Qatar is a sovereign country located in Southwest Asia. It is situated on the Qatar Peninsula, which in turn is on the Arabian Peninsula. The country shares a land border with Saudi Arabia, and its coast borders on the Persian Gulf. Qatar also shares maritime borders with Iran and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar has a hot and dry subtropical climate. Summers are extremely hot, with temperatures peaking around 42 degrees Celsius, and temperatures as high as 50 degrees a relatively common phenomenon. Winter temperatures are warm, typically around 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. The country sees little rainfall, and what does occur is almost all during the winter months.
Qatar is mostly known in the Western world for its great wealth: its citizens have approximately as much purchasing power as those of the UK and the US combined. This is largely the result of the country’s large reserves of oil and natural gas.
Qatar is still a country in the middle of a massive transition, however, as the discovery of much of these reserves is still relatively recent. As a result there is an enormous wealth gap between rich and poor, and human rights groups are concerned about the possible exploitation of the thousands of migrant labourers emigrating from countries nearby, particularly after rumours of the deaths of migrant workers involved in building stadiums for the country, which plans to host the World Cup in 2022.
From 224 CE the Iranian Sasanian Empire ruled the region, until after Arab-led Muslim conquest around the 7th century, the Sasanian Empire fell into decline. Qatar established a reputation for horse and camel breeding during the Middle Ages, and was variously under Arab and Persian rule during this era.
For much of the 18th century the country was under Bahraini rule, until the ruling Qatari tribe submitted to Ottoman rule in 1871. After Ottoman rule declined, Qatar became a British protectorate in 1916.
In 1971 the country gained independence, and is now a fully self-governing constitutional monarchy. With the world’s third-largest reserves of oil and natural gas, Qatar also has the world’s highest per capita income, and although it is a geographically small country, it wields considerable power both in the Arab world and globally.
With just 21 species of mammal and 21 of reptiles, most of Qatar’s diversity is in its birds and fish, along with around 300 wild plant species. Although vegetation is very sparse, some plants have adapted to the harsh desert landscape, and the country is not entirely barren. One common species is the Arabian boxthorn, or desert thorn, which has thin leaves and spines, and in the short growing season has tiny pink flowers and edible berries. The most common tree is the umbrella thorn Acacia, which can grow up to 21 metres tall, but in dry climates tends to be limited in size.
Just one mammal is native to Qatar—the Arabian gazelle, which locally is known as the rheem. Native birds include the ostrich, pelican, flamingo, and two species of bee-eater.
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