Vibrant, evolving, innovative and exciting are just some of the ways people describe Qatar. A blend of business sense, family values, cutting-edge technology, multiculturalism and traditional principles makes Qatar truly unique.

Qatar's population is young with more than 70 per cent under the age of 30, which adds to Qatar's dynamism, energy and enthusiasm to evolve. Qatar is the first Arab Gulf country to grant women the right to vote and here women are academics, entrepreneurs and leaders. With an increasingly educated, well-travelled and worldly population, Qataris are in the business of building bridges across cultural and geographical boundaries.

Qataris are now harnessing natural resources and human potential to transform their society into one of educational, technological, sustainable and commercial excellence. Qatar welcomes ideas and innovations that help the nation tackle complex issues. It is in this spirit of openness and exchange that Qatar has defined its role and its objectives for the future.

Qatar National Vision 2030 was developed with the aim of achieving sustained development and economic progress for the nation. The document, produced by Qatar's General Secretariat for Development Planning and published in 2008, outlines a comprehensive framework for Qatar's way forward. The plan rests on four pillars: environmental, human, social and economic development.

A key objective is the transformation of Qatar from a carbon-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. In keeping with this vision and spearheaded by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, Qatar is investing enormous resources into education, science and research initiatives.

The country's local population has welcomed more than a million foreign guests – residents who, under Qatari patronage are assisting the nation in its transformation.

Doha is also a prominent cultural center, with outstanding museums, an annual film festival, classical and contemporary music and a growing role as a sporting nation, who is proud to host the football World Cup in 2022.

The People
There are approximately three million people living in Qatar. More than half of the population lives in the capital city, Doha. Three-quarters of the Qatari population are Muslim, while the remaining population practice a variety of other religions. The official language is Arabic, although English is commonly spoken. Over the years, the thriving economy has attracted a large number of expatriates, particularly from neighboring Arab states.

Since the mid-1800s, Qatar has grown from a poor British protectorate known for its pearling industry into one of the world's most important oil and gas producing countries. While there is increasing investment in non-energy sectors, oil and gas still account for more than half of the nation's gross domestic product. Due to oil and gas, the country now boasts one of the highest incomes per capita in the world.

Qatar occupies a peninsula that is approximately 100 kilometers wide and extends 200 kilometers into the Arabian Gulf. It also includes several gulf islands. Qatar shares its southern border with Saudi Arabia and a maritime border with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The land of Qatar is mainly flat, covered in sand and gravel. As a result, most development is along the coast.

Information above: http://portal.www.gov.qa/wps/portal/about-qatar http://www.cop18.qa/en-us/exploreqatar/practicalinformation.aspx

Qatar is an arid country characterized by its hot humid summers and mild winters. Temperatures in the summer can rise to 50°C and winter temperatures can vary between 7°C and 24°C.

Qatar's official currency is the Qatari Riyal (QR); $1 is equal to about QR3.64. Most major international credit cards such as Visa, Master Card and American Express are widely accepted and ATMs are readily available. Bank hours are 7.30am–1.30pm, Sunday to Thursday, with some branches open all day in shopping centers. Banking and foreign exchange facilities are readily available at the Qatar National Convention Centre and some major hotels.

Business hours
Qatar local time is three hours ahead of GMT. The working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday forming the weekend. The work hours of ministries, government offices and institutions are from 7am–2pm, Sunday to Thursday. Malls in Doha tend to be open all day between 10am and 10pm. The opening hours of commercial establishments and other smaller stores vary, but are generally between 8.30am–12.30pm and 4pm–9pm. Some do not open at all on Fridays, while others open for a few hours early in the morning and re-open in the late afternoon. Most malls and shopping centers only open around 4pm on this day.

Local customs and visitor advice
Qatar is proud of its hospitality and has a tradition of welcoming visitors from across the globe. In addition to its wealth of culture and heritage, Doha is an exceptionally safe and diverse city to explore. Understanding the country's local customs is the best way to avoid any misunderstanding and ensure that you enjoy a smooth trip. More information can be found at: http://www.qatartourism.gov.qa/en-US/aboutqatar/ThingsYouShouldKnow.aspx

In public, you will see most forms of Western and Arabian attire. Qataris, however, value modest dress sense and, to avoid offence, visitors are asked to follow a few basic guidelines. Shorts and skirts should be below the knee and shirts, tops and t-shirts should cover the shoulders and upper arms. Swimwear is acceptable at hotel beaches and swimming pools, but visitors are asked to dress appropriately while in public areas. The weather is cool during the winter months, so it may be advisable to bring some warmer clothing for chilly evenings and air-conditioned malls.

Qatar has an open-minded attitude to the world, but some forms of behavior considered normal in other parts of the world may be frowned upon here. Out of respect for residents, public displays of affection are considered inappropriate. Men should not approach traditionally dressed Qatari women for cultural reasons. Qatar has an exceptionally low crime rate but should you need to contact the emergency services please dial 999.

Picturesque Doha and the surrounding country provide for excellent photography opportunities, from the futuristic skyline of the West Bay, the sweeping Doha Corniche, to the majestic sand dunes and mangroves a short drive from the city. However, there are some areas where it is inappropriate and, in some cases, illegal to take pictures. Out of respect, Qatari families should not be photographed without their permission. Permission should be sought before taking photographs of government and military buildings, industrial complexes, members of the military and police. If you are unsure whether it is appropriate to take a photograph, always ask.

Alcohol and Drugs
In Qatar alcoholic drinks can be bought with or without food in specific hotel bars and restaurants. However, outside these venues alcohol can be bought only with a resident's permit. You are not permitted to bring alcohol into the country. As in all societies, there is a zero tolerance policy on drink driving and drug use.

Getting around
For taxis, the metered 'Karwa' taxis generally offer the lowest fares. Be sure to ask your driver to turn on the meter, which will normally start at QR4 or QR25 from the airport. The minimum fare is QR10, with rates varying from the cheaper day time rate (rate 1 on the meter) and the night time rate (rate 2). Many hotels offer limousine services, which will be more expensive.

Rental cars are also available starting from around $150 a week. Gas is inexpensive in Qatar, so for those planning a lot of driving this can sometimes be a cheaper and more convenient alternative to taxis. You can use your international driving license for seven consecutive days from the date of your arrival in Qatar, after which you must apply for a temporary driving license at the Traffic Department of the Ministry of Interior.

The two mobile phone providers for Qatar are Ooredoo and Vodafone. You can buy a prepaid SIM card from the airport or from any of their stores for around QR50 by completing a registration form and presenting your passport. This should allow you to call internationally. Alternatively, travellers with international roaming may connect via these service providers for calls and text messages. The country code for Qatar is 974.

Places to stay
A wide variety of accommodation is found in Doha, from two- to five-star hotels, through to villas and serviced apartments. A range of hotels are located within Doha Central with many across the West-Bay district and Souk Waqif area downtown. The West-Bay and Souk Waqif accommodations are all in short walking distance to a range of services and attractions.