This article is about a region of Saudi Arabia. For other uses, see Katif.
Coordinates: 26°33′22″N 49°59′46″E / 26.556°N 49.996°E / 26.556; 49.996Coordinates: 26°33′22″N 49°59′46″E / 26.556°N 49.996°E / 26.556; 49.996
Country Saudi Arabia
Province Eastern Province (Ash Sharqiyah)
  Governor Saud bin Nayef
Population (2010)[1]
  Total 524,182
Time zone +3 GMT

Qatif or Al-Qatif (Arabic: القطيف Al-Qaṭīf) is a governorate and urban area located in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. It extends from Ras Tanura and Jubail in the north to Dammam in the south, and from the Persian Gulf in the east to King Fahd International Airport in the west. This region has its own municipality and includes the Qatif downtown and many other smaller cities and towns.

Qatif is one of the oldest settlements in Eastern Arabia, its history going back to 3500 BC. Before the discovery of oil, Qatifi people used to work as merchants, farmers, and fishermen. However, in recent years, after the discovery of oil and establishment of Jubail Industrial City, most Qatifi people tend to work in the oil industry, public services, education and health-care sectors.

Etymology and history

Qatif functioned for centuries as the most important trade port in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The term Qatif is derived from what translates to "harvest" or "grain", signifying the area's past agricultural history.

The historic oasis area shows its first archaeological evidence of settlement beginning about 3500 BC. It was known by other names, such as Al-Khatt (الخَطّ), immortalized in the poetry of `Antara ibn Shaddad, Tarafa ibn Al-`Abd, Bashar ibn Burd (in his famous Ba'yya), and others. The word "Khatty" became the preferred "kenning" for "spear" in traditional poetic writing until the dawn of the modern era, supposedly because the region was famous for spear making, just as "muhannad" ("of India") was the preferred kenning for "sword". The older name also survives as the eponym of several well-known local families ("Al-Khatti", spelled variously in English). Until the advent of Ottoman rule in the 18th century, Qatif belonged to the historical region known as the Province of Bahrain (more accurately, "Bahrân"), along with Al-Hasa and the present-day Bahrain islands.

In 899 the Qarmatians conquered the region with the oases of Qatif and Al-Hasa. They declared themselves independent and reigned from al-Mu'miniya near modern Hofuf until 1071.[2] The Buyids of western Persia raided Qatif in 988. From 1071 until 1253 the Uyunids ruled the region first from the city of "al-Hasa" (predecessor to modern Hofuf) and later from Qatif. In 1253 the Usfurids rose from Al-Hasa and ruled during the struggle of Qays with the Hormuz for control of the coast. Probably at about this time, Qatif became the main port for the mainland surpassing 'Uqair in importance for the trade and thus became the capital of the Usfurids.[2] Ibn Battuta, visited Qatif in 1331 and found it a large and prosperous city inhabited by Arab tribes whom he described as "extremist Shi`is".[3] Power shifted in 1440 to the Jabrids of the Al-Hasa oasis. In 1515 the Portuguese conquered Hormuz and sacked Qatif in 1520, killing the Jabrid ruler Muqrin ibn Zamil.[2] The Portuguese invaded the island of Bahrain and stayed there for the next eighty years. The ruler of Basra extended his power to Qatif in 1524 but ultimately in 1549 the Ottomans took over the whole region, building forts at Qatif[4] and 'Uqair, though they could not expel the Portuguese from the island of Bahrain.[2] In 1680 the Al Humayd of the Banu Khalid took the by now weak garrison of the Ottomans in Hofuf. In a battle at Ghuraymil, south of Qatif, the Banu Khalid lost their rule to the new "First Saudi State" in 1790. In 1818 the Saudi State was destroyed in the Ottoman-Saudi War and the commander of the mostly Egyptian troops, Ibrahim Pasha, took control of Hofuf, only to evacuate it the next year and return to the west coast. The Humayd regained control until the Banu Khalid were finally defeated in 1830 by the "Second Saudi State" who now took control of the whole region. The Ottomans moved in again in 1871 not to be expelled until 1913 when Ibn Saud finally established the Saudi rule in the Eastern Province.


1979 protests

Main article: 1979 Qatif Uprising

Approximately 60,000 Shiites (estimate of 1969) live in the oasis town of Qatif, which is about 65 km (40 mi) from the main Saudi refinery and the export terminal of Ras Tanura. The Shiites have participated in all the strikes and other political demonstrations that have taken place in the kingdom. The most significant were the 1979 strikes when the Saudi armed forces were called in. The Shiites in Saudi Arabia were very receptive to Khomeini and demonstrated against the Saudi royal family on the grounds that Islam and hereditary kingship are not compatible. When American jets landed in Dhahran Air Base for manoeuvres, citizens of Qatif organized a big demonstration. The demonstrators spent the evening of 11 November 1979 shouting slogans against the royal family and the Americans. The Saudi government responded by imposing a curfew on all the towns in the Atif area, sealing off the area with tanks and armoured vehicles. A bloody showdown between the armed forces and the Shiites continued until 30 November 1979, in which thousands were arrested, hundreds injured and 24 killed.[5] [6]

2011 protests

On 10 March 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring and a day before called-for "day of rage" protests across Saudi Arabia, 'dozens' of Shias attended a rally in the city centre calling for political reforms in the kingdom and the release of prisoners allegedly held without charge for more than 16 years. The government declared protests to be illegal and it had previously warned against this action. Police opened fire on the protestors, injuring three, and there were reports of stun grenades being used as well as many more injuries from police use of batons.[7][8] Further protests in Qatif continued throughout 2011.[9] Over 6 people were reported to be killed by the government's forces since November 2011. However, the government tried to overshadow the reports but social networking groups has highly worked to demonstrate the way the government used force against the protesters[10]

2012 protests

Activists in Qatif first took to the streets in March 2011, demanding the release of political prisoners.[11] In early January 2012, Riyadh ordered the arrest of 23 people responsible for unrest in the Eastern Province.[12]

Activists reported that seven protesters were killed from November 2011 to 10 February 2012 in Qatif.[13]

The march on 10 February 2012 was reportedly organised to protest against the killings of demonstrators, who were calling for reforms, an end to sectarian discrimination and the release of political prisoners. "While security men were following up on an illegal gathering in the town of al Awamiya in Qatif on Friday they were attacked by gunfire," said a police statement published by the state news agency, Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Zuhair al Said was killed on 10 February 2012 when police opened fire to disperse protesters in the town of al Awamiya, in the Qatif region. About 500 people were arrested since March 2011. Activists said 80 remained in custody, including author Nazir al Majid and human rights activist Fadil al Munasif. ِIn July 2012, the government arrested Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite preacher who called for protestation against the government. The arrest of such an icon in the city of Qatif leads the people to protest quickly in the night of the same day. The government's trained snipers killed two protesters that night who are Sayed Akbar al-Shakori and Sayed Mohammed Alfelfel. Videos of the killing are released on video streaming sites such as


Qatif enjoys a continental climate with temperatures approaching 50 °C (122 °F) in the summer and an average humidity of 75%. In winter, temperatures range between 2 and 18 °C (36 and 64 °F). During the months of May and June, warm seasonal winds called albwarh affect the region. The rest of the year, the moist southern winds, or alcos, bring humidity. There is little rainfall.


The Qatif region is the largest concentration of Shia Islam in Saudi Arabia;[14] less than 3% of Qatif are Sunni Muslims. Qatif is the centre of the Shiite population in Saudi Arabia.[15] Since 2005, the government has eased the restrictions on commemorating Day of Ashura in public.[16]

As of 2009, the total population of Qatif was 474,573.[1] Qatif has one of the lowest numbers of non-Saudi residents in the kingdom (only 59,808).


Saudi Aramco (the Saudi national oil company) completed the development of the Qatif Project in October 2004, comprising facilities to produce, process and transport 80,000 cubic metres per day (500,000 bbl/d) of blended Arabian light crude oil from the Qatif field and 48,000 m3/d (300,000 bbl/d) of Arabian medium crude oil from the offshore Abu Sa'fah field (total 130,000 m3/d (800,000 bbl/d)), plus 10 million cubic metres per day (370×10^6 cu ft/d) of associated gas.[17]

Qatifi people are likely to work in the oil industry (Saudi Aramco, Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes). Some of the employees have moved to Dhahran, where these companies are located, but the majority still reside in Qatif and go to Dhahran by cars or Saudi Aramco buses in about 30 minutes' journey. Others work in Aramco refineries in Ras Tanura. and others work in the petrochemical companies in Jubail (80 km from Qatif), some go everyday and some have moved to Jubail. SABIC is the largest employer in Qatif, However, some Qatifi are also working in other oil, petrochemical, and engineering companies located in Dhahran, Khobar, Dammam, Ras Tanura, or Jubail. Some of Qatifi people work in public services, health care and education.

The Qatif coastline is rich with shrimp and many varieties of fish. Qatif Fish Market is the largest in the Middle East. Qatif villages are known to have many date palms and other fruits.


There are complete educational facilities built by the government and Saudi Aramco for all age levels, starting from first grade in elementary school to secondary school. Most of the schools are public (government owned) but there are some private schools as well.




Air travel is provided by King Fahd International Airport, the distance from the terminal to the city center is 22 km (14 mi).


Qatif enjoys excellent connections with other Saudi urban centers through highways mainly the Dhahran-Jubail Highway which runs across Qatif, and Abu Hadriyah Highway which serves as a western border for Qatif and separates it from King Fahd International Airport.

It is also close to the causeway that connects the kingdom with the nation of Bahrain (about 55 km (35 mi)).

Towns and villages

List of some towns and villages forming Qatif county:


  1. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 25, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 William Facey, The Story of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, 1994, ISBN 1-900988-18-6
  3. -which is not. Ibn Battuta, Rihla Ibn Battuta Beirut: Dar Sadir, 1964 pp. 279-80
  4. "Saudi Aramco World :Al-Hasa: Outpost of Empire". Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  5. Nehme, Michel G. (October 1994). "Saudi Arabia 1950-80: Between Nationalism and Religion". Middle Eastern Studies. 30 (4): 930–943. doi:10.1080/00263209408701030. JSTOR 4283682.
  6. Ana Echagüe; Edward Burke (June 2009). "'Strong Foundations'? The Imperative for Reform in Saudi Arabia" (PDF). FRIDE (Spanish Think-tank organization). pp. 1–23. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  7. Saudi police open fire on protesters, RTHK, 11 March 2011
  8. Saudi Arabia police open fire at protest in Qatif, BBC News, 10 Mar 2011
  9. "Saudi Arabia: Renewed Protests Defy Ban". Human Rights Watch. 2011-12-30. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  10. BBC Arabic Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. "Saudi Arabia 'day of rage' protest fizzles". latimes. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  12. "Saudi forces clash with protesters in Qatif". Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  13. "New clashes in Saudi Arabia leave 'protester' dead". BBC News. 11 February 2012.
  14. Nelida Fuccaro (9 March 2016). Violence and the City in the Modern Middle East. Stanford University Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-8047-9752-8.
  15. Mackey, p. 234.
  16. "Denied Dignity". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  17. "Saudi Aramco". Saudi Aramco. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
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