The State of Qatar occupies a low,barren peninsula which juts out from the Arabian peninsula into the Gulf. The land is mostly stony desert, with some barren salt flats. There is a lack of freshwater supplies and much of the drinking water is distilled sea water, produced in desalination plants.

Qatar became independent in 1971 when it chose not to unite with the United Arab Emirates. In 1982, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE united to form the Gulf Co-operation Council, which is concerned with such matters as defence and economic development. In 1995, Qatar signed a security pact with the United States. A bloodless coup also occurred in 1995, when the heir apparent Sheik Hamad deposed his father.

The high standard of living in Qatar derives from oil revenue, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s export revenues. Money from oil sales have been used to diversify the economy. Industries have been set up, while wells have been dig to develop agriculture. The economy is heavily dependent on an immigrant workforce, notably from the Indian subcontinent and poor states in southwestern Asia.