A Qatar Guide for Tourists and Residents
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Welcome to Qatar! I arrived in Qatar 5 months ago, and I now consider myself an expert on Qatar and its culture. There are some things about Qatar that surprised me when I first arrived. Here are a few of them.

  1. Most people who live in Qatar aren’t Arabs. Really. Qataris themselves make up less than a third of the population (of less than 1 million), and the other Arabs here still don’t make up half the population, on my estimates. The majority would be Indians, Philippinos, Pakistanis and assorted other Asians.

  2. Speaking Arabic here is a waste of time. If you read number 1, this is probably obvious. Since most shop assistants aren’t Arabs, and all of them speak English, then speaking Arabic is just making things harder for everyone.

  3. Qatar is tolerant. Of course, I’m not saying that they are about to have a gay parade. But what I mean is that you’re not likely to get shouted at in the streets if your dress is an inch too short. It isn’t a tut-tutting culture. There is, though, a strong sense of right and wrong, and it may not necessarily be the same right and wrongs that a westerner is used to. It makes sense, though, and it works.

  4. There’s booze. This is part of the tolerance thing. It’s very restricted, of course, and there’s a grand total of two offies (liquor stores) in the whole country. It has to be said, though, that these are excellent shops. There’s no need for them to be so nice – we would turn up to a barn to buy booze. It says something for Qatar that not only do they tolerate our vices, they do so in a very hospitable and gracious way.

  5. It’s cold. Actually, that’s a lie.

  6. Women have good jobs. My boss is a woman, and the men working for her respect her just as much as if she were a man. It would be wrong to say that women are liberated in the Western sense, but they are also not oppressed in the Western way. There’s no ‘little lady’ macho in this culture, and women are not condescended to. Openly disrespecting women is frowned upon.

  7. The people are nice and funny. This is only a personal opinion, of course, and you should never generalise (oh no…) but I’ve found the typical Qatari to be quite a jolly soul with a mischievous sense of humour.

Welcome to Qatar – a surprising little place, with a great spirit!

© QatarVisitor