10 Things you should know about Qatar culture


About Qatar

Qatar is a country in Western Asia. The capital is Doha, home to over 80% of the nation’s population. Qatar’s total population was 2.9 million (as of December 2021): 11.3% Qatari citizens and 88.7% expatriates with Indians being the largest community numbering around 700,000.

14% of the population is European. Most of them are British, Portuguese, French, Armenians, Russians, Turks, Scandinavians, and Italians.

Qatar emerged as a significant power in the Arab world through its resource wealth. Qatar has the third-highest Human Development Index in the Arab world. Doha is a safe, friendly place to live, with a very low rate of violent crime. Actually, In 2019, Qatar was ranked as the 7th safest country in the world, according to the Global Finance Index.

Football is the most popular sport in regard to the player base. There are currently 18 sports clubs in the country. Additionally, athletics, basketball, handball, volleyball, camel racing, and horse racing are widely practiced.



Qatari society is based on the established traditions, values, and principles that have been inherited by generations, reflected in family life, and the quality of kinship that determines the method of communication between family members.

In case you’re planning to visit Qatar, there are some key points you should know about their Culture:


1- Religion

Its official religion is Islam. Islam is Qatar’s predominant religion and is the state religion although not the only religion practiced in the country. The law in Qatar is related to Islamic Sharia, but, it does not impose any restrictions on any other religions and faiths.


Qatari law allows religious freedom, However, visitors in Qatar have to respect the Islamic belief. The non-Muslim population is composed almost entirely of foreigners. Since 2008, Christians have been allowed to build churches.

Religious groups in Qatar:

  • 67.7% Muslim
  • 13.8% Christian
  • 13.8% Hindu
  • 3.1% Buddhist



2- Dress

Qatari men wear the Thawbe (a long white shirt) over loose-fitting trousers. They also wear a loose headdress covering called the ghutra.

Qatari Women wear a long black dress known as the Abaya. They cover their head with a veil and sometimes hide their face with a burqa.


Qatar society is a very conservative Islamic society, Clothing laws punish and forbid the wearing of revealing or indecent clothes. The dressing-code law is enforced by a government body called “Al-Adheed”. In 2012, a Qatari NGO organized a campaign of “public decency” after they deemed the government to be too lax in monitoring the wearing of revealing clothes, defining the latter as “not covering shoulders and knees, tight or transparent clothes”.

Men and women just need to dress modestly in public places like streets, malls, etc. Women are not expected to wear Abaya (a long black robe) or cover their hair with Hijab in public, but they are expected to do so when visiting mosques.


3- Language

The official language in Qatar is Arabic. However, English is prevalent in business and day-to-day life. In addition, Hindu, Urdu, and Tagalog are widely spoken amongst Asian foreign workers.

The legitimate language spoken in Qatar is Arabic. However, since more than half of Qatar’s population are expats and migrants, English is also commonly spoken at public places especially at shops and restaurants.



4- Food and drink

Qatari cuisine reflects traditional Arab cuisine. Also, foreign workers have presented multi-cultural foods: Iranian, Indian, and North African cuisine.

Some Of the traditional Qatari food may include:

* Machbous(Kabsa): which is rice that is cooked with Arabic spices, served with chicken, lamb, or fish. Machbous is mainly served with lamb during big celebrations, and any type of gatherings to show generosity.

* Mathruba: which is rice beaten with cardamom, milk, butter, and any choice of meat, until it turns into porridge form.

* Thareed: consists of bread soaked in vegetables, spices, and chicken/lamb stew. It is specifically served every day during Ramadan, along with Harees.

* Harees: meat beaten with boiled ground wheat, until it turns into porridge form, to the consistency desired.


Pork and Alcohol, or just wine (in the views of some), are considered haram (unlawful).


Qatar law is linked to the Islamic Shariah, so alcohol, pornography, pork products cannot be brought into the country.




5- Drugs

A drug is any chemical substance that causes a change in an organism’s physiology or psychology when consumed. Drugs are typically distinguished from food and substances that provide nutritional support. 


Qatar doesn’t allow using many drugs that can cause addiction and antibiotics without a medical prescription. 



6- Greeting others


Generally, Qataris greet others of the same sex by shaking hands, while they salute the opposite sex without touching.

To be more specific, when it comes to greeting in Qatar, it depends on one’s gender and the person, not all Qatari men and women will shake hands with those of the opposite sex gender, you have to wait to see if they extend their hand first. You can use the hand on the chest as another way of greeting.



7- Being A Guest

The Qatari people enjoy good morals, in addition to good hospitality.


When enjoying the food in Doha in a host’s room, there are a few things that one is required to follow as a guest in the country:

  • Once at the host’s home, guests have to remove their shoes upon entering.
  • Guests are generally expected to accept anything that is offered with the right hand.
  • Never feel strange about being invited to sit on the floor as that is the traditional Arab way of sitting.



8- Subjects to avoid in Discussions

Family takes a high priority in Arab culture and asking after a Qatari’s family and children is good. Just avoid asking after a man’s wife or sister directly. Religion and politics are delicate topics. Qataris won’t tolerate criticism of their Emir, which is punishable by imprisonment.

Don’t attempt to convert anyone from one religion, belief, or opinion to another, it is a very serious offense, and punishment can be severe.



9- Qatari Majlis etiquette

Qatari society is based on the system of tribalism, as each region has an allegiance to a tribe headed by the Sheikh of the tribe.

The meetings of the tribe (or family) happen in a place called “the Majlis” for consultation and tribal decision-making. Majlis represents a bridge for communication, dialogue, and building social relations.

And about the caveats that Majlis-goers should:

  • You should take off your shoes when entering a Qatari Majlis room (also shoes should be taken off when entering the mosque). 
  • Not to raise the voice and ridicule anyone, and not to speak alone for a particular individual for a long time.



10- Photography: 

While being in Qatar, you should avoid filming military buildings and filming others without their approval.




Some useful links to Qatari Culture:



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Qatar
https://www.expatica.com/qa/living/integration/culture-and-social-etiquette-in-qatar-70936/
https://www.enei.org.uk/global/qatar/society-and-culture/

Bilel A

Bilel A

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