FAQs on Social and Cultural Topics in Qatar
Can women drive in Qatar?
Yes, women are allowed to drive. The streets are, however, crowded with large, fancy cars, and personally, being a walker, I would, as soon as possible, accommodate myself to the heat and walk wherever possible. (It’s also good for the abs and the derriere.)
What if I don’t want to drive?
If you don’t want to buy or to rent or lease a car (which can run between about US$700 to US$1,300/month), you can hire a driver (who will take you all over town for about US$7/hour, plus gas). There are also local taxis, and Sidra and Hamad have shuttle bus service between the hospital and housing.
What is there to do in Qatar?
Qatar is becoming a tourist destination. Activities range from music and theatre, to museums, to sports (golf, running, biking, tennis, horseback riding, and hiking), to sailing, to shopping. For more information, Creating Memories in Qatar – A Guide to Recreation in Qatar.
Are there Western colleges in Qatar?
Yes. Education City and its environs are home to Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, University of Calgary in Qatar, and the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar. For more information, see International Universities in Qatar.
What should I wear?
Qatar is hot and dry for most of the year, with occasional days of very high humidity. Women do not have to wear an abaya or cover their hair. However, out of respect for the local Muslim culture, one should not wear revealing garments, such as tank tops and short-shorts.
Are there churches for Christians?
Yes. In 2005, an agreement was signed by representatives of several denominations for a long-term lease on land on the outskirts of Doha, where the denominations could erect six churches (at the churches’ expense). The property includes a Catholic church (opened 2008), an Anglican Church (building in process, with completion estimated for later in 2012), an Indian Christian Church (building in process), a Coptic Christian Church (open), a Greek Orthodox Church (opened 2008), and an Eastern Orthodox church (opened 2009).
Can I buy alcohol in Qatar?
Only non-Muslim expatriates with a liquor license can buy alcohol at the one retail outlet, and alcohol is strictly controlled. Hotels do, however, sell alcohol. Several restaurants at The Pearl sold alcohol until the end of 2011, but in January 2012, their liquor licenses were withdrawn. It is certainly possible that the licenses will be reinstated.
Can I buy prescription medications over-the-counter in Qatar, like in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, with the exception of narcotics.
Are there any social prohibitions on day-to-day behaviour, as in other Muslim countries, e.g., holding hands in public with one’s spouse/significant other, openly disagreeing with local government policies, etc.?
People are expected to behave in a reasonable, law-abiding manner and to observe moderation and discretion in all matters, including mode of dress. Any open disagreement with government policy in the form of public protest or riot would clearly be dealt with firmly by the authorities — but that is the case in any society.
How are criminals punished? What are the punishments for different types of crime?
Sharia law is in operation and the death penalty still exists, but that is no different to a number jurisdictions in the world, including several American states. The court system seems to be fair, and there is a process of appeal, but if you commit a crime you should not expect to be treated lightly. And bad drivers beware: Qatar has started to institute new penalties for driving infractions.
Do Qataris and non-Qataris socialize? If yes, with the same sex, or also with the opposite sex?
Qataris observe traditional customs in the way they interact with each other. Males are very free in their associations with other non-Qatari males. It is not uncommon to see young married Qatari couples walking in the malls holding hands. One must always be careful, however, in the way one interacts with a Qatari woman.
Are romantic relationships between Qataris and non-Qataris frowned upon?
You do find some marriages between Qatari males and Western females, but the other way around is far less common.
What are the standard hours of business for offices, souqs, and malls?
It varies but it is very flexible. The souqs and malls are often open late into the night.
Do shops, restaurants, etc., close for prayer call, as in Saudi Arabia?
Is it easy to rent a property (if one had a housing allowance)?
Yes, there is an over-supply of living accommodation in Qatar.