Customs, Culture & Lifestyle in Qatar

Qatar General Information for Expats

Qatar culture is quite conservative and has a population mainly consisting of expats. Qatar follows Islamic law like the other countries in the Middle East.

Qatar Dress code

Qatar has a desert climate with hot summers and relatively warm winters. In summer, the temperature ranges between 25 and 46 degrees celsius. Rainfall in winter is minimal and on average does not exceed 75.2 mm per year.

Muslim women in Qatar abide by a dress code. The Qatari women wear the traditional black abayas and many cover their faces with a veil while other women will only cover their hair. Qatari men usually where their national dress of a Thobe, a long white garment usually worn either with a white or red and white checkered head scarf.

Even though there is no dress code law, expats should keep some general guidelines in mind in order to respect the sentiment of the local community.

Qatar Dress Code

It is recommended that expat women cover their shoulders and knees. Skirts and dresses should be knee-length and not too tight. Tank tops and shirts should cover the midriff and shoulder area. Be creative and for example make use of pashminas, Capri pants, boleros, leggings and cardigans. They cover the bits that need to be covered and you still look fashionable!

On public beaches you cannot wear a swimsuit or a bikini, most Qatari women will wear shorts and t-shirt when they go into the sea. At a hotel or resort a bikini will be fine.

And for the expat men it is recommended to wear shorts which are of knee length and cut-off shirts should be avoided.

Qatar Ramadan

These dressing guidelines become even more important during Ramadan. Drinking and eating in public are forbidden during Ramadan, except for young children, pregnant and menstruating ladies, the elderly and the chronically ill. The religious police will be out on the streets to ensure ladies are covered appropriately.

Ramadan is a holy and important month in Qatar and extra respect must be shown, it is marked by many changes in lifestyle in the daily life of a Muslim. Some restaurants in Qatar will be closed during daylight hours. The restaurants that are open, usually have their curtains drawn to avoid people looking in and see others eating and drinking. During Ramadan you cannot buy alcohol and the bars in restaurants will be closed.

How do we meet and greet?

Qatar Meet and Greet

This all depends on the gender of the person you are meeting. Men meet men and women meet women with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. The religious law in Qatar prohibits unmarried men and women to touch, therefore in most cases men refrain from shaking a woman's hand out of respect and when a woman does reach out for a handshake, a simple nod or placing their hand on their chest is also a sign of respect.

In business life handshakes are the accepted greeting between men and the most senior person in the room should be greeted first. To show respect, use the Arabic titles like "Haji" and "Sheik" where appropriate.

Qatar business culture

Qatar business culture is typically Arabic, personal relationships between associates are very important as Qatari's business men prefer to deal with people they are familiar with and trust. If you are new to Qatar business life you might need help from a sponsor who can help with proper introductions and recommendations.

Meetings can take quite long due to personal digressions and even by unexpected visitors. It is essential to resist the urge of getting impatient. Aggressive selling tactics are also not appreciated, it gives Qatari's a sense of unnecessary aggression. Never publicly criticize or undermine an associate, this only happens privately behind closed doors.

Exchanging business cards is very common, make sure one side is printed in Arabic. When receiving a business card, take time to look at it before you put it away.

Business attire for men is smart, formal and conservative. The same applies to women, but make sure you are not wearing anything too revealing.

Qatar business language is Arabic, although many speak English and is widely understood.

Hours of business: from Sunday to Thursday: from 7.30 - 12.00 and 15.30 - 19.00

National holidays in Qatar 2016

9 February : Sport Day
7 - 11 July: Eid al-Fitr
8 - 13 September: Eid al-adha
18 December : National Day

*Although not a public holiday, Ramadan is an important part of life in Qatar.
*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon

Restaurants

Outside of Doha there are limited dining options, however in Doha city many new restaurants opened in the last few years. World known chefs like Guy Savon, Jean Georges Vongerichten and Gorden Ramsey have opened restaurants in the city. A wide variety of different cuisine is available.

Many of these restaurants can be found in 5 star hotels. If your budget doesn´t allow that sort of spending, try Souq Waqif. There you will find traditional Middle Eastern food, Iraqi, Persian, Qatari, Syrian and Turkish delicacies and are offered cheap.

The most important meal of the week in Qatar is Friday brunch, 5 star hotels will have big buffets with varied choice of food, booking ahead is recommended.

Also the locally caught fish is highly recommended and if rice, lamb and mezze is not your thing to go for, you have plenty of options like Indian, Chinese and Thai style food.

Alcohol can be bought and consumed in Qatar, mostly in the top-end restaurants and hotel bars.

You are not allowed to drink alcohol in public.

Often a service charge will be added to your bill, if not, then a 10% tip would be appropriate.

Qatar speciality food:

  • Hummus, a dip made from chickpeas and tahini, a sesame seed paste
  • Waraq enab, rice stuffed vine leaves
  • Taboulleh, a cracked wheat, or bulgur dish flavoured with parsley and mint
  • Koussa mahshi, or stuffed courgettes
  • Biriani, a spiced rice dish which is mixed with chicken or lamb
  • Motabel, a paste made from lightly cooked aubergine mixed with garlic and tahini
  • Ghuzi, a whole roast lamb on a bed of rice and nuts.

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