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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Qatar's Increasing Conservatism

When I first moved here I thought Qatar was becoming more liberal.

Head scarves seemed to be moving back, the Ministry of Information had been abolished and expats could dance the night away at numerous clubs.

More recently the establishment of a church in Qatar, despite some loud local opposition, was a brave and tolerant move by the administration.

Slowly, things seem to be changing.

Dress Code

It's perhaps inevitable that the dress code should be tightened up.

Some people were taking advantage of the relative freedom of the country to wear clothes that were offensive to local people.

A tightening up started with the publication of a dress code, although at the time this sounded more like a guideline than a rule.

Now, though, a strict dress code is imposed upon clubbers and bar goers. Knees and shoulders must be covered by clothes, and dresses should not expose too much flesh, either at the front or at the back.


The first rule I noticed regarding alcohol was an edict banning drinking by swimming pools.

The number of bars have also shrunk, with Garvies losing its licence, two hotels with bars closing down and the old... also shutting.

There are also plans to shut down the cheaper alternatives.

Those remaining are increasingly hard to get into.

You now need an id card to enter into a bar, and you have to have membership of the bar or club before you are allowed to drink.

Some visitors have been turned away from bars on the basis that their visa was not sufficient. It seems that if you have a tourist visa you may be turned away unless you are in your own hotel, whereas if you have a business visa you have a licence to drink.

The Future

So far, most of these changes do not impact too much upon our lives.

These edicts are likely to continue, though.

The crucial point for most expats is alcohol.

Currently, whereas a sojurn in Saudi Arabia is often viewed as an ordeal to be undergone for some specific financial goal, Qatar is still considered a pleasant, if expensive, place to live.

A ban on alcohol would leave to many Western expats leaving, or demanding a premium on their salaries.

A Choice Only Qataris Can Make

Of course, the direction Qataris take Qatar is a decision that only Qataris can make.

We and most of our readers are visitors in a place which is not our country and is not our culture.

And, at the end of the day, we are free to leave if things become too conservative for our liking.

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