A Qatar Guide for Tourists and Residents
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Monday, January 29, 2007

Qatar Visitor Glossary

What is...? Essential words for living in Qatar


Adhan - Muslim prayer call

Allah – God

Al-Thanis – the ruling family of Qatar. See The rise of the Qatari ruling family

Aspire – a classy sporting academy in the Sport City. Tests the whole of Qatar’s young population to find the most promising athletes of the future.


Bedouin – formerly nomadic tribespeople. Some of the older Qatari Bedouins will have spent their early life travelling in the desert as nomads.


Corniche – seafront. The Corniche in Doha is probably the nicest place in Qatar, curving round the bay for several kilometres. Trees provide shade, with grass to lie on and flowers and fountains to look at, and its several play areas should keep the kids entertained.


Doha – the capital city of Qatar.


Emir (also spelt Amir) - the ruler of Qatar, currently the moderate and modernising Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Eid – Eid means feast, and refers to festivals: Eid al Fitr (celebrated at the end of Ramadan) and Eid Al Adha, which remembers the time when Abraham nearly sacrificed his son. For more details see Holidays, festivals and important dates in Qatar.

Estimara – road permit. Cars older than three years must pass an annual road test before being issued their permit.

Exit permit – required by all residents (except dependants) to leave the country. See Qatar Visas.


Hadith – refers to the sayings and actions of Mohammed, and forms the basis of Sharia law.

Hajj – the annual pilgramage to Mecca. Every Muslim who is able to do so should make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives.

Halal – anything that is permissible under Islam.

Hamour – a local fish – very tasty!

Haraam – forbidden under Islam (e.g. pork, alcohol, music).

Health card – entitles residents to free or discounted health treatment. See Healthcare in Qatar.


ID card – you obtain this after completing your residence permit. By law you should carry this around (although I’ve never, ever been asked for it), although other forms of ID such as your passport or Qatar Driving licence are also acceptable.

Imam – a religious leader, or someone who leads the prayers. It has also been used to refer to the Caliphs of Arabia, the rulers who initially followed Mohammed.


Gulf Times – Qatar’s longest running English language newspaper. It’s a good source of second hand cars and goods.


Khaleeji music – popular form of Gulf music.

Khalifas – the former ruling family of Qatar, who conquered and moved to Bahrain in 1783, but retained some control over Qatar until the intervention of the British in the nineteenth century. They maintained their claim to parts of the country, including Zubara, and in 1986 shots were exchanged between gun boats. The territorial dispute was finally resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2001, with an island being ceded to Bahrain which in turn relinquished its claim to parts of the mainland.

Khor El Adaid – The Inland Sea. Connected to the sea, this salt-water lake is a popular camping destination, but is only accessible with off-road vehicles.


Land cruiser – weapon of mass destruction, far more dangerous than the camel it replaced, but no less loved by its owner.

Liquor permit – required to purchase alcohol at the Qatar Distribution Company.


Majlis – a meeting place for men or women ( but not both together), originally a tent.

Mobile phone – has replaced the sword in the affection of the Qataris, but it is just as lethal when combined with land cruiser (see above).


Oud – Arabian lute (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oud).


Pearl, The – huge real estate development, where expats can buy property. See Buying property in Qatar.

Peninsula – another local newspaper – rather more critical than the Gulf Times.


Qatar Airways – a fast growing airline that, as it frequently reminds us, is one of only four “five star” airlines in the world.

Qatar distribution company – monopoly owners of the only two alcohol outlets in the country – also sells to hotels.

Q-league – Qatar’s top football division, with 10 teams playing within it. See Qatar Football.

Qatar Riyal – Qatar currency. 1 riyal is worth about 25 US cents. The riyal is currently pegged to the US dollar.

QBS – a local radio station which broadcasts in English and French.

Q-post – Qatar’s postal service, currently holding onto at least three of my parcels. Even though they only have to put mail in a box (there is no organised system of addresses), they still seem to have immense trouble delivering on time. One article in the Gulf Times suggested an average of 5 weeks for a postcard to cross the city (i.e. move across the room from one box to another!)

Qur’an, (also written as Al-Quran, or Koran) – Islam’s religious text. Muslims believe
it was handed complete from God to Mohammed . The evidence for this claim is partly based on their assertion that Mohammed was illiterate, and would therefore not have been able to compose such a great piece of work.

Q-tel – Qatar’s telecommunications service, which will be opened to competition for the first time this year (2007).


Rababa (also spelled rebaba) – a one string musical instrument used by the Bedouin.

Ramadan – a month of fasting that forms one of the pillars of Islam.

Robot jockeys – have been used to replace the child jockeys who used to race camels. See Camel Racing for pictures and details.


Sadew weaving – Bedouin weaving making use of camel, goat and sheep hair.

Sharia law – Islamic law. See Two Laws

Sport city – impressive sporting facility which includes Aspire academy and the fifty-thousand seater Khalifa stadium, where the closing and opening ceremonies of the Asian Games were held.

Sunni – a branch of Islam. Qatar is predominantly Sunni.

Supreme Education Council http://www.english.education.gov.qa/section/sec/ – runs part of the education system.

Shia – the second biggest branch of Islam after Sunni. Unlike Sunni Muslims, Shia maintain that Ali was the first Caliph after Mohammed, and believe in following the guidance of Mohammed’s family.

Shisha – a water pipe used to smoke flavoured tobacco. The water has a cooling, smoothing effect on the tobacco and the effect is milder and more pleasant than smoking a cigarette.

Sheikh – Sheikh literally means respected older person, but it can also be used to address members of a royal family.

Souq – also spelt souk/soug/soukh. This essentially means market, but some souqs resemble more modern shopping malls. See Souq Waqif for pictures of a more traditional souq.


Thobe – a long white robe worn by men.


Umrah (also spelt Omrah) – a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time. Unlike the Hajj, it is not compulsory.


Wahabism – an Islamic movement. Its adherents believe in following directly the words and rulings of Mohammed. Qatar is predominantly Wahabi, although it is not practised as strictly as in Saudi Arabia. There has been some suggestion that Qatar may have adopted Wahabism in order to placate their larger neighbour.


Zakat – money that is donated to the poor and needy, those who are in debt, those who have converted to Islam and others. The third of the five pillars of Islam.

Zam-zam – water from the Zam-Zam well in Mecca, which is believed by many to be blessed. The Zam-zam well was believed to have been revealed to Hagar, Abraham's wife, when she was seeking water for her baby son in the desert.

Zubarah – former base of the Khalifa family, now rulers of Bahrain.

Also see:

A beginner’s guide to Arabic

Qatar Visitor Bookstore