DESTINATION: Culture and social etiquette in Qatar


This helpful guide to local culture and social etiquette in Qatar will help you unveil the mysteries of this exotic Gulf country and enjoy expat life.

Qatar culture and society

In Qatar, dazzling skylines, famous culinary destinations, and opulent automobiles coexist with the ancient customs and architecture of the Arabian desert. In addition, the abundance of employment possibilities and excellent standard of living draw millions of foreigners to this sunny nation. As a result, Qatar is now the second-largest expat community in the world and a fascinating cultural patchwork.

In addition to its thriving economy, Qatar has made significant investments in its culture, creating internationally acclaimed museums, art galleries, film festivals, and outdoor concerts. The nation aims to be forward-thinking while not forgetting its history and is making a lot of effort to shift its conventional image to the outside world.


Arabic is the official language of Qatar. Despite this, English is extensively spoken in the nation, and the sizable expat population also speaks Persian and Urdu often. Learning a few Arabic words and phrases might show that you are interested in the nation and its language, which may make it easier for you to assimilate.


In Qatar, Islam is the state religion, and Islamic Sharia informs both the political system and the legal system. The law does not place limits on any other religious identity, despite the fact that the majority of Qataris are Muslims. Qatari law permits religious freedom, and society as a whole exhibits a high degree of tolerance for many religious belief systems, according to the official website Hukoomi. However, foreigners and visitors to Qatar should respect the Islamic faith of the nation and its citizens.

National identity

The Bedouin, nomadic Arab-speaking people who lived in the Middle Eastern deserts and were known for their warm hospitality, are the ancestors of the Qatari people. That being said, due to strong influences from Islamic traditions, Qatari society is generally conservative in most respects. Important national symbols include the family, customary architectural elements, historical artifacts (such as camels, Bedouin tents and carpets, desert nomadism, and pearl trade), and portraits of the sovereign.

In Qatar, social structure is based on nationality and occupation. The practice of employing foreign employees has produced a system where various nationalities operate in specific job categories and earn different salaries based on their country of origin. With further divisions based on geographic origin, family history, and cultural customs, the distinction between citizens and noncitizens is the most significant. On the other hand, Qataris are divided within the country into groups based on their ties to particular tribes, religious sects, and historical settlement patterns.

Qatar is the richest nation in the world, but it also has significant socioeconomic disparity. It is, nonetheless, tackling this issue by creating large social welfare programs, such as free healthcare, elementary through higher education, housing assistance, and utility subsidies. Institutions have been established in recent years to provide assistance to low-income families and disabled people through programs for education and job training.

Gender roles in Qatar

In Qatari society, men outnumber women by more than three to one, a highly high male to female ratio. The majority of male expats are to blame for this. Because it maintains gender culture and, as a result, unequal gender rights for men and women, gender imbalance is a problem for Qatari society.

Despite efforts to strike a balance between traditional and modern culture, gender-segregated public spaces and other old-world beliefs and customs are still practiced in Qatar and are essential to the country’s identity. Women are prevented from reaching their full potential by both cultural and legal constraints, such as the male guardianship statute. This has an adverse effect on both men and women, as well as the nation as a whole.

The Gender Progress Index, published by business school INSEAD, shows the results. Qatar was ranked 117th out of 122 nations in the Index for gender equality, placing it among the lowest five. As a result, Qatar is ranked among the world’s most unequal societies.

Women’s rights in Qatar

Women in Qatar do have rights, despite the lack of gender equality: they are allowed to vote, run for local office, leave the country, engage in all aspects of public and social life, and pursue education. In fact, women make up the majority of students in Qatari universities, which means that they keep a prominent position in both professional and academic contexts. As a result, Qatari women participate in the work force at a rate greater than the global average (51%). Furthermore, the government of Qatar expects the trend of increasing female employment rates to continue. The majority of Qataris see the presence of women in the workforce favorably. The chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Research, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, is another woman who many women look up to.

Families responsibilities rank among the biggest barriers to female employment. The core of Qatari culture and structure is the family, and because it is a patriarchal country, men are typically the head of the household. Despite this, divorce is permitted in Qatar, and the number of divorces has been continuously increasing, especially among young couples.

Although many female expats and visitors claim to feel safe in Qatar, intrusive looks are frequently given. Less frequently, there have been instances of women being followed by cars or in a mall. Despite these allegations of improper, unlawful behavior, Qatar is typically a safe country with a low crime rate.

Meeting and greeting people in Qatar

Non-Muslims frequently utilize the most popular verbal greeting in the Gulf states, Salam alaykum, which is Arabic for “peace be upon you.” Even in official meetings, this manner of address is employed, and the appropriate response is wa alaykum as-salam (literally, and upon you be peace).

Qataris greet each other in different ways depending on their gender. Men typically greet each other formally by shaking hands, which is always the appropriate gesture. If you are in a casual setting and are quite familiar with the other person, you can give each other a cheek kiss (three times on the right cheek). If you run into a relative or close friend, though, you can greet each other by twice touching noses. When formally introducing themselves, women can use the same method. They typically give hugs as well as cheek kisses (three times on the right side) to family members and close friends.

The best advise is to wait for the Qatari person to take the lead because greeting customs differ for men and women. Normally, men and women do not interact, and while some Qatari women feel at ease shaking hands with a man, others choose not to. In a similar vein, men might avoid approaching women or simply sitting next to them. The best technique to determine whether a woman will shake hands with you is to keep your distance and wait for her to extend her hand. If she does, you may shake her hand to say hello. If not, she can offer a smile, a verbal greeting, or by placing her right hand over her heart.Likewise, holding both hands together is another indication that a woman doesn’t want to shake hands.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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