Since 1973 the Qatari Riyal is the official currency of Qatar. 1 Qatari Riyal is divided into 100 Dirham, but I must admit that the coins don't play an important role in daily life. The following banknotes are in circulation:1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 Qatari Riyal.
I didn't notice any lack of cash points (ATMs) in Doha. I saw several cash points at the airport and in the city centre. There was even a cash point in our hotel "The Torch".
Credit Cards are also widely accepted, especially in the bigger hotels and shopping malls.
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 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.
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.
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.
- ABAYA Fashion
Most Conservative and religious Qatari women are covered from head to toe in black. They wear a plain abaya, abayat raas and nikab.(see glossary below)
Of course I have seen these ladies while in Doha many times in public bathrooms removing or uncovering, grooming and taking out their make-up kit to freshen up. They have angel faces, and many of them have their hair dyed, and well hair-do.
I had a totally different picture at first thinking that under the abaya what ladies wear are long colourful dresses with no style or design at all. How wrong I was! The first lady I saw was in her tiny pair of jeans and an expensive blouse, laden in crystals.
Abayas come in every cut and design conceivable nowadays and they are worn as a form of liberation and not a form of oppression as many might think.
There are abayas for different occasions just like with the Western-style fashion. For the daytime abayas are usually plain or might have simple designs. You can even get sporty abayas!
More elaborate with different cuts and intricate designs are those worn in the evenings. For special occasions like holidays or weddings these abayas look like black gowns, laden with diamonds, Swarovski crystals, lace or leather, denim, even fur-abayas with everything one can imagine!
Many young Qatari women are pursuing higher studies and careers in fashion design: one graduate is now working in Paris for Valentino. They are setting up their own abaya businesses and are opening their own boutiques.
The next time you see a Qatari woman who is fully covered, by all means do not assume that she has no idea about fashion and style. She more than likely has better taste in fashion and style than you!
Abaya: the traditional black, long and long-sleeved garment Qatari women wear on top of their clothes when they go outside the home.
Abayat raas: a traditional black over-dress similar to a cape which covers the whole body, has sleeves and a section which goes over half the head, usually worn by older women or more conservative and religious women.
Nikab: the vail they have on the face
Sheila – a long, rectangular, black headscarf worn wrapped around the head.
Thobe: The flowing white dress worn by men.
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.
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.
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.
The traditional sword dance, known as the Ardha, is performed in Qatar on special occasions such as religious holidays and national celebrations. I caught a glimpse of it one night when I happened upon a large gathering at this event hall next door to my housing compound. I was told by a fellow bystander - an Egyptian woman - that the people at the gathering were all members of the richest family in Qatar, the Al Amaniya (sp?) family, who owns more than half the country. They were celebrating an event that had happened long ago in their family's history; she wasn't exactly sure what. After explaining as much as she could, she told me quietly, 'A Qatari would not tell you this. They consider this to be inside information, not for outsiders.' As she walked away I thanked her for the secret information and continued to watch the dance through the iron gate.
To an outsider like myself both the singing and dancing can seem quite repetitive, as the dancers seem to repeat the same phrase over and over again as they perform the same hop step while raising their swords in the air. Once I researched it a bit, though, it began to make more sense. I found out that the Ardha traces its origins to bedouin days and is also performed in neighbouring countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. It combines dance and poetry, with a poet moving back and forth between two lines of singers and dancers. The poet gives each group of singers a line to repeat before moving across to the other group. The traditional lyrics are of chivalry and strength and adapt to each occasion across generations.
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!
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.
Before Qatar's vast natural gas reserves were discovered, pearl diving (along with fishing) was once the backbone of the country's economy. Divers lived out at sea on pearling boats for three to four months at a time, and used no equipment other than a nose clip, a net for holding the oysters, and lead weights which they tied around their feet to help them sink to the bottom. From sunrise to sunset they would take turns diving to collect as many oysters as they could before they ran out of breath. When the Japanese started farming cultured pearls, the pearl diving industry collapsed. The gentleman seen in the photo is sometimes found in the heritage village in Rumeilah Park giving demonstrations on pearl diving. He still dives too, but nowadays he uses scuba gear. Pearls are still highly prized and can be found for sale as jewelry in the gold souq.
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.
The Food Festival takes place from 28 – 31 March and it has become a great annual family event in Doha.
This year’s festival is taking place at the Museum of Islamic Art Park itself in a beautiful setting and guests are entertained with various activities.
It has a free entry, but guests who wish to try the food should buy food vouchers.
The two main themes carried are; healthy food and a healthy lifestyle.
The festival is focusing on the Qatari UK Year of Culture by highlighting traditional dishes from both the UK and Qatar.
Families can enjoy sampling food and different cuisines from around the world as prepared by a wide variety of some of Qatar’s finest 5-star hotels and restaurants.
How do you like the idea of dining up in the air! Any comments?
The cost for dining in the air for just one hour is something like 100 euros.
You will see mostly locals here because for them 100 euros can be a tip only!!
Upon enterning you are given some vouchers and it is indeed a great burgain because you have the opportunity to have a dish with very little. (3 or 4 euros) pay extra for the soft drink of course but the idea the the dish is coming from Signature restaurants is something great isn't it?