Doha (or , literally: "the big tree") is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar. Doha is Qatar's largest city, with over 60% of the nation's population residing in Doha or its surrounding suburbs, and is also the economic centre of the country.
Doha also serves as the seat of government of Qatar, which is ruled by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Doha is home to the Education City, an area devoted to research and education. Doha was the site of the first ministerial-level meeting of the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization negotiations. The city of Doha held the 2006 Asian Games, which was the largest Asian Games ever held. Doha also hosted the 2011 Pan Arab Games and most of the games at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. Doha hosted the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations (COP 18) December 2012 and will host a large number of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The World Petroleum Council held the 20th World Petroleum Conference in Doha in December 2011.
In 1825, the city of Doha was founded under the name Al-Bidda. The name "Doha" came from the Arabic ad-dawḥa, "the big tree." The reference might be to a prominent tree that stood at the site where the original fishing village arose, on the eastern coast of the Qatar peninsula. Or it might have been derived from "dohat" — Arabic for bay or gulf — referring to the Doha Bay area surrounding Corniche. In 1825, during the war between Qatar and Bahrain, Doha had been severely damaged and Abu Dhabi was helping Bahrain. In 1882, Al Rayyan built the Al Wajbah fortress, in southwestern Doha. The following year, Sheikh Qassim bin Mohammed Al Thani led a Qatari army to victory against the Ottomans.
The city was made capital of the British protectorate of Qatar in 1916, and became the nation's capital following the independence of Qatar in 1971.
In 1917, the Al Koot Fort fortress, which is located in the center of the city, was built by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Qassim Al-Thani. Still, during the early 20th century, much of Qatar's economy depended on fishing and pearling, and Doha had about 350 pearling boats. However, after the introduction of the Japanese cultured pearls in the 1930s, the whole region, including the town of Doha, suffered a major depression and Qatar was plunged into poverty. This lasted until in the late 1930s, when oil was discovered. However, the exploration and exportation was halted due to the second world war. Today the nation as a whole produces over 800,000 barrels of oil daily. In 1969, the Government House opened. Today it is considered to be Qatar's most prominent landmark.
The first mention of Al Bidda in English sources appeared in 1765, on a rather inaccurate map by Carsten Niebhur, in which Al Bidda is referred to as Guttur. Carsten had not visited Qatar personally, and had relied on the knowledge of local Arabs and English sea captains to fill in this section of his map. In the nineteenth century, Doha was little more than a small village which was known as Al Bidda. In 1820, Major Colebrook described it thus:
"Guttur – Or Ul Budee [Al Bidda], once a considerable town, is protected by two square Ghurries near the sea shore; but containing no fresh water they are incapable of defence except against sudden incursions of Bedouins, another Ghurry is situated two miles inland and has fresh water with it. This could contain two hundred men. There are remaining at Uk Budee about 250 men, but the original inhabitants, who may be expected to return from Bahrein, will augment them to 900 or 1,000 men, and if the Doasir tribe, who frequent the place as divers, again settle in it, from 600 to 800 men."
However, the small size of the place didn't stop it from being bombarded by the British vessel Vestal in 1821, after the city had been deemed to have broken a general treaty of peace. They were bombed again in 1841 after Al-Suwaidi, the Sudanese chief who then ruled Al Bidda, was accused of habouring an outlaw, and the village was destroyed in 1847 after its leader – Bin Tarif Bin Salamah – had been killed in battle against the Al Khalifas of Bahrain near Fuweirat. These major disturbances were probably also punctuated by the customary raids of the nomadic Bedouin;]: raids which would not stop for another hundred years.
At some point after this destruction, the Al Thani family moved from Fuwairet to Al Bidda, for when the British Resident visited the village he found that Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani was now chief of Doha. Doha was now a separate village close to Al Bidda, and in between Al Bidda and Doha lay little Doha, only four hundred yards form Al Bidda. Paradoxically, the roots of its future as the capital of Qatar lay when Doha, along with Al Wakrah, were attacked again – by Bahrain in 1867, aided by Abu Dhabi. Doha and Al Wakra attempted to retaliate in a very bloody sea battle.
The British, who wished to avoid disruption to trade and were angry that the Al Khalifas of Bahrain had broken a treaty forbidding maritime warfare in the area, came to Qatar and were met by the headman of Al Bidda, Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani, on behalf of "all the Sheikhs and tribes" in the peninsula. This meeting was, eventually, to lead to Qatar becoming a nation state under the Al Thanis. For a time Ottomans took up a rather nominal control of the country, with a base in Doha, with the acquiescence of Qassim Al Thani, who wished to consolidate his control of the area. However, disagreement over tribute and interference in internal affairs arose which eventually led to battle in 1893. The Ottomans were defeated and retreated to their small fort in the centre of Doha, where they remained until they finally left during the first world war. Partly as a result of the departure of the Ottomans, Qatar was made a formal British protectorate in 1916, with Doha as its capital.
At about 1900 Doha had a population of around 12,000 and around 350 pearling boats. However, the growth of trade in cultured pearls from Japan began to impact upon the region, and this was exacerbated by the depression of the 1930s.
The exploitation of Qatar's oil reserves after the end of the second world war was to save the city, although it was to be some time before the source of their current and future wealth – natural gas – was exploited.
Buildings at the time were simple dwellings of one or two rooms, built from mud, stone and coral. However, the Amirs of Qatar were not long in exploiting the new-found wealth, and slum areas were quickly razed to be replaced by more modern buildings. As with other countries in the region, in this rush to modernize much of the country’s heritage was lost, and in Doha now there is only a single remaining wind tower. The astonishing development of Doha, and the changing shape of the bay, can be seen to this day in Qatar’s National Museum. Doha was a port of some local significance. However, the shallow water of the bay prevented bigger ships from entering the port until the 1970s, when its deep-water port was completed. Further changes followed with extensive land reclamation, which led to the crescent-shaped bay that we can see today.
In 1973, the University of Qatar opened, and in 1975 the Qatar National Museum opened in what was originally the ruler's palace in 1912. The Al Jazeera Arabic satellite television news channel began broadcasting from Doha in 1996. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani currently rules in what some consider to be Qatar's most beautiful city.
By 2010, Qatar had a population of 1,696,563, making it one of the world's fastest-developing countries.