In the Qatar peninsula, one can trace the first signs of human inhabitation way back in 4000 BC. This is apparent from the discovery of rock carvings and pottery discovered during a series of archeological expeditions from Denmark, Britain and France conducted during the 1960s and 1970s. Since Qatar appears even in many of the early maps, one can say that the travelers and the explorers of the past were aware of the civilized settlements present there. History claims that the first inhabitants of Qatar were Cannanites, a tribe known for its trade and navigation skills.
Qatar is strategically located on the Arabian Gulf. This resulted in the seasonal migration of tribes from the Arabian Peninsula. At the time when the Mediterranean region was flourishing with a number of civilizations, Qatar was enjoying commercial prosperities with exports of fish and pearls. Though there was a significant set back in the trade during the Roman era, Qatar could flourish in trade once again from the 3rd century AD.
In the mid seventh century, Qatar embraced Islam and played a major role in spreading Islam beyond the seas. Turning the pages of history, one is surprised to note the excellent track record of Qatar in the quality of weaving and cloth making and the quality of its horses and camels. During the Abbasid period, Qatar thrived well with wonderful relations with the Caliphs in Baghdad, the testimony of which is borne by the Abbasid artifacts and the architecture found in Moab Fort in western Qatar.
At the dawn of the sixteenth century, Qatar came under the influence of Portuguese who controlled the navigation and trade over the gulf region. In 1538, the Ottomans successfully expelled the Portuguese and held Qatar under their control for four centuries. However, under the directions of the Ottomans, the local sheiks could exercise their full powers.
For quite some time until 1971, Qatar remained a British protectorate. When Britain decided to withdraw from the Arabian Gulf region, the country could declare itself as a fully independent Arab nation adopting a provisional constitution. Islam became the official religion with Arab assuming the status of an official language. The Al Thani dynasty formally took charge of the ruling of the country. During this period, a large number of labour forces entered the country from other Arabian nations.
Since long, the oil reserves in Qatar were purely serving the Anglo-Dutch, French and U.S interests. In 1935, a 75 year oil concession was granted to Qatar Petroleum Company. In 1940, high-quality oil was discovered at Dukhan located on the western side of the Qatari peninsula. During 1950s and 1960s, potential oil reserves were gradually uncovered. This led to a substantially significant phase in the history of Qatar. In a momentous move, the Qatar General Petroleum Corporation took control of all the oil operations of the country. With this, Qatar swiftly entered the roads of modernization and economic prosperity. Huge revenues from Oil and natural gas have enabled Qatar one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
In 1995, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani assumed power being supported by the ruling family and the people of Qatar. His ascension marked the onset of a revolutionary era of the growth of modernization and democracy. Qatar entered the UN and the Arab League. It also established diplomatic relations with the USSR and China in 1998. The country’s constitution was approved by a democratic referendum in 2003 with a woman appointed as the cabinet minister for education. A highly commendable social and political transformation is on the way and one can hope to see Qatar emerging into limelight in the global scenario as a prosperous modern democratic nation shortly.