Lifestyle in Qatar

father and son in the desert
Updated 2018-07-10 13:34

Are you planning to settle in Qatar? How much do you know about the Qatari lifestyle? Here is an overview…

Regardless of the country you are coming from, it is best to be aware of your new environment and the people's lifestyle when relocating abroad. In fact, living in Qatar can be completely different from what you are accustomed to. Given that Qatar is a conservative Islamic country, appropriate dress codes and mannerisms are important to ensure good relations with the locals and other Muslim expatriates. However, Qatar remains rather open-minded, understanding, and welcoming towards expatriates of other faiths and nationalities. It is up to you to adapt to its society in order to show respect towards the culture and simultaneously avoid hurting local sensibilities.

Culture and religion

As an expatriate in Qatar, you are advised to inquire about local cultures and traditions so as to avoid committing faux pas or lapses of etiquette. Qataris' culture is essentially based on Islamic traditions. For instance, Islam has a predominant influence on everyday life in the country, whether in terms of clothes, food, etc. Indeed, Islam is more than a religion for them: it is a way of life that guides them in their everyday lives.

Qataris are friendly, welcoming, and generous people. Depending on your place of employment, you may have many opportunities to interact with locals, although in some jobs you may not work with or encounter many local people at all.

Good to know:

Friday is considered as a pious day in Qatar according to Islam. Shops are generally closed between 11am-1pm on these days.

Alcohol and Pork products

Strict licensing laws are in place for alcohol and pork products. Pork is not sold in any restaurant in Qatar, however, it can be purchased for consumption in your home at the Qatar Distribution Company. Hotel bars and several other venues (such as the Doha Rugby Club and The Doha Golf Club also have a liquor licence). You will need to register for QDC if you would like to buy alcohol for your home by requesting a letter from your employer/sponsor and having a valid Qatar ID. You may not be able to access the QDC store if you have declared that you are Muslim on the paperwork.

Code of conduct

In general, courtesy is highly valued in Qatar. Hence, men are addressed as 'Sayyed', meaning 'Sir', followed by their full name. As regards women, they are addressed as 'Sayeeda' which means 'Madam'. Note that Arabic names can often be lengthy and confusing, male names in particular. But you are advised to use the full name, especially during meetings or official communications. Emirs are called "Your Highness" followed by 'Sheikh' and their full name.

When greeting someone, you will say, 'Salam alaikum', meaning 'Peace be upon you' and they will reply 'Wa alaykum as-salam'. 'Ahlan wa sahlan' means 'Welcome' while 'Al-Sabah khayr' means both 'Hello' and 'Good afternoon'.


You are expected to shake hands with your male friends both upon meeting and leaving. As regards Arabic women, you are advised to be very attentive to their gestures before doing anything. Most of them do not shake hands with men, but some might.

Dress code

There are two types of dress codes in Qatar: one for locals and one for expatriates.

In public, Arabic women should dress up according to religious customs, covering themselves from head to toe. This traditional black dress is intended to protect them from others' sight. Once at home, there is no special restriction regarding their dressing code. In the case of professional meetings, they usually wear dark coloured pants or long skirts and blouses or jackets covering their elbows.

As for men, they generally wear a long white cotton dress and a sort of cloth to cover their head called 'guthra'. But they may also wear western-style clothes, especially on informal occasions or at the beach.

Foreigners, for their part, can wear more 'western' clothes. However, it is important to still dress in a conservative manner. Avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless T-shirts in public. The professional dress code for men consists of long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, and a tie.


The holy month of Ramadan is a unique time in Qatar. It is generally considered very peaceful. Working hours are reduced for all organisations and very few restaurants (with the exception of some international hotels) will be open during the day. It is strictly forbidden to eat or drink in public spaces from sunrise to sunset. However, your employer may have a lounge or staff room where you are able to eat freely during the day.

Practical advice

  • Avoid offering alcoholic drinks to a Qatari unless you are convinced that he does consume alcohol. This could be considered an offence.
  • Always accept a drink when it's offered to you.
  • Avoid eating or drinking with the left hand as it is considered as impure.
  • Always avoid showing your flat feet when sitting (this could be interpreted as considering the people around you as dirty). Hence, it is better to keep your feet on the ground and to avoid crossing them.
  • It is recommended to accept a Qatari's invitation to their home, as this could be an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the locals.
  • Avoid sensitive topics such as politics and religion as your words can seem offensive.
  • When entering a Qatari's house, take off your shoes at the door (make sure that your socks do not have holes!).
  • Never visit a Qatari without having informed him beforehand: this might be uncomfortable, especially if women are at home, as men and women usually meet separately.
  • Never try to enter a mosque without first obtaining authorization (you are not likely to be allowed anyway).
  • Avoid walking on a prayer rug and staring at people who are praying.
  • Avoid any form of blasphemy, especially in the presence of non-Qatari Muslims who are not always as relaxed and tolerant as locals.
  • Do not embarrass a Qatari in front of another.
  • Never point at anyone with your finger. Usually, Qataris make hand gestures to call animals.
  • Avoid shouting, being aggressive or showing up drunk in public.
  • During the month of Ramadan, avoid eating, drinking, and smoking during the day in public places where you may be seen by Qataris and Muslims.
  • You are strongly advised not to hug or kiss anyone in public.
  • Avoid showing admiration for any object at your host's place. According to tradition, he will have to offer it to you if you do so. Moreover, according to tradition, he will expect you to offer him something even more expensive in return.

National holidays

Islamic festivities are generally determined according to the moon's visibility. In many Islamic countries, some festivities are based on information obtained from lunar observatories. But the Qatari population prefers more traditional methods. Therefore, dates can be subject to change at the last minute, especially since it has to be converted into Gregorian dates. Here are some examples:

  • Eid Ul-Adha - observed on the 10th of the Dhul-Hijah month
  • Muslim New Year - observed on the 1st of the Muharram month - celebrated in February or March
  • Ashura - observed on the 10th of the Muharram month
  • The Prophet's birth ' observed on the 12th of the Rabi II month ' celebrated in April or May
  • The Prophet's ascension ' observed on the 27th of the Rajab month ' celebrated in September
  • Ramadan - observed as from the 1st of the Ramadan month '
  • Eid Ul-Fitr ' observed on the 1st of the Shawaal month
  • The Emir's accession - celebrated on the 22nd of February
  • National Day - Celebrated on the 18th December
  • Sports Day- Celebrated on the 2nd Tuesday of February
We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.