Respecting the etiquette of the people of Qatar is very important, so that your time there is easier and less stressful.
Visitors and residents should remember that, as Qatar is a Muslim country, a more modest code of behaviour is required. Being drunk and disorderly in public is unacceptable, and may result in a fine or worse. Public displays of affection should be minimal – holding hands are acceptable but kissing and hugging in public is not. Noise disruptions, bad language, making obscene gestures and showing disrespect in any way to the religion or leaders of the land are all forbidden and may land you in legal trouble. The following are also considered illegal in Qatar: use or possession of narcotics, cohabitation, extra-marital relations, having a baby out of wedlock, adultery and homosexuality.
Outside the realms of your personal life there is also the professional etiquette to take into consideration. Like many western countries there is a code of business conduct that one should follow in Qatar. Following the business etiquette will ensure that you and your business prosper within Qatar.
So here are our top tips on how to follow Qatar etiquette:
Although you will see plenty of exceptions, mainly from tourists, there is a dress code for Qatar and this has been implemented as a show of respect and to avoid any offence being given. To sum it up you should cover your shoulders, cleavage and legs above the knees and avoid really tight or sheer clothing. Bikinis should only be worn on beaches and around pool areas and should not be of the G string bottom variety. Topless bathing is of course illegal! The dress code matters less so in a bar but you should think about covering up with a handy pashmina for the journey. All malls in Qatar have implemented the dress code and you can be thrown out of a mall or asked to purchase more “decent” clothing to be able to remain in the mall.
Public displays of affection with the opposite sex in Qatar can get you in to trouble- so no kissing, canoodling, fondling in public whatsoever- whether it’s with your husband or not- it can still cause offence. A peck on the cheek or holding hands with your husband is fine!
Hand gestures in Qatar can cause you to be fined, put in prison or deported- depending on who you flick the bird to! So no matter how crazy the driving do not be tempted to use a rude hand gesture. Hand gestures that will cause offence include giving the Vs, giving the finger.
Swearing at someone in Qatar is also illegal- whatever happens keep your cool and don’t use that potty mouth- it could get you in serious trouble!
It is actually illegal to be drunk in public in Qatar and this can also lead to fining, imprisonment or deportation. 99.9% of the time all will be fine but you really need to keep your wits about you. Always, always hop into a taxi straight outside whatever venue you are at- don’t be tempted to go for a wander! And whatever you do- never, ever drink and drive- not even one. There is a zero tolerance policy here and it is not worth the risk to yours or others’ lives- again get a taxi, abandon vehicle- use the Safe Driver service! Make sure you have an alcohol licence too!
Normal tourist photography is acceptable but it is considered offensive to photograph Muslim women. It is also courteous to ask permission before photographing men. In general, photographs of government buildings, mosques or military installations should not be taken.
When a woman meets a Qatar National or an Arab man, do not offer to shake his hand, unless he extends his hand towards you first.
The typical working week commences on a Sunday and ceases on a Thursday, between the hours of 7:30am to 3:30pm. Friday and Saturday is considered to be the weekend and for those who are religious, Friday is the day of worship for all. Government offices are generally open from 6am to 2pm. Commercial offices often work in two shifts, the first being from 7:30am until noon. The second shift is from 3:30pm until 7:30pm. This may vary according to the business requirements. Banks work from 7:30am to 1pm, however banks within shopping malls usually keep mall hours, which are 10am to 10pm.
Business times change during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Offices usually close early and open after Iftar, if they reopen at all. The malls will also stay open until midnight at least.
Arabic is the official language of Qatar, however English is widely spoken and road signs and the like are in both languages. English is also a compulsory second language in the government schools and is hence spoken widely. In business it is always good practice to have copies of documents in both Arabic and English.
Both English and Arabic may be spoken at work, depending on the sector, with Arabic being widely spoken within the Government departments and English being prevalent in most international companies. Smart business dress and traditional dress is essential.
There is a very specific meeting etiquette in Qatar and if followed correctly the Qatar people will be very hospitable in both home and business. Due to religious sensitivities greetings occur between members of the same gender. Greetings in all cases are given with a sense of enthusiasm and general pleasure. Qataris are known for taking their time and asking after family, mutual aquaintances, general health and any other matters that may be of interest. Life in the Gulf is relaxed and slow so be patient and take the time with the greeting before getting into business matters. Always take a genuine interest in the people that you are speaking to, they will notice and appreciate it.
If you are scheduling meetings in the region, be mindful of the working times and try to schedule a morning meeting. Alternatively a lot of business is conducted in the early evening. Be wary of the prayer times and try to ensure that the meeting does not coincide with them. If it does, the meeting will be interrupted. Be patient with anyone who is going to pray and does not show even the slightest sign of annoyance or intolerance as this is considered rude and unacceptable behaviour. Furthermore Qataris do not regard tardiness as a huge offence so doesn’t be alarmed if your business meeting starts a little late. The value of time is a lot more relaxed in the Gulf States than in Europe.
If you have a business meeting with a woman do not extend your hand to her, allow her to extend hers. If she does not, it is not culturally appropriate. When shaking hands always use your right hand, especially if you are shaking hands with someone of the Muslim faith.
Business attire is conservative. Men should wear business suits that are conservative. Women should refrain from wearing tight clothing. Their business suits should cover the knees and elbows and no cleavage should be visible at all. Men and women should have perfect grooming. Qatar citizens notice grooming. Ensure that your hair is brushed and sleek, make up is correct and that your clothes are pressed well.
Rules on Public Hygiene in Qatar
The new legislation, which replaces Law No 8 of 1974 on public hygiene, bans littering and dumping of waste in any sort of public space such as streets, passageways, parks, gardens, beaches or empty plots of land, etc.
Fines of up to QR25,000 and maximum jail terms of six months await those who violate Law No 18 of 2017 on Public Hygiene.
Also, throwing rubbish in the common areas of private buildings is prohibited and owners and residents of such buildings should keep the facades, corridors, roofs, parking areas and adjacent pavements clean and clear of any garbage.
A maximum jail term of six months and a fine of up to QR25,000, or either, will be imposed on those who dispose of solid or liquid refuse or garbage in undesignated areas. Also, dumping garbage in public and common areas entails a penalty of a maximum six months in jail and a fine of up to QR10,000, or either. Besides, the violator has to take necessary action within the designated period set by the local municipality. Otherwise, the municipality would remove it and charge the offender for the same.
Spitting in all public areas and on beaches is also banned under this law, which also prohibits urinating and defecating in public spaces not designated for such purposes. The penalty for such violations is a maximum fine of QR10, 000.
It is not permitted to occupy public streets, roads, parking lots, passageways, pavements and yards with abandoned vehicles and equipment, as well as fixed or temporary construction, without a licence from the municipality concerned. This entails a maximum fine of QR25,000.
The municipality concerned may impound such equipment/vehicles, the law states. If the owner does not come forward within six months from the date of seizure to reclaim them and pay the fines, the municipality would have the right – after notifying the violator – to put them up for a public auction to collect the due sum in addition to the accumulated administrative costs. The remaining part of the sale proceeds will be given to the owner.
Further, the law states that it is not allowed to let animals or birds move around unsupervised in public areas and on roads. Also, animals and birds for trade cannot be kept in residential buildings that do not have the appropriate licence. A person keeping animals and birds for non-commercial purposes should take care of their hygiene and avoid any odours, remove their excreta and dispose of it in designated areas. The penalty for any violations in such cases is a maximum fine of QR10,000.
Similarly, the owners of shops selling birds and animals should abide by the regulations of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and dispose of their excreta in the appropriate place and manner.
The occupants of houses, buildings, offices, commercial and industrial outlets should keep their garbage in special containers until disposal within the designated areas in accordance with the regulations. The penalty is a fine of up to QR10,000.
The law also stipulates that the municipality concerned undertakes all public cleaning works within its jurisdiction. It can also recycle or treat the collected garbage to benefit from it.
According to the new law, the vehicles used for transporting garbage should be properly covered to prevent any spillage. The penalty is a fine of up to QR10,000.
The owners of buildings with no public sewage network, have to create an appropriate means of sewage in accordance with the standards set by the municipality concerned. In case of a violation, the municipality will undertake such works and charge the owner the cost and an additional 25% of it. Failing to abide by this provision entails a maximum fine of QR25,000.
Also, the owners of such buildings have to clear the sewage tanks as soon as they are full. In case of a violation, the municipality will carry out does the job and charge the owner the cost and an additional 25% of it.
The owners of abandoned buildings or empty plots of land should keep them clean and set up a fence around them if the municipality deems it necessary. In the event of a violation, the municipality will do the job and charge the owner the cost along with an additional 25%. The penalty for offenders is a maximum fine of QR25,000.
Social Health Insurance Scheme
The social health insurance scheme in the State of Qatar provides universal health insurance for all people in the country, and offers members a choice of providers from across the public and private sectors. It forms a key part of the realization of the National Health Strategy and the overall Qatar National Vision.
This ambitious program stems from one of the Qatar National Vision’s core principles; population health is a key determinant for a successful and prosperous nation. As such, access to quality healthcare services is a crucial aspect to ensuring a healthy population, within the overall scope of the transformation of Qatar’s healthcare sector through the National Health Strategy.
The introduction of the social health insurance scheme puts Qatar at the forefront of global initiatives calling for universal health coverage, including United Nations and World Health Organization resolutions calling for member countries to provide universal health care as a key goal for development.
Social Health Insurance Law
Law no 7 of 2013 governing Social Health Insurance came into effect on 17 July 2013 to provide basic healthcare services to everyone in Qatar.
The various articles of the law cover the provision of services, the responsibility for premiums, and the penalties liable for deviations from the law.
A state-issued Health Card is required for access to government-run health care facilities, including hospitals . The Health Card system provides free and heavily subsidized health care services to citizens and residents.
Expatriates living in Qatar must first obtain a residence permit before applying for a Health Card.
People living in Qatar may obtain health insurance if they choose to seek medical services outside of government-run facilities. High-quality private clinics and facilities are abundant in the country.
Many companies provide their employees with insurance. Insurance companies offer comprehensive plans tailored to the various needs of their clients ranging from basic to premier and from regional to international coverage for:
Groups (companies, social clubs, sports teams)
Teachers working abroad
If you are seeking your own provider from one of the many private insurance companies operating in Qatar, be aware of the following:
Do they cover pre-existing medical conditions?
Does “international coverage” exclude countries such as the USA or Canada, where the cost of services is higher?
Are there surcharges for occupational hazards?
Are there restrictions on how many days one can spend in hospital?
Does the company enforce an age restriction?
Are there annual limitations for particular treatments?
Are dentistry and maternity benefits included?