What are the do’s and don’ts of etiquettes in Qatar?
Qatar is a modern and evolving country that holds its heritage close. They value their traditions and cultures that are still observed to date. This article is a guide on the do’s and don’ts of Qatari etiquette. As a foreigner, it is important to know how to behave in Qatar, to be able to blend into society.
Visiting Qatari Homes
When visiting a Qatari home, pass greetings according to age and status. Start with the elderly and with those with a higher status are to be greeted first, and also the women. Touching a child on their forehead is a sign of respect to them and is a way of passing God’s blessing to the child.
Some people in Qatar may refuse to shake hands with the opposite gender as it is considered religiously inappropriate , but they may instead hold their right hand as a sign of greeting.
Removing the shoes
You may be expected to remove your shoes when visiting a Qatari home, as it is part of their tradition. You may keep your socks on, but if you wish to remove them, ensure you have clean feet.
Arabic Coffee Etiquettes
Arabic coffee (gahwa) is served from a traditional Arabic pot known as a ‘dallah’ in a semi-delicate cup known as the ‘finjaan’ that doesn’t have a handle, and is not filled all the way up to the top. It should be filled up quarterway to enable the coffee to cool to avoid getting burnt when you sip it.
The Qatari host will always try the coffee first to ensure it is good enough to serve the guest. Each guest is served the same as the coffee is never poured into ‘finjaans’ and served from a tray. The guest must always drink from the right hand.
People in Qatar tend to sit on the floor and eat from the same huge platter. This tradition is common among Qatari as it is a way of bonding and sharing. They mostly handle the food with their hands, which should be no cause for worry as they are cleansed before eating.
Only the right hand is used for handling the food as the left is considered unhygienic.
When you are full, leave a small portion of food to show the host that you enjoyed the food and are now full. At the end of the meal, say “Alhamdulillah” out loud as thanks and appreciation to God.
At the end of the meal, a ‘bukhoor’ will go around. Place your hands on the smoke and waft the scent towards you to eliminate the odour of food.
If you are invited to a Qatar Majlis, this is a sign of trust and great respect. It means you have received an open-ended invitation to go by and have some refreshments even if no one is present.
They are separate majlis for women and for men. One cannot enter a majlis meant for the opposite gender. Dress formally for a majlis, but you may dress casually depending on the majlis. Remove your shoes when entering the majlis.
Greetings are very important. The formal greeting to the host and other guests on arrival is ‘Salaam Aleikum’ which means peace be unto you. The response to this greeting is Alaikum As Salaam, which means peace be unto you too. Arabic coffee and other refreshments may be offered upon arrival and is to be accepted only with the right hand.
It is important to respect Qatari culture and traditions, as Qatari people are always modestly dressed.
Dressing etiquette for women
Abayas are not necessary for Qatari women, however lots of ladies wear them as a symbol of their heritage and culture.
Abayas are not limited to Qatari women only and anyone looking for the full cultural experience can wear one. It does not necessarily have to be black. If you are planning on visiting a government building or mosque wearing shorts, skirts or sleeveless tops, you won’t be granted access. Ladies are to cover their hair in mosques too.
Dressing Etiquette for Men
Men should keep their shirts on unless they are at the beach and shorts should cover their knees. If you are going to a government building, you must not be in shorts or a sleeveless t-shirt. You will be denied entry into the premises and told to come back better dressed.
Non-Qatari men can also wear thobes, which is a nice way of honoring the Qatari culture.
If you are standing in line with a Qatari or having a conversation, they may keep a little distance. They have great respect for personal space. In Qatar, you’ll find places like hospitals, banks, government buildings, banks etc where there are separate queues for males and females.
If taking pictures in public, be careful and avoid taking pictures of the Qatari locals, especially Qatari women, as many do not like being photographed. For security reasons, avoid taking pictures of government institutions, archeological sites and sensitive areas like Qatari military sites.
Do not stare at people as it is considered rude and very inappropriate.
Meeting and Greeting etiquette
If you are a man and you have some business with a Qatari woman, you should not stretch out your hand for a handshake. If she extends her hand, you may shake it but otherwise, a verbal greeting is advisable.
In some cases when meeting a Qatari woman, a Qatari man may hold his right hand against the heart as a greeting.
There are usually two wedding parties in Qatar, as parties for the man and woman are held separately.
Men’s wedding ettiquette
When a Qatari man is getting married, anyone who knows him can come to the wedding reception held in a huge dedicated wedding tent, hall, or hotel. As a guest, pass your greeting, eat the wedding feast and leave. You do not have to bring any gifts as long as you are well-groomed and neatly dressed.
Wedding Etiquette for women
A Qatari woman’s wedding reception is invite-only. It usually has a lavish setup and is quite an honor to be invited. There are no men at the women’s reception. Photography is not allowed as Qatari women like their privacy and it is a women’s only gathering, without hijabs and abayas, dressed in their finest of clothes. It is considered very offensive and inapropriate to even consider taking photographs.
In between, the groom comes for a wedding shoot, but the women will have to put back on their hijabs and abayas. After he leaves, they take off the hijabs and abayas and continue with the celebration. You don’t have to bring a gift. In fact, in Qatari weddings, you’ll end up making a gift home instead.
Ladies aren’t allowed at funerals. If you are attending a Qatari funeral ensure you are appropriately dressed. Don’t dress too casual or too fancy. Do not bring a gift as your presence is more than enough for the family of the deceased. When attending a funeral pay respects to the family of the deceased, and if served refreshments such as coffee, take it with the right hand only. When you leave, it is not necessary to seek them out to say goodbye, as they are probably busy with guests or other funeral arrangements.
Right is Right
The right side is always the right side in Qatar. Whatever it is from stepping out of an elevator door to an escalator or stairs, the person on the right side should move first. Always use your right hand to receive from a Qatari even though you may be left-handed.
Qataris find it offensive if someone puts their hand behind their neck unless they are friends on a certain level. Pointing fingers at someone is also considered rude. In a meeting or conversation with a Qatari, avoid looking at your watch, it is considered insulting and the other person may just stop the meeting or conversation with you.
Never tug on the igal’s tassles, as it will mess up the ghitra as well.
Crossing your legs
Never sit with your legs crossed in such a way that the foot of one leg is resting on the knee of the other leg, with the foot facing another person’s face. It is offensive in Qatar
In Qatari tradition, there isn’t a tipping culture, but since many ex-pats live in the country, you will find them tipping in restaurants, cafes among other places. It is entirely up to you how much you want to tip.
This article has been a guide on the dos and don’ts of etiquette in Qatar.