Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy by Al Thani family since the mid-19th century. Formerly a British protectorate noted mainly for pearling, it became independent in 1971, and has become one of the region's wealthiest states due to its enormous oil and natural gas revenues.
Qatar has the world's highest GDP per capita and proven reserves of oil and natural gas, and in 2010 the economy grew by 19%, the fastest in the world. The main drivers for this rapid growth are attributed to ongoing increases in production and exports of liquefied natural gas, oil, petrochemicals, and related industries.
Qatar has the second-highest human development in the Arab World after the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar is a peninsula located halfway down the west coast of the Arabian Gulf. Its territory comprises a number of islands including Halul, Sheraouh, Al-Ashat and others.
The terrain is flat and rocky with some low-rising limestone outcrops in Dukhan area in the west and Jabal Fiwairit in the north.
It is characterized by a variety of geographical phenomena including many coves, inlets, depressions and surface rainwater-draining basins known as riyadh (the gardens), which are found mainly in the north and central part of the peninsula. These areas have the most fertile soil and are rich in vegetation.