Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani became the new Emir of the State of Qatar on June 26, 1995, continuing the rule of the Al-Thani family that began nearly two centuries ago.
Sheikh Hamad was acclaimed Crown Prince in 1977 and at the same time was appointed Minister of Defense. In the early 1980's he led the Supreme Planning Council, which sets the Qatar's basic economic and social policies. Since 1992, Sheikh Hamad has selected Qatar's cabinet and been responsible for administering the country's day-to-day affairs. He has also led the development of Qatar's oil and natural gas resources.
Sheikh Hamad, who was born in 1952, began his education in Qatar and attended Sandhurst Military Academy in England. Upon his graduation in 1971, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Qatari armed forces and commanded the 1st Mobile Battalion, which has since been designated the "Hamad Mobile Battalion" in his honor.
His Highness Sheikh HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI
Sheikh Hamad was later promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed Commander in Chief of the Qatari Armed Forces. He oversaw an extensive program to modernize Qatar's military, increasing manpower, creating new units, updating weaponry, and improving training. The effects of this program were evident during the Gulf War when Qatari forces helped liberate Kuwait and led the battle for the recapture of the Saudi town of Khafji.
During the last several years, Sheikh Hamad has represented Qatar on official state visits and at numerous Gulf and international forums. His role as a leader and diplomat has earned him worldwide honors: the Order of Oman from the Sultanate of Oman, the Order of the Nile from Egypt, the Order of King Abdul Aziz from Saudi Arabia, the Indonesian Order of Ibn 'Azeem, the Order of Francisco de Miranda from Venezuela, the Order of St. Michael and St. George from Britain, the Order of Grand Officer of the Legion d'Honneur from France, the Mohammedi Medal from Morocco and the Lebanese Order of Merit.
Sheikh Hamad has been particularly keen on forging deep ties with the United States. He got the Pentagon's Central Command to set up headquarters at al-Udeid, an airbase near Doha and contributed $100 million in aid when Hurricane Katrina hit the other Gulf, in the United States, in 2005.
A keen sportsman and an accomplished diver, Sheikh Hamad has played an active role in promoting and developing athletics in Qatar. His activism has enhanced the country's involvement and performance in a number of international competitions, including: winning an Olympic medal in track and field; hosting a wide variety of international sporting events such as the GCC, Asian and World Youth soccer championships; and initiating the Qatar Open Tennis Championship which has grown to become one of two premier tennis competitions in the Middle East.