Who are the rulers of Qatar? Learn about the country’s Emir, Prince, the difference between a Sheikh and an Emir, and who Sheikha Moza is. This article will primarily focus on the ruling Al Thani dynasty, the first and only family to lead Qatar, which has brought the country to prosperity and the status of the wealthiest in the world.

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Rulers of Qatar: General Information

Here are the main points about the rulers of Qatar:

  • Qatar is led by an Emir, who, in Islam, is the leader and inspiration of all Muslims. The Emir is the most important position in the Arab world, although some countries have a king instead, such as Saudi Arabia.
  • Qatar is an absolute monarchy, and the Emir has unlimited power in the country, only required to follow Sharia law.
Sheikh emir in qatar
Everywhere you go in Qatar, whether it’s a market, hotel, or car rental office, you will see portraits of the two previous Emirs of Qatar (father and son). We are at the bird market in the center of Doha.

Qatar has a rich history spanning over 4,000 years. However, for most of those 4,000 years, the land was ruled by invaders such as Alexander the Great, the Persian Empire, the Arab Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, and so on.

It wasn’t until 1878 that there were indications of an independent Qatar. One of the influential local families, constantly feuding with each other, was united by one of the sheikhs of the Al Thani family. He became the first Emir of the new state, which at that time was not fully independent and autonomous from its neighbors.

  • Detailed history of Qatar, only interesting facts, in the article at the link.

Interesting fact:

Since the first Emir took power in 1878, Qatar has been led only by Emirs from the Al Thani dynasty. However, the family is quite unique, and the transfer of power is not simply from father to son. Intrigues and behind-the-scenes games within the Al Thani family are at an incredible level.

What distinguishes a Sheikh of Qatar from the Emir of Qatar

Here’s a brief explanation, but I want to clarify since tourists often ask me this question. The answer is not obvious to us Europeans.

  • In the Arab world, a Sheikh is any representative of a noble and wealthy family. There are Sheikhs in every Arab country.
  • A woman can also be a Sheikh, in which case her status is called a “Sheikha”!
  • The Emir is the title of the head of state.
  • A prince, in both the Arab world and ours, is the heir to the throne if this is the form of government in the country. In Qatar, this is the case.

Good to know:

I’ll confuse you even more – every Emir is a Sheikh, but not every Sheikh is an Emir. In fact, in the Qatari government, all ministers are Sheikhs, and there are no others. Moreover, this is a normal situation when out of 10 ministerial positions in Qatar, 8 are occupied by representatives of the Al Thani family. Nepotism is a completely normal phenomenon in society here.
all about the rulers of Qatar
The former Emir of Qatar with his wife, Sheikha Moza

Another interesting point: on paper, the Emir’s successor is his eldest son from his first wife. But in practice, the Emir appoints his successor by his decree. For example, the current Emir of Qatar is just the second son of his second wife, and he was the fifth son of the previous Emir.

  • Oh, and I almost forgot, the country is Muslim, polygamy is allowed here, and each Emir has no fewer than three wives and 10 children. Everything about religion in Qatar and what every tourist will encounter.

All the Emirs of Qatar and Interesting Facts

Now I will tell you about the reigns of all the Emirs of Qatar, as well as share some interesting facts, particularly about how they came to power. You will come to realize that the Al Thani family is quite a remarkable clan. You need not remember all the names of the Emirs, except for the last two.

  • Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1878–1913)
  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1913-1914). He had 26 children. He ruled for only 10 months and abdicated in favor of his own brother. History remains silent on whether it was a coup or his personal decision. But he could have passed the throne to any of his 15 sons.
  • Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1914-1949). He was the only Emir who voluntarily transferred power to his eldest son, as prescribed by the rules.
  • Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1949-1960). He was overthrown as a result of popular unrest and a coup d’état. He was succeeded by his son.
  • Sheikh Ahmad bin Ali Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1960-1972). Another coup, and yet another Emir deposed. This time it was his second cousin who did the deed.

If you think that’s just the family, read on. The most interesting parts are yet to come.

first emir of qatar
Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1913-1914) – the second Emir of Qatar and the first to have a photo. During the reign of the previous Emir, there were no cameras in Qatar.
  • Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1972-1995). When the Emir went on a visit to Switzerland in 1995, his eldest son seized power in a palace coup.

But the story didn’t end there. While in Switzerland, the father was able to retain access to all his bank accounts in Swiss banks, but he could not return to Qatar.

In 1996, he attempted a failed counter-coup. As a result of the purge, all 120 accomplices received life sentences, and 19 were executed. After his unsuccessful attempt to regain power, his son Hamad only strengthened his grip on power.

Interesting fact:

Emir Hamad, who led Qatar from 1995 to 2013, only allowed his father to return to his homeland in 2004. Prior to that, the former Emir of Qatar lived in exile. He died in Qatar in 2016.
  • Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (1995-2013). Emir Hamad had three wives and 25 children. He is known for having brought Qatar to the heights it now enjoys.
rulers of qatar emir hamad
Emir Hamad, the husband of Sheikha Moza and father of the current Emir, relinquished his power in 2013.

Here are some important facts about Emir Hamad:

  1. His reign was marked by a plethora of humanitarian and charitable programs, all of which were overseen by his second wife, Sheikha Moza.
  2. In 2005, his eldest son from Sheikha Moza (an important distinction as Hamad had sons from his first wife) quickly began to gain influence and power. Hamad was fearful of repeating his father’s fate of being overthrown by his own son, and his eldest son was forced by sheer force to relinquish any future claims to the throne.
  3. In 2013, Hamad voluntarily transferred power to his second son from Sheikha Moza, Tamim.

Thus, since 2013, Qatar has been led by Emir Tamim bin Hamad. His father, the former Emir, is alive and residing in his palace in Doha.

Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad
The Emir of Qatar is Tamim, son of Hamad. Portraits of him and his father hang in every establishment throughout the country.
  • Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar (2013–present).

Sheikh Tamim is just over 40 years old. He has three wives and 10 children. He is one of the youngest Emirs in the Arab world and one of the richest. In 2013, when he became the Emir, he was just over 30. He probably does not plan to transfer his power for the next 10-20 years. However, time will tell as the Al Thani family knows how to take power by force.

Sheikha Moza

Moza deserves a separate huge article. This woman is phenomenal in all her manifestations. I won’t reprint her biography, I’ll tell you why she’s so famous and popular today, not just in Qatar, and what power she has.

Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned:

The second wife of Emir Hamad, the penultimate Emir of Qatar, mother of the current Emir Tamim. 5 children.
about Sheikha Moza
Sheikha Moza is the mother of the current Emir.

In 1995, when Sheikh Hamad became the Emir of Qatar, she was already his second wife. Her ability to conduct business, negotiate and organize all processes were highly appreciated. It is said that she had a great influence on her husband and could resolve any state issue as she saw fit. Since 1995, her power in the country (although shadowy) has been unlimited. Here are some interesting facts for you:

  • In all foreign visits, in all meetings with heads of state, including the Queen of Great Britain, and the President of the United States, Moza participates, not the first wife. Due to Moza’s influence, the first wife of the Emir simply retreated into the shadows.
  • The eldest son from the first wife is supposed to become the Emir. Hamad has 3 sons from his first wife. But if you have read his story above, you know that his eldest son from Moza was the first to claim the Emir’s throne, and after the palace wars, his second son from Moza, Tamim, became the Emir. Who do you think made Tamim the Emir of Qatar, and why not the sons from the first wife?

However, alongside this, Sheikha Moza actively started engaging in humanitarian issues and charity work. Tens of billions of dollars have been allocated to help the underprivileged all over the world, with specific programs that yield real results, rather than just transferring money to the Red Cross.

After her husband, Qatar’s Emir Hamad, abdicated in 2013, her middle son Tamim took power, and Moza’s influence multiplied several-fold. It is said that Tamim does not make any decisions without his mother’s approval.

In summary, Sheikha Moza was a very influential woman during her husband’s reign, and her power has since multiplied many times over. Qataris adore her, as she is not only a strong leader but also genuinely involved in charitable work. She is an icon of style and fashion, and all the world’s top fashion houses, from Valentino to Gucci, want to work with her and line up for the opportunity.

Sheikha Moza
She is a true style icon, yet also a Muslim woman who adheres to all the traditions of the Muslim world. You will not find a single photo of her without a headscarf.

Today, Sheikha Moza is considered by all global ratings to be the most influential woman in the entire Arab world. She is an icon of style and an absolute authority in Qatari society, having received an education from some of the best universities in the United States. World leaders listen to her opinions, if they listen to anyone at all.

What’s most surprising is that she has maintained her influence for 30 years, despite her husband having been “retired” for 10 years. Such individuals are rare in the Al Thani family, and they are usually quickly removed from power in the corridors of Doha’s palaces.

  • If you’re planning a trip to Doha, be sure to read up on the language in Qatar, the minimum vocabulary necessary for tourists, and English in the country. This will help you with communication.

In conclusion, I hope that this complex topic about the Rulers of Qatar has become a bit clearer for tourists. There’s no need to memorize names and reign years, but knowing that the country is ruled by an Emir with unlimited power will be useful. A state coup is a normal way to transfer power to one’s son :), and of course, you’ve learned about Sheikha Moza – the most influential woman in the entire Arab world.

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