Doha (population 700,000) is the capital of the State of Qatar, an emirate occupying the small Qatar Peninsula bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and otherwise surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Qatar was ruled by many different powers through the centuries, in fact historians have traced human habitation dating back 5000 years. From its earliest history, Qatar was a very important trade route connecting Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Among its occupiers were the Portuguese, the Ottomans and finally the British during the turbulent years of the 20th century. Qatar gained independence in 1971, and with resources from oil exportation, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad made improvements in social programmes including education, health and housing. In 1995, his son, His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani assumed the throne and brought with him a modern and progressive approach that quickly transformed the country. Doha, home to 80 percent of the country’s population, was founded under the name of Al-Bida in 1850. It became the capital of the British protectorate of Qatar in 1916. When the nation gained its independence, Doha remained the capital. During the early 20th century, much of Qatar’s economy depended on fishing and pearling. But after the introduction of Japanese cultured pearls, Doha and the whole region suffered a decline. Only when oil was discovered, prosperity returned following World War II. Today, the country produces over 800,000 barrels of oil daily. Doha is situated halfway down the east coast of the peninsula. It is an intriguing mixture of old and new, with ultra modern architecture next to traditional souqs and historic forts. It boasts a university and the Qatar National Museum (currently closed for renovation), which opened 1975 in what was originally the ruler’s palace. As the country’s cultural and commercial centre, Doha enjoys excellent communications with the outside world through its modern seaport, airport and telephone links. The Al Jazeera Arabic satellite television news channel began broadcasting in 1996 with its headquarters in Doha. While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken. Please Note: Conservative dress is required when going ashore. As a rule, women should not wear miniskirts, shorts or sleeveless tops and men should always wear a shirt in public. Please do not photograph people without their permission, especially women.You may not take pictures of government buildings, embassies or anything military in nature, including airports.