Qatar, once one of the poorest Gulf states, is one of the richest countries in the region today.
Qatar is using income from its large gas reserves to bankroll its regional and global ambitions, including winning a controversial bid to host the 2022 Football World Cup.
Not all of its regional interventions are popular with other Arab leaders, such as its support for the Palestinian Hamas faction in Gaza and Islamist groups in Egypt and Syria. In 2017 Saudi Arabia led efforts to cut the country off to force it to abandon its alleged support for radical and Islamist groups.
It also faces problems at home. Oil money funds an all-embracing welfare state, with many services free or heavily subsidised, but the treatment of migrant workers is frequently criticized by rights groups.
Emir: Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani took over from his father in a peaceful transfer of power in June 2013.
Like his father, he was educated in Britain: he went to Sherborne school in Dorset and Sandhurst, the British military academy.
Sheikh Tamim has made diversifying the economy and investing in the national infrastructure a priority, but much of his tenure has been dominated by tension with Qatar's Gulf Arab neighbours over the country's support for radical and Islamist groups, and its efforts to maintain good relations with Iran.
Influential pan-Arab and international TV broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the government, has raised Qatar's media profile.
But Al-Jazeera and the domestic media avoid criticism of the state and government.
The level of internet use is very high. The authorities filter online content deemed offensive to Islam or pornographic.
Some key dates in Qatar's history:
1825 - Al-Thani dynasty establishes control over Qatar, which tries to establish independence from Bahraini suzerainty.
1871 - The Al-Thanis submit to Ottoman overlordship.
1916 - Deal signed under which Britain controls Qatar's external affairs in return for guaranteeing its protection.
1939 - Oil reserves discovered. Exploitation is delayed by Second World War, but oil comes to replace pearling and fishing as Qatar's main source of revenue.
1971 - Qatar achieves full independence from Britain.
1996 - Qatar sets up international Al-Jazeera TV, which changes the face of Arab broadcasting.
2005 June - Qatar's first written constitution comes into effect, providing for some democratic reforms.
2017 June - Diplomatic crisis as Saudi Arabia launches Arab transport blockade in an attempt to get Qatar to cut its connections with radical and Islamist groups, and distance itself from Iran. The crisis ended in January 2021 following a resolution between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.