Qatar inherited a Bedouin culture, similar to that of other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, and its influence is still evident in Qatari society. Because they were nomads, the Bedouin developed a culture based on oral poetry, song and dance. Recently the country has caught the development bug, with Doha becoming a fledging metropolis, this is sure to continue until the Football World Cup in 2022.
The British controlled Qatar from the nineteenth century, as it was an important stop-off point on the way to India, although later their interest increased once oil was discovered in the region. The state only gained independence in 1971. Qatar is currently ruled by the Ath-Thani family, an absolute monarchy, which has been ruling the state in some form since 1825. The current Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has invested heavily in the promotion of culture in the region, as a means of furthering Qatar's influence and profile overseas, and offering a counterpoint to the often biased focus of Western media.
According to most estimates, only 20 percent of the population are Qatari, with the remainder being foreign workers, mostly from India and Pakistan. Hence, in addition to Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Hindi are also common languages. Theatre has been the major literary form in Qatar since 1952. Abdel Rahman al-Mannai is a Qatari playwright and the author of Umm Zinn (The Most Beautiful), a play in the Qatari dialect. Historians and travellers have marked the fame and outstanding bravery of the Qatari poet Ibn al-Fujaah.
The music of Qatar follows the traditional Arabic mode, very often elaborate and repetitive. It is played on the ‘Oud’ (older version of the lute) and the ‘Rebaba’ (a one-stringed instrument), and is based on Bedouin poetry, song and dance. Traditional dances in Doha are performed on Friday afternoons, usually accompanied by percussion instruments such as the Al-ras drum, tambourines and cymbals. Khaleeji is a style of Persian Gulf folk music, strongly influenced by African music, popularly played in Qatar. This music dominates the airwaves in the capital Doha as well as in the rest of the country.