Qatar lies on the Persian Gulf in eastern Arabia north of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Despite its seat in an often volatile section of the Middle East, it’s a generally safe country with a low crime rate.
This perhaps due in part to a large police presence; this is speculated to be due to perceived terrorist threats against Westerners. So it’s more likely you’ll unknowingly commit a crime than have one committed against you on your visit.
The country is populated mostly by wealthy individuals and foreigners on lucrative work contracts. This makes the country and its society quite stable. However, the capital city Doha has seen more violence in recent years due to economic pressures and a population surge. There is a poor element in addition to a downright greedy one that motivates petty crime like pick pocketing and purse snatching.
ATM and credit card theft are reported to be on the rise.
Behaviour towards women can also turn criminal. Qatari men often harass foreign females travelling alone both verbally and physically.
Men might creepily circle around a woman while she’s on the street or make whispering sounds at her to get her attention elsewhere. It is technically illegal to harass (and this term encompasses everything from striking up a conversation to staring) women in the country, but this rule seems to be taken more seriously when it comes to local women, not female travellers from other countries.
Because Qatar is an Islamic country, there are several actions considered illegal of which travellers would otherwise think nothing. Offenses are governed by Qatari law, and penalties can be severe.
Women will be expected to cover up and dress modestly. Shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts should not be worn. While travellers who break these dress codes will not necessarily be penalised, they may be considered rude by the Qatari people.
Special care with dress should be taken during the Ramadan holiday. Also during this period, it’s forbidden to eat or drink in public between sunrise and sunset, even for non-Muslims. Only certain restaurants will be open during these times.
Travellers and expats have been arrested for what might be considered non-crimes, like traffic accidents, obscene language, insulting someone publicly and slander. Individuals often spend a few nights in jail while they wait to attend a hearing. Fines are also possible in addition to jail time.
Punishments for crimes involving drinking and driving, the legal limit is 0, and drug use or sale are extremely stiff.
You can’t drink anywhere that isn’t licensed.
Homosexual activity is also against the law and can result in whippings in addition to prison or deportation.
It’s also considered inappropriate to take pictures of the local women in Qatar in addition to public buildings and military sites.
Import regulations are strict and ban pork and any religious material unrelated to Islam in addition to weapons, narcotics and pornography.
Certain medications may be illegal in Qatar, so bring your prescription slip and a note from your physician.
It can also be illegal to hug or kiss in public.
Other local customs include no showing the soles of your feet or shoes to a Qatari.
Arguing for the dinner bill is also common, and a Qatari will usually win out.