What is the terrain and geography like in Qatar?
Of the islands belonging to Qatar, Halul is the most
Lying about ninety kilometers east of Doha. A permanently settled island, is an important storage center and tanker terminal for three offshore oil fields. Hawar and the adjacent islands
the west coast are the subject of a territorial dispute
Qatar and Bahrain.
The capital, Doha, is located on the central east coast
sweeping (if shallow) harbor. Other ports include Umm
Khawr, and Al Wakrah. Only Doha and Umm Said are capable
handling commercial shipping, although a large port and a
terminal for loading natural gas are planned at Ras
of Al Khawr. Coral reefs and shallow coastal waters make
navigation difficult in areas where channels have not been
The port of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is about 150 nautical miles southeast. The vast Rub' al-Khali Desert, one of the largest and driest deserts in the world, lies below Abu Dhabi and extends to Qatar's southern border.
The nearest seaward neighbor is Bahrain to the north. Although Bahrain's capital, Manama, is 100 miles from Doha, only 20 miles separate the two countries at the narrowest part of the channel that runs between them into the Gulf of Salwa.
The eastern (Iranian) shore of the Gulf is 120 miles beyond Qatar's northern tip. The nearest Iranian port, Busheir, lies about 250 miles east of Doha. The Iraqi port of Basra, on the northern shore of the Gulf, is 350 miles away. The southern Strait of Hormuz, 310 miles from Doha, provides access to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Thus, Qatar occupies a central position in the Arabian Gulf.
The overall outline of the peninsula was not defined on European maps until well into the 19th century, though Karsten Niebugh briefly described the peninsula in his Voyage en Arabie, published in Switzerland in 1780. The historical appearance of Qatari place-names on European maps suggests strongly that, until recent times, international navigators were familiar only with the northern end of the country and the eastern pearling banks.
Qatar's terrain is monotonously flat, except for the Dukhan anticline in the west and some low rock outcroppings at the northern end of the east coast. Blown sand covers much of the south, and shifting dunes predominate in the southeast. The Dukhan anticline rises from the west coast as a chain of separate hills of up to 325 feet in height, about 35 miles long and 3-5 miles wide, covering the country's onshore oil fields.
Natural vegetation, including semipermanent pasture, is limited to areas surrounding wells, depressions, and short drainage courses active only after the winter rains. Most flora is confined to the northern half of the country. Elsewhere only sparse patches of camel thorn and isolated datepalm plantations relieve the featureless terrain.
The coastline is uneven and rises gently on both sides of the peninsula. Sandy reefs abound in the surrounding shallows. Extensive salt flats at the landward end of the peninsula, between Salwa on the west coast and Khor al-Odeid in the east, support the local belief that Qatar was once an island, separated from what is now the Saudi Province of al-Hasa.