Do and Don’ts in Qatar

Moving or visiting anywhere unfamiliar it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic do’s and don’t’s of your new environment. Don’t be fooled by Qatar’s very modern appearance, this is still a very traditional society that prides itself on its heritage and despite the rapid social, economic growth, Qatari’s still want to hold on to their culture and values.

Here is a few helpful hints for navigating life in Qatar;

DO 
Strive for a degree of cultural awareness. To understand the basics of Qatari culture you have to understand that it is rooted in Islam. Much of the Qatari penal code is based on Shariah law so it’s a good idea to have some awareness of how it might effect you, for example.
DON'T
No alcohol in public and draw as little attention to it as possible. Drunken behaviour is not looked upon favourably and obviously no drink driving.
DO  
Dress modestly out in public, again, this is a conservative culture where most of the women wear abayas (long black robes) and the men are in thobes (long white shirts).
DON'T 
Public displays of intimacy should be avoided. This is a conservative culture and Qatari’s have a definite sense of public and private space.
DO
Have a pashmina as a staple in your wardrobe, they’re perfect for covering up and lightweight and the souq has a huge selection to choose from.
DON'T 
Proselytising is illegal and you could be deported for trying to convert any Qatari to another religion. The general rule is both politics and religion are subjects that can be broached but with caution and sensitivity.
DO 
Be aware of the rules and etiquette of Ramadan. This month it is obligatory for all able bodied muslims to fast during daylight hours. All restaurants are closed during this time. Obviously non-muslims are not expected to fast but eating in public is prohibited and one should be discrete and sensitive eating around fasting colleagues.
DON'T 
Point the soles of your shoes directly towards anyone in a meeting or gathering, this is a sign of disrespect. As a foreigner, any mistakes in social etiquette will be overlooked but your effort to understand and respect local customs will be noticed and appreciated.
DO
Be aware of he etiquettes for the Athan or call to prayer. You are in a muslim country so you will hear this five times a day, everyday. Don’t play loud music while the athan is being called.
DON'T
Use your left hand for greeting or eating.
DO
Use your right hand when greeting people. Civility and respect are important aspects of Arab culture and this is very evident in greetings. It is not uncommon to be asked about your health and that of your family and greetings can be extended affairs. DON’T rush the process otherwise it could give the appearance of lack of interest or respect. The general rule of thumb is follow the individual greeting manner of the person you are interacting with. Some Arabs prefer not to shake hands with the opposite gender, however some don’t mind, so follow their lead.
DON'T
Take photos of local people without asking permission, especially of women. Taking photos of official government buildings, industrial plants and military camps are not permitted either.
DO
Remember that Gulf Arabs are known for their hospitality. Accept invitations and allow your Qatari host to indulge you, there is no agenda or expectation, they are effortlessly hospitable.
DON'T
Wear bikinis in public beaches as they tend to be more conservative. Bikinis are fine in hotel private beaches.
DO
Clear up all your litter when at the beach. You will find many public beaches covered with litter, don’t add to the problem.
DO
Wear some kind of beach shoe as there are poisonous stonefish in Qatari waters. There are also rocks and spiky sea urchins.
DO
Remember for a lot of Arabs there is a distinct gender divide and many women are considered private people in public places, but again, this is a guideline not an absolute, so assess each situation on it’s own merit. If you are unsure and have a female in your group let her make the initial contact.
DO 
Take all your essentials when visiting the beach. Most beaches don’t have any facilities so you need to come fully equipped, that means shade, sunscreen and drinking water.