuguese.
After the Portuguese were expelled from the area in 1602 by the Dutch and British, the Ottomans saw little need to maintain and military presence in the Al-Hasa region. As a result, the Ottomans were expelled by the Bani Khalid in 1670.
Various other periods of Qatar up to its independence include the Al Khalifa and Saudi control (1783-1868) Ottoman Control (1871-1915), and being a British protectorate (1916-1971). The Qatar-Bahraini war occurred in the 1860s, around the tail-end of Al Khalifa control, and is a milestone in Qatar’s history. The resulting peace treaty after the war implicitly recognized the distinctness of Qatar from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Mohammed bin Thani as an important representative of the Peninsula’s tribes.
Mohammed bin Thani is best known for being the father of Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, the founder of Qatar and who fended off the Ottoman army in the late 19th century. Notable in the Battle of Al Wajbah in 1893, when Jassim bin Mohammed’s was able to defeat Ottoman forces and retrieve Qatari captives. Although Qatar did not gain full independence from the Ottoman Empire, the result of the battle forced a treaty that would later form the basis of Qatar emerging as an autonomous country separate within the empire.
Qatar declared its independence on 1 September 1971 and became an independent state on 3 September. When Ahmad bin Ali issued the formal announcement from his Swiss villa instead of from his palace in Doha, many Qataris were convinced that it was time for a change in leadership. On 22 February 1972, Khalifa bin Hamad deposed Ahmad bin Ali when he was on a hunting trip in Iran. Khalifa bin Hamad had the tacit support of the Al Thani and Britain and also had the political, financial and military support of Saudi Arabia.
In contrast to his predecessor’s policies, Khalifa bin Hamad cut family allowances and increased spending on social programs, including housing, health, education, and pensions. In addition, he filled many top government posts with close relatives. In 1993, Khalifa bin Hamad remained the Emir, but his son, Hamad bin Khalifa, the heir apparent and minister of defense, had taken over much of the day-to-day running of the country. The two consulted with each other on all matters of importance.
On 27 June 1995, deputy emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father Khalifa in a bloodless coup. An unsuccessful counter-coup was staged in 1996. The emir and his father are now reconciled, although some supporters of the counter-coup remain in prison. The emir announced his intention for Qatar to move toward democracy and permitted more liberal press and municipal elections as a precursor to expected parliamentary elections.
In June 2013, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa stepped down as emir and transferred leadership to his son and heir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is the current Emir of Qatar.