The discovery of oil, beginning in the 1940s, completely transformed the nation's economy. Before, Qatar was a poor fishing and pearling region with widespread poverty. Now, the country has a high standard of living and all the amenities of any modern nation.
Qatar is a traditional monarchy under the rule of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Qatar has been governed by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s.
Islamic law dominates family and personal matters.
Qatari citizens do not pay income tax.
Doha (al-Dawhah), the capital, is the most important city in the country, and over half of Qataris live there. The port city of Umm Sa'id (Musa'iyd), on the east coast, is another major city. Over 90 percent of Qataris live in cities.
Nearly all Qataris are Muslim. Besides ethnic Arabs, much of the population migrated from various nations to work in the country's oil industry. Arabic is the official language, but English is widely understood.