by Oliver Smith, The Telegraph, December 19, 2017
It's Qatar National Day, a commemoration of the country's unification in 1878. Here are a few facts for your enjoyment…
1. It is the richest country on the planet
Qatar’s per capita GDP is $127,600, according to the International Monetary Fund. That’s some way ahead of Luxembourg, in second place, with $104,003. Having the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves and oil reserves, despite being geographically smaller than Yorkshire, certainly helps.
2. And possesses the world’s greatest airline
Qatar Airways recently supplanted Emirates to claim the title of best carrier at the annual World Airline Awards. It is the fourth time Qatar Airways has claimed the top prize, having won in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
3. But it has been hit by a diplomatic crisis
Several Gulf states cut off all ties with Qatar earlier this year after claiming it funds and supports international terrorism. So not only has Qatar Airways been banned from flying to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, it has also been banned from entering the airspace of those nations. That means circuitous routes to dozens of destinations, longer journey times for travellers and a spike in its fuel bill. Flights to Lagos, Nigeria, for example, now begin in an easterly direction...
...while trips to Tunis must go north, via Turkey and Greece.
4. It belches out more CO2 per capita than any other country
That’s 35.73 tonnes a year, which puts it just ahead of Curacao and Latvia. Running an oil-rich and futuristic metropolis on the edge of the desert isn’t synonymous with ecology, it would seem.
5. But it’s the safest on Earth
Risk averse? Qatar is the country where a natural disaster is least likely to strike. The most dangerous? Vanuatu, followed by Tonga and the Philippines.
6. It’s no good for lofty views
There are no hills in Qatar. In fact, the country’s average elevation is just 28 metres. Only the Maldives nestles closer to the sea.
7. Except from its skyscrapers
The Aspire Tower is the tallest of Qatar’s. Like most things, it is found in the capital, Doha, and has an observation deck on the 62nd storey.
8. It has a gigantic Nobu
There are a remarkable 36 branches of Nobu, and its Doha outlet is one of the biggest: 26,000 square feet, to be precise. It sits on the water at the Four Seasons hotel.
9. Or else there’s a 100-metre buffet
For sheer gluttony, the Doha Marriott has a 100-metre buffet, offering everything from a full English to sushi and tacos.
10. It has a weight problem
Which won’t surprise you after learning about that giant buffet. Qatar is one of the 20 most obese nations, according to the CIA's World Factbook, even trumping the US for portliness.
11. Men outnumber women. By a lot
There are two men for every woman in Qatar. Why? Because it’s a land built by immigrants, most of whom are young and male (and are probably helping to build a stadium for the 2022 World Cup right now).
12. Everyone lives in the city
It is also one of the most urbanised places in the world, with 99 per cent of residents counting themselves as town or city dwellers. Only a handful of territories, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Bermuda, can top it.
13. There are no trees
There are four countries with no forest whatsoever, according to the World Bank's definition: San Marino, Qatar, Greenland and Oman.
14. But there’s art
“The Museum of Islamic Art is one of Doha’s biggest draws, and the building itself, designed by Chinese architect I M Pei (who created the Louvre’s glass pavilion), is the most striking in the city,” says Telegraph Travel's Annabelle Thorpe in her guide to the city. “Inside, the vast space is a clever mix of New York’s Guggenheim and Istanbul’s Yeni Camii mosque. The space means exhibits are given room to breathe, and the lighting creates a lovely sense of peace and escape, particularly when it is 50C outside.”
15. And its airport has a giant teddy
Lamp Bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer sits inside Hamad International Airport and is “a playful piece that humanises the space around it and reminds travellers of childhood or precious objects from home,” apparently. It cost $6.8m.
16. An influx of Welsh visitors is expected
Fun-loving, down-to-earth Cardiff couldn’t be more different from futuristic, oil-rich Doha. But from May 2018, the two cities will be linked with a daily flight, courtesy of Qatar Airways. Do the rugby-mad residents of the Welsh capital long to explore the souks and skyscrapers of Doha? Are Qatari businesses itching to invest in South Wales? The chief executive of Qatar Airways (Akbar Al Bakerm) thinks so – but is facing stern opposition from inside his own company. The chief executive recently admitted that he has come under pressure to ditch the plans, with colleagues suggesting the demand simply isn’t there. But he is adamant it will be a success.