Masters of the pearl: Understanding Qatar critically

Written By: James M Dorsey
Washington Published: Nov 05, 2020, 10:37 PM(IST)

Qatar's flag (file photo). Photograph:( Reuters )

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Michael Quentin Morton, author of nine books on the Gulf and oil, brings an understanding of Qatari history to the table based on extensive research and the fact that he lived in Qatar and UAE at a young age

History is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of young, energy-rich monarchies of the Gulf that often punch above their weight in geopolitics and geoeconomics. Yet, that is the rich, mostly unknown story of Qatar that Michael Quentin Morton tells in his book, Masters of the Pearl: A History of Qatar (Reaktion Books, 2020).

It is a story that sheds light on a country that is ruled by an autocratic family that has wielded power for centuries and that frequently dominates headlines with its grand and often controversial ambitions, including its hosting of the 2022 World Cup, as well as its predicaments, controversies, and idiosyncrasies. Michael Quentin Morton, author of nine books on the Gulf and oil, brings an understanding of Qatari history to the table based on extensive research and the fact that he lived in Qatar and UAE at a young age. His father worked there as a Geologist.

Morton puts into perspective Qatar’s differences with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that exploded in 2017 with the imposition of a diplomatic and economic boycott that its detractors unsuccessfully hoped would force Qatar to fall into line with their designs for the Gulf and the Middle East at large. Morton draws the reader in by weaving a well-written tale of tribal intrigue, regional and historic animosities, and big power rivalry.

It is a history that on the one hand illustrates the forces that have shaped Qatar and other Gulf states and on the other describes how much the region has and is changing as the result of economic and social development and wealth garnered from oil and gas. Masters of the Pearl constitutes a critical, yet compassionate contribution to an understanding of a small state that manages to punch above its weight and the stormy winds that it attracts.

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer)

James M Dorsey

James M Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and commentator on foreign affairs who has covered ethnic and religious conflict and terrorism across the globe for more than three decades.
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