Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world and both visitors and residents have the opportunity to experience the courteous and hospitable nature of Arab culture. However, bear in mind that Qatar is a conservative Islamic state – by following a few simple rules in public you will more than repay the warm welcome shown to you.
Common Courtesies in Qatar
Please dress modestly when out in public. As a show of respect towards the culture and tradition of Qatar, visitors and expatriates (both men and women) should dress conservatively. Avoid exposing the knees, shoulders, cleavage and stomach. Likewise, avoid tight, revealing clothing. Although there are many people who show disregard for the dress code here, it is in your best interest to avoid any unwelcome attention. Be particularly modest during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Visitors should also be mindful of the conservative dress code which is often required at the beach and by the pool in public. Topless sunbathing is prohibited. Public displays of affection between men and women are discouraged and behaviour that is considered immoral could result in prosecution.
There are many photographic opportunities in Qatar, but exercise discretion when photographing local residents, even from a distance. It is wise to ask their permission first. Muslim ladies are very modest, so if you are a man, it is best to approach another man when asking for directions or advice.
There are stiff fines for consuming alcohol other than on licensed premises or at home (you must have a liquor permit to buy alcohol for use at home). Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence and could lead to prosecution and deportation. Alcohol is never sold or served during the month of Ramadan, or on the nine days of Eid al Adha. The country applies a zero-tolerance attitude to drugs.
Draft laws have been submitted for a new anti-tobacco law to give public places including shopping centres more power to enforce no smoking on their premises.
Qatar local time is three hours ahead of GMT, also known as Universal Coordinated Time. It is fixed across the country and throughout the year. There is no summer daylight saving.
Hours of Business
The working week in Qatar is from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday (the holy day for Muslims) and usually, Saturday being days off. Government ministries’ working hours are from 7 am – 2 pm, Sunday to Thursday; the oil, gas and petrochemicals companies follow a similar working week. Some private businesses follow a one shift workday, but many have two: roughly 8 am – 1 pm and
4 pm – 8 pm. Shop times vary but are generally 8:30 am – 12:30 pm and 4 pm – 10 pm; although shopping malls tend to be open all day between the hours of 10 am and 11 pm. Some shops do not open on Fridays, while others open for a couple of hours early in the morning and reopen in the late afternoon. Most malls now open on Fridays at 1:30 pm, with shopping centres opening at 4 pm.
The official currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR), which is divided into 100 Dirhams. The exchange parity has been set at the fixed rate of USD1 = QAR3.64.
The dates of religious public holidays (Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha) are fixed according to the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. The commencement of the Holy Month of Ramadan is confirmed the night before by the sighting of the new moon.
In 2020, the three-day celebration of Eid Al Fitr, at the end of Ramadan began on 24 May 2020. Eid Al Adha is expected to start around 31 July 2020. Qatar’s National Day is 18 December each year. National Sport Day takes place on the second Tuesday of each February. For those in the banking and finance sector, there are additional one day public holidays in January and March, depending upon the institution they work for.
Accidents and Medical Emergencies
The number for emergencies – fire, police or ambulance – is 999.
There are three local English daily newspapers published in Qatar: Gulf Times, The Peninsula and Qatar Tribune — and plus the international New York Times. Other international titles arrive a little later.
The Arabic dailies published in Qatar include Al Arab, Al Sharq, Arrayah and Al Watan. Most newsagents deliver newspapers if asked. Dailies are also available online.
The international dialling code for Qatar is +974. Local calls from private houses and businesses are free, but hotels charge a nominal fee for local calls made from the room. For international calls inquiry call 150.
Public Wireless Internet
Internet connections: All hotels in Qatar offer internet connectivity.
Hotspot Broadband Wi-Fi Services: Ooredoo and Vodafone offer high-speed internet access at selected locations within Qatar, connecting Wi-Fi enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Hotspots include many cafés, coffee shops, libraries, the airport and other public places.
iParks: The following are some public parks with free wireless internet: Al Khor, Al Khor Corniche, Al Maamoura Family Park, Al Wakra, Dahl Al Hamam, Dukhan, Hotel Park, Al Sheehaniya, Umm Slal, Aspire Park, MIA Park, and Simaisma. More iParks will follow in due course. Hotline (24/7): 4406 9955
How to connect
Using a computer: Connect to the iParks WiFi, enter your mobile number and click the ‘submit’ button on the web page. You will receive an SMS notification with a PIN. Enter this PIN into the authentication field and click the ‘connect’ button.
Using a smartphone: Enable your Wi-Fi and simply SMS ‘iParks’ to the toll free number 92194. Click on the link received to gain access.
Television and Radio
Al Jazeera: The most-watched Arabic news channel in the Arab world is broadcast from Doha in English and Arabic. The radio service broadcasts 24/7 news and current affairs in English on 101.7 FM.
Qabayan Radio: First and only Filipino radio channel in Qatar, operating on 94.3 FM. qabayanfm.com
Qatar Television (QTV): Operates Channel 1 in Arabic. qtv.qa
QBS Radio: Operates daily on 97.5 FM in English.
Oryx FM: A French service, transmits 24/7 on 94.0 FM. oryxradio.qa
Quran Radio Qatar: Operates 24/7 in Arabic with more than 10 talk shows on 103.4 FM. quranradio.qa
Radio Olive: A Hindi FM station, broadcasts 24/7 with information, music and entertainment to the diaspora from the Indian Sub-Continent on 106.3 FM. olive.qa
Sout Al Khaleej (Voice of the Gulf): An Arabic live radio station, broadcasts Arab music and entertainment on 99.0 – 100.8 FM. soutalkhaleej.fm
Places of Worship
Islam is the official religion of Qatar but, many expatriate communities hold church services. All religious associations need to register with Qatar International Christian Ministry (QICM) to be considered legitimate. 7 am – 2 pm
Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center (Fanar) Al Juma’a Khutba and prayer in English for male and female English-speaking Muslims on Fridays. Open Sunday to Thursday 8 am – 1 pm and 5 pm – 8 pm. 4444 7444, binzaid.gov.qa
Church of the Epiphany Anglican/Episcopal Church. 4416 5726, social.epiphany-qatar.com
Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary Daily Mass: early morning and evening in English and other languages. 4416 5400/5550, ourladyofrosarychurch.org
Doha Immanuel Mar Thoma Church Member of Inter Denominational Christian Church. 4416 5701, imtcdoha.com
Rehoboth Assembly Church (RCCG) A parish of the redeemed Christian Church of God. Teenage Church and Children’s Club available. 5046 8941, rccgrehobothqatar.org