Qatar is, undeniably, one of the world’s emerging countries. Nestled on a peninsula jutting precariously from Saudi Arabia, Qatar is a tiny country with near untold riches.
For much of its history, Qatar has been neutral, more favorable in issues regarding trade than geography or any other. For centuries, the country was dominated by empires, first the Ottomans then – most notably – the British.
The British sought to use the country as a intermediate point for ships traveling between their far-flung colonial conquests. During this time, the Al Khalifa clan ruled in the stead of the British from the island of Bahrain in the West. Naturally, resentment grew and rebels began to challenge the Al Khalifa clan for power. In reply, the Al Khalifa’s sent a naval force to Wakrah, destroying the rebels in a massive demonstration of power. Unfortunately, this aggressive military act violated the 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty. In response the British censured Bahrain for its breach of the agreement, and the British Protectorate requested an emissary from Qatar.
This request gave tacit approval to the rebellion and solidified Qatar as distinct from Bahrain. The Al Thanis – the family that continues to rule to this day – were chosen to be the emissaries and though the region did not become an official protectorate until 1916, their sense of statehood was formed.
In the nearly 70 years following the discovery of oil in Qatar, the country has enjoyed a standard of living akin to that of the world’s economic powers. Further, because of the massive influx of capital and especially appealing tax structures, the country has become a major player in many of the most profitable industries. The country is home to the Al Jazeera television station and played stage to the 2006 Asian Games.
While in Qatar the discerning traveler must visit the Four Seasons Hotel in Doha. The hotel offers the perfect amount of elegant hospitality and unobtrusive service. In a post on TripAvisor.com, a visitor said of the resort:
Stayed at the Four Seasons Doha for a week in Feb with my wife and 5 year old son, absolutely fabulous.
We have stayed in many top notch hotels previously but never have so many staff greeted me by name. Service was impeccable.
Room had great view overlooking the beach, only slight niggle was that our room had an adjoining door to the next room which didn’t seem to block any noise whatsoever so when occupied was like being in the room with them. Luckily it was only occupied for two of the seven nights.
Buffet breakfast was good, restaurants looked good but did not experience.
Kids club was also very good, our son spent an hour or so each day there voluntarily and could have happily stayed longer. Good staff (according to my wife who has managed day nurseries for many years).
Having not stayed at any of the other Doha hotels I cannot compare but I have no reason to consider staying anywhere else in Doha if I visit again.
The world class lodgings are not the only draw to Qatar. Built in December of 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, is one of the world’s most thorough collections of Islamic artifacts. In his usual dramatic fashion, Mr. Pei designed the building to contrast with the majestic and lavish buildings surrounding it. Instead of striking into the night sky, the building simply rises with an understated grandeur.
Further, in a show of surprisingly careful consideration, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – chairman of the museum’s board – requested that the museum be built on a private island so as not to be hemmed in by the country’s many construction projects. Housed in the museum are artifacts from: Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and Central Asia all countries and regions fundamentally changed by Islam.
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