qatarfeb10010-2-238x300On October 17, The World Affairs Council of Charlotte welcomed Diana Untermeyer, author of “Qatar: Sand, Seas and Sky”, for an overview of Qatar’s rich history, culture, and its transformation into a rising political and economic power in the Middle East.

Diana Untermeyer lived in Doha, Qatar, from 2004 to 2007 while her husband, Chase Untermeyer, served as U.S. ambassador. In her opening remarks, Untermeyer begins her conversation with some of the reasons why Qatar is a “must-watch” nation in the region. From transfers of power to wealth of natural gas, Qatar has seen tremendous growth. The Qatar we know today was born in 1995, when “Father Emir” overthrew his father. Father Emir transformed Qatar from a small country, easily overlooked, into a nation on the forefront redefining the Middle East. Father Emir was an egalitarian and known for honoring the successes of others.

For the ones who are not familiar with Qatar, there are several things that might catch one off guard. Qatar now has the highest income per capita in the world with petroleum being a cornerstone of its economy. Although, the major religion is Islam, there is a small community of Christians. Qatar has maintained an open foreign policy and recognizes the importance of foreign relations by being a neutral player in the international market. In 2010, Qatar won the bid for the FIFA World Cup 2022, making it the first Arab state to host this event. Qatar is a vital strategic partner of the U.S. in the Middle East, where the U.S. has an army base.

With tremendous and rapid growth comes challenges. Native Qataris are concerned for their culture. The local citizen population, fewer than 250,000, has been vastly outnumbered compare to the total population of 1,800,000. Debates are also taking place around the country about the education system, raising concerns about the best methods to foster critical skills in the youth to prepare them for the future.

The tremendous economical and social growth Qatar has seen over the years, and its progressive move towards democracy have made this nation an emerging player in the international arena.

Summary by Michael Mendoza, UNC Charlotte (WAC Charlotte Intern – Fall 2013)