Qatar lies on the Persian Gulf in eastern Arabia north of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This perhaps due in part to a large police presence; this is speculated to be due to perceived terrorist threats against Westerners. So it's more likely you'll unknowingly commit a crime than have one committed against you on your visit.

Qatari Crime

The country is populated mostly by wealthy individuals and foreigners on lucrative work contracts. There is also a large population of expatriate blue collar workers who are on short term contracts working on various construction projects across the country.
Despite the cultural diversity, the country and its society is quite stable. However, the capital city Doha has seen more violence in recent years due to economic pressures and a population surge. There is a poor element in addition to a downright greedy one that motivates petty crime like pick pocketing and theft.

ATM and credit card theft are reported to be on the rise.

Gender Issues

Behaviour towards women can also turn criminal. Harassment in crowded public places towards women is not uncommon

Men might creepily circle around a woman while she's on the street or make whispering sounds at her to get her attention elsewhere. It is illegal to harass (and this term encompasses everything from striking up a conversation to staring) women in the country, but this rule seems to be applied loosely with preferential treatment towards local women.

Special Considerations

Because Qatar is an Islamic country, there are several actions considered illegal of which travellers would otherwise think nothing. Offenses are governed by Qatari law, and penalties can be severe.

Women will be expected to cover up and dress modestly. Shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts should not be worn. While travellers who break these dress codes will not necessarily be penalised, they may be considered rude by the Qatari people.

Special care with dress should be taken during the Ramadan holiday. Also during this period, it's forbidden to eat or drink in public between sunrise and sunset, even for non-Muslims. Only certain restaurants will be open during these times. Friday afternoon is dedicated to prayers so you'll find restaurants and cafes closed during this period, usually around midday.

Travellers and expats have been arrested for crimes such as traffic accidents, obscene language, insulting someone publicly and slander. Individuals often spend a few nights in jail while they wait to attend a hearing. Fines are also possible in addition to jail time.

The legal drinking age is 21 and alcohol is only served in restaurants and bars in licensed hotels. Drinking in public is prohibited and drug use or sales is prohibited and punishable by law.

Punishments for crimes involving drinking and driving, the legal limit is 0, and drug use or sale are extremely stiff.

You can't drink anywhere that isn't licensed, however no such restrictions govern smoking. Shisha smoking is quite common and often considered a cultural pastime.

Homosexual activity is also against the law and can result in whippings in addition to prison or deportation.

It's also considered inappropriate to take pictures of the local women in Qatar in addition to public buildings and military sites.

Import regulations are strict, pork is banned in addition to weapons, narcotics and pornography.

Certain medications may be illegal in Qatar, so bring your prescription slip and a note from your physician.

Certain public displays of affection such as kissing is illegal especially in family friendly spaces. Displays of love can result in you being asked to leave or pay a fine.

Qatar is not a very pedestrian friendly country, as most people own cars and the high temperatures make walking around rather unpleasant. The local driving etiquette leaves a lot to be desired, with drivers appearing quite rude and even dangerous. So take a leaf out of the local handbook and grab a ride on four wheels.

Other local customs include no showing the soles of your feet or shoes to a Qatari.

Arguing for the dinner bill is also common, and a Qatari will usually win out.

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2 Comments

  • mike said

    how long does it take to wait for a hearing if you are an expat

  • Jon Bentley said

    "despite cultural diversity, the country is stable"

    Who said that cultural diversity normally breeds instability, as this implies?

    In fact, only the lunatic fringes of the right wing believe that cultural mixing = instability.

    As a Londoner I can confirm that a big mixture of people & cultures can be a very good thing.

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