Qatar Culture

Business and social etiquette tips
Qatar is a traditional country experiencing rapid social changes. It is important to Qatar to maintain its heritage and the modern appearance may mislead people into forgetting that it is still a traditional society with consequential social misunderstandings. The following tips may be useful:

  • Foreign visitors are expected to dress in a style that is sensitive to the Islamic culture. Conservative clothing is recommended. Men generally wear long trousers and a shirt in public. Women's attire in public - as opposed to hotels or private clubs - should cover the shoulders, upper arms and knees. Western bathing attire is permitted at hotel and club swimming pools and beaches. Topless sunbathing is strictly forbidden.
  • Seek permission before taking photographs of people and be cautious about taking photographs in public. For security reasons Government buildings, military and some industrial sites, including some internal and external parts of the airport or shopping malls, should not be photographed.
  • When Arab men meet, they usually shake hands. A man does not generally shake hands with a woman. Male business associates will shake the hand of a female business associate if she extends her hand first. Some Arab men and women will shake hands with a woman. If an Arab person pulls back their hand and holds it against the heart this is a sign of greeting in preference over hand-shaking.
  • Bargaining with shopkeepers is common practice especially in the souq (market). Negotiations may include the buyer requesting the 'best best price'. Insisting on a discount beyond this best price might be deemed insulting.
  • Qatar prohibits the brewing and trafficking of alcohol. Drunken behavior in public or driving under the influence of alcohol is an offence punishable by a period in prison, a fine or both and cancellation of the offender's driving license. It is also illegal to transport liquor in your vehicle except from the point of sale directly to your home.
  • The country also applies a zero tolerance attitude to the use and possession of illegal drugs. The import of pork is prohibited.

National Dress
Qatari national men wear a thobe, a long white shirt over loose pants. They also wear a loose headdress, called a gutra, in white or red and white cloth, held on with a black rope known as the agal. Qatari national women cover their head with a black headdress called a shayla, their body with a long black dress called an abayha. Some women also cover their face with a black bourga; sometimes the eyes are left uncovered.

The official language is Arabic, although English is increasingly becoming the chosen language particularly in business situations. Translators can be requested for business situations where English is not understood. Urdu, the language of Pakistan, is also spoken. The following chart offers a few words that may be helpful, and tapes or a simple Arabic language book can guide with pronunciation.

English Arabic
Yes Aiwa/Na'am
No Lah
Please (to a man) Min fadhlak
Please (to a woman) Min fadlick
Thank you (to a man) Shukran/Mashkur
Thank you (to a woman) Mashkura
Welcome Marhaba
Hello (literally, "peace be with you) Al-salaam alaykum
Hello (said in response) Wa alaykum e-salaam
How are you? (to a man) Kef halak?
How are you? (to a woman) Kef halik?
I am well, thank you. Al-humdulillah
Goodbye Ma'al salaama