With its gorgeous shoreline and array of modern and historic attractions, the Arab country of Qatar is one of the hottest destinations in the Middle East. While you may know a little bit about the culture and luxury, here are 10 things you didn’t know about Qatar.

1. Qatar is remarkably diverse

Though Qatar has a generally Arab-Muslim identity, the culture of the country is incredibly diverse, especially in the city. People from over 100 nationalities and ethnicities live and work in Qatar. Numerous programs in the country are geared toward coexistence as well, such as the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue and the Cultural Diversity Festival in Katara. With so many influences, Qatar also works to preserve its own history and heritage with places like the National Museum of Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art.

Despite this diversity, Qatari males outnumber females 3-1. Women are politically represented in Qatar, however, with the first female judge, Sheika Maha Mansour Salman Jasim Al Thani, and 4 women on the Shura Council.

2. Qatar is a rich country

Depending on the source, Qatar is the richest or second-richest country in the world. This is typically calculated based on the gross domestic product and the purchasing-power parity per capita, which is how much money they have to burn. Many small countries, such as Qatar, find their way onto a “Richest” list due to their size, but there’s no question that Qatar has a lot of money and luxury.

3. Qatar and the U.S. are strong allies

Qatar is a firm ally of the U.S. and hosts the Al Udeid Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in the Middle East. The As Sayliyah Army Base is also in Qatar. Both countries have been strategic allies since 1972, and the U.S. Embassy opened in Doha in 1973.

Many Qatari students also study in the U.S., and 6 U.S. universities have branch campuses in the Education Complex in Qatar. These include Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Northwestern University, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. Qatar also donated millions of dollars to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

4. Some of Qatar’s best art is at the airport

In addition to museums like the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar, one of the best places to see masterpieces from local and international artists is at Hamad International Airport. In collaboration with the Qatar Museums, the airport has a vast art gallery throughout the terminal that’s designed to inspire and create interest in the local culture.

Many treasured pieces are displayed in the airport, such as “Oryx” by Tom Claassen, the “Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado” by Marc Quinn, and “Mappemondes” by Adel Abdessemed. The highlight is “Lamp Bear,” a piece by Urs Fischer that is designed to be nostalgic and remind viewers of a carefree childhood.

5. Qatar is relaxed, but some Middle Eastern rules still apply

The dress code in Qatar is generally more relaxed than in other parts of the Middle East, but there are still codes and customs to honor the local culture. Many Qatari women are traditional, but foreigners are permitted to wear modest clothing in public that covers from the shoulders to the knees. Generally, short shorts or skirts, sleeveless tops, sheer clothing, midriff-baring shirts, and spaghetti straps are not permitted. On the beach, you can wear a bikini or swimsuit, but you must cover up in public places.

There are 2 off-licenses in the whole country, both in Doha, which are run by the Qatar Distribution Company. To buy alcohol, you need a letter from your employer stating what you make each month, and you’re only allotted a certain percentage of that to buy alcohol. If you are permitted, you can also buy pork products at the off-license. If you’re going to a bar or club that serves alcohol, traditional dress is forbidden.

6. The sea is a rich resource

Qatar exports vast quantities of oil and natural gas throughout the world, and the country is the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. Though the country may be all about oil and natural gas now, the sea was once a vital resource to Qatar.

Around the eighth century, Qatar started using its position on the Persian Gulf to tap into the pearl trade. It developed over the centuries until the discovery of oil and the introduction of cultured pearls in the 20th century. This strong heritage is still celebrated by the Qatari people in the Pearl Monument sculpture and dedicated exhibits in the National Museum of Qatar and the Msheireb Museums.

7. Souq Waqif is one of the oldest markets

Souq Waqif is a popular attraction for locals and visitors in Qatar. Its name means “standing market,” which dates back over a century ago to the time when people would use the market to buy and sell fish, livestock, and textiles. Because the Gulf is so close, the water would flood the market, forcing vendors to stand. As a result, the market became known as Souq Waqif.

souq waqif

Trover Photo by Brett Steele, Souq Waqif

8. Qatar owns businesses all over the world

The Qatar Investment Authority was created to purchase businesses across the world to reduce the exposure to the oil price. It owns the U.S. embassy and Olympic village site, the Shard, and Harrods in London, Miramax Films, and over a quarter of the shares of Sainsbury’s.

9. Embroidery has a strong presence in Qatar

Needlework and embroidery are important handicrafts to Qatari people. There were no tailors in Qatar for centuries, so women learned how to sew and mend garments and traditional decorative arts like embroidery. Though there are many traditional techniques, one of the main types of embroidery used caps called gohfiahs, which were made from cotton and the thorns from palm trees. Satin stitching was also popular, which involved an artist to draw designs of flowers and birds on to the fabric to be embroidered.

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