Qatar is a small peninsula, about twice the size
of Prince Edward Island, that juts into the Persian Gulf from the Arabian
Peninsula. To the southeast is the United Arab Emirates and to the
southwest is Saudi Arabia. Less than 30 km to the west, across the Gulf
of Bahrain (an arm of the Persian Gulf), lies the island country of
Qatar includes Halul, an island 90 kilometres off the east coast, which is used as an oil-processing, storage and export terminal. The Hawar Islands off the west coast are the subject of an ownership dispute between Qatar and Bahrain. Most of Qatar's population lives in Doha, the capital city, located on the east coast of the peninsula.
Qatar is generally flat and rocky, but in the
southeast, sand dunes rise to about 40 metres above sea level. Salt
flats are common in the coastal areas. The peninsula lies in the path
of strong prevailing southeasterly winds and many of its features have
been formed by wind erosion.
Qatar has a warm climate with hot summers and mild winters. In the summer, which lasts from May to September, the temperature ranges from 25 to 45°C, and may sometimes rise as high as 50°C. The high humidity (up to 90%) can make the atmosphere feel even hotter. The winter months (December through February) are cooler and less humid. There is some rainfall in winter and sudden storms in December and January can close many of Qatar's roads, but, in general, the country receives little rain. In spring, sandstorms are common.
Because of the limited rainfall, there is little natural vegetation. The desert blooms for a few days after a shower, but usually it is dry and brown. What little agriculture is practised in the country relies on irrigation. Even date palms require frequent watering. A few underground wells provide water for irrigation in the central part of the peninsula, but most water comes from desalination plants, which extract fresh water from seawater.
The desert environment supports grasshoppers,
crickets, scorpions, lizards, geckos and birds. In earlier times,
herds of Arabian oryx (an antelope-like animal) roamed the countryside,
using the oases as places to breed and settle. Today the oryx is only
found in captivity, but the government has started a program of
breeding and conservation.