What to Wear
In Qatar you will probably see some expat residents wearing anything from shorts to spagetti-strap tops. While most likely no Qatari will ever tell you that you shouldn't be wearing this, that does not mean that they don't take offense to it.
Consider what the Qataris themselves wear - both men and women are completely covered from head to toe in loose, nonrevealing robes, and additionally for women the face is often covered by a veil as well. While I'm not suggesting a foreign women should wear a veil or even cover her head, it is respectful to wear loose-fitting clothes that cover the limbs. You will be much better received this way, and will avoid alot of unwanted attention from men as well.
While you can probably find suitable clothes in your own wardrobe, if you want to buy something here then try the long cotton robes for sale in the shopping malls, the souqs, or even the large supermarkets such as Carrefour. I've found these to be the most comfortable thing to wear in the heat, and nowadays I often wear them at home too.
For men, while short sleeves are OK, it's really best not to go out in shorts, no matter how hot it is outside.
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There are not too many outdoor coffee houses and fewer traditional coffee houses in Doha. With the "new" old souq area there are now quite a few that have sprung up. As you zig-zag past shops and shop owners hawking their wears, you may find yourself down an alley that opens up to a coffee shop. There are a few to choose from in the souq area off Hamdan road. You will find many men sitting talking, playing backgammon, smoking sheeshas, and drinking coffee.
The coffee is inexpensive and the atmosphere is lively.
Wind Tower House
This type of architecture is common within the Gulf region. These towers were historically built to bring cool fresh air into the home before the days of air conditioning.
In the Doha area, there are many 'new' examples of this type of architecture, such as at the Ras Al Nasaa restaurant. This photo is of one of the original ones, located just off Grand Hamad street in Najada Shopping Plaza. It was built in 1935 and restored in 1982.
- Historical Travel
"Al Sadu" is the term used for the weaving process, is an old Arabic term that means to stretch or extend. Creating these beautifully decorated tents, rugs, cushions and camel bags was traditionally the Bedouin womens' way of live for many generations.
Wool is used from Goats, Sheep and Camels. The camels are used for the softer applications, while Goats' wool is used to create virtually waterproof tents.
The headquarters of the infamous Al Jazeera is located in Doha. The inauguration of Al Jazeera, coincided with the dissolving of Qatar's Ministry of Information in the 1990's. The Emir funds Al Jazeera heavily, and is one of the first truly uncensored news agencies in the region.
I know there are mixed opinions on this network, but I have overall respect for them. Like other networks around the world, they also operate on principles of truth and fairness in reporting, it's always a sliding scale . I think some people mix up 'opinion' with truth, and judge Al Jazeera harshly because they've aired footage that other networks wouldn't air. Though this fact is also true of many US networks as well. It just depends upon how open your mind is.
I regularly read their website to give myself a well rounded picture of what is going on in the world. They often test the limits of censorship, but I think that any respectable media company should.
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If you're spending some time in the region, and want to make the most of your vist. Pick up a copy of Marhaba Magazine. Of all the guidebooks, it's the premier Qatar Guide & Information Magazine
Marhaba also produces the most useful Maps of Doha and Qatar.
They can usually be found at Hotel giftshops, or at the information booth at Carefour Mall.
Hooka / Shisha
Most restaurants offer a Hooka for customers to smoke. It actually smells quite delicious when you walk past. The cost is about 15 to 20 Riyal
You can buy them at the Souqs too, for a reasonable price.
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
Foreign population of Doha
The entire population of Qatar is just about 600,000, about two-thirds of whom live in Doha. Interestingly, the actual number of Qataris is much smaller--the remainder of the population is made up of a huge contingent of guest workers and expatriates. The guest workers--doing manual labor, service jobs, and so on--tend to come from India and Pakistan, which is why the local English-language newspapers contain a huge volume of stories from those countries. The hordes of expats work in oil and gas companies, the financial industry, and infrastructure development.
Who knew coffee was so popular?
In one of the souks we visited, I was very struck by the presence of several shops that seemed to sell an infinite variety of insulated coffee pots. Or are they water jugs? Who knows. Whatever they are, there's an awful lot of them!
Abayas for women...or anything else they feel like
The dress code in Qatar for women is quite accepting. Although local Qatari women are usually seen in full-length black abayas when they are out in public, women from other cultures are quite free to wear anything they want. I wouldn't walk around in a tank top and shorts, but reasonably modest, regular Western outfits are completely fine.
General tips to be polite in Qatar
There are some things that you should know before traveling here to make sure you give a good impression and don't offend anyone. Here's a list of tips:
Never show another person the sole of your foot. This includes when crossing your legs.
Never take someone's picture (especially women) without asking permission first.
Never give the thumbs up or OK hand signs. This is not as big a deal as I used to be (thanks to outside cultural influences), but it is still a good idea to avoid.
Watch the alcohol and pork intake. If dining with Muslim friends refrain from these items.
Avoid using your left hand when gesturing or passing food, it is considered unclean.
These are the big ones but there are more. It's always better to err on the side of good manners when traveling abroad.
One of the first things you will notice about Doha is that the majority of the local women are fully veiled and wearing the traditional abayyiah. It is not polite to stare and if you are a male you may not be acknowledged by them at all. It is an amazing thing about their culture and very different than western styles of dress. However, it is one of the great aspects of being in Qatar.
One of the greatest things that you can do in any country is just say hello. English is widely spoken in Qatar and quite well. It is looked highly upon if you start a conversation first with a merchant or anyone else you may require something from. Qatar is a very modern country but the form of Islam practised is very traditional. Many of the women will be fully veiled and many of the men will be dressed in the traditional white gown. Any type of dress that you feel may be appropriate will be acceptable in most locations in Qatar.
Observe the rules
In Spain I cross the streets and roads if no cars are passing, even if in red. But I did not dare that in Doha, because they are very strict and can fine you. So I observed all the rules.
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If you are acustomed to Western style toilets, you may have to make a quick adjustment in an 'emergency'
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