This tiny oil-rich sheikdom on the Persian Gulf is finally opening up to tourism. The government has been encouraging foreign investment, and Qatari women enjoy more freedom than their counterparts in some other Gulf states. Al Jazeera, the Arab world's version of CNN, broadcasts without censorship from its headquarters in Doha.

Qatar (pronounced KAH-tar) is on its way to becoming an appealing tourist destination. The country no longer regards the cultural influence of outsiders as a problem. However, Qataris adhere closely to the tenets of Islam: Women are seldom seen without a veil, and the country's justice system is based on a strict, literal reading of the Quran.

Visa requirements aren't as restrictive as they used to be, and travelers no longer need an invitation from one of the major hotels. Doha, Qatar's capital, was spruced up for the 15th Asian Games in 2006, with new hotels, museums and other facilities.

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