A Guide To Living in Qatar
You can buy alcohol in hotel bars, although you'll pay for it. Alcohol can also be bought at the Qatar Distribution Centre with an alcohol permit up to a limit of ten percent of your income. Drinking outside the house or licensed premises is illegal, and if you cause any trouble after consuming liqour you'll be in serious trouble. See Buying Alcohol in Qatar for more information.
Just a few years ago the situation was dire. Now, however, Virgin Megastore has opened in Villagio and has a very good selection of books. There are also a growing collection of books about Qatar, including Qatar Explorer, which is getting better with every edition. See Books, Bookstores and Libraries for more information.
A few years ago we said this was getting more relaxed, but there has been some negative reaction to visitors pushing things too far. However, Qatar is still much more liberal here than neighbouring countries. Basically, cover your shoulders, don't expose too much skin and make sure dresses/shorts are not too short. Exposing your belly will cause offence and possibly trouble!
There are bars and hotel clubs, but don't expect them be up to the standards of major international cities. Nevertheless, you can dance and get a drink. There are plenty of cinemas, including a 14 screen complex at City Centre showing both Arabic and Western movies in their original language. Ice-rinks and ten pin bowling are also available.
There's one national theatre, which is not very active, and an amateur theatre group called the Doha Players, who are very active. More effort seems to be going into providing entertainment, and these often take place in hotel auditoriums. Traditional entertainment is also available sitting in a cafe, enjoying a shisha and sipping Turkish coffee while lounging on cushions.
For more information see Things to Do in Qatar.
With such a range of people, there's a huge choice of food. What's more, eating out, despite the huge price increases of recent years, is still cheaper than in many countries in the West - a vegetarian Indian can cost less than two dollars. Seafood is particularly good value. See our article on Food in Qatar for more detail.
You will know it's going to be hot but you may not be prepared for just how hot it can be. In July and August even the air conditioning can't stop you from feeling the heat, and you had better be careful using the water sprays besides the toilet or you could burn your backside. Paradoxically, the thousands of air conditioner blasting hot air into the city raises the temperature above that of the surrounding desert. During these summer months outdoor activities cease and people flee abroad or retreat to the malls.
Nevertheless, this punishing heat is not around all year round. In December and January temperatures can even become chilly and when this happens the country's supply of heaters can run out rapidly. (See Weather and Desert Cold for details.)
There wasn't one when I came, but it is rapidly developing. I Love Qatar, Qatar living, Qatar Social and are the two online forums, and there's also a small blog community. Blogs can register with the Qatar blogs project on Qatar living to get links and readers. FaceBook is also very popular in Qatar!
It might surprise you to learn this, but Qataris are very much a minority in this country. The largest population group is probably Indian, but there are also large numbers of Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Philipinos, Pakistanis, Africans, Egyptians and others.
There are no longer any religious police. Police are generally friendly and polite, and seem to be honest, although I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of them!
Yes, Qatar is a very religious country. People will try and convert you to Islam. Don't take this as an insult - they are concerned for your soul. While proselytizing back is illegal and could lead to you being deported, there is freedom of worship here, and there are a number of churches. Whatever your religion, you will soon become accustomed to the sound of the prayer call. We have recorded the prayer call for you - click here here to to see what it sounds like!
Generally this is a very safe country, with extremely low crime rates. There does seem to have been a rise in crime recently, but violent crime is still virtually non-existent.
Sex in Qatar
Heterosexual sex outside marriage is illegal. What happens in practice (and contrary to just a few years ago) is that relationships conducted in private are tolerated, although couples caught having sex in public will be prosecuted and deported. Muslims will also be lashed. Some prostitutes do manage to sneak into the country, and from time to time a bunch are rounded up and deported. Homosexual sex is illegal outright, although obviously in a country with a ratio of two men to every one women and huge restrictions on meetings between the sexes, it is rife.
If you like shopping, put aside any reservations and come now. It's good, really good, and it's getting better. There are traditional markets and souqs, including the fantastic Souq Waqif, and huge malls the latest addition, Villagio, is particularly impressive! Check out Qatar Shopping for more information.
Things To Do
You can do most things that you can do anywhere and a few that you can't. Sand boarding, blo-kiting and dune bashing are two activities which the adventurous can try. You might also want to sample the camel racing at Shahinaya. See Things to Do in Qatar for more information.
Things To See
Being such a tiny country (it's about a 100 miles long) there's not a huge amount to see, but the Inland Sea and The Singing Sand Dunes are both worth a visit. There are also plenty of forts and excavations for the historically inclined. The Qatar Natural History Group is a very active organization that organises trips around the country in addition to evening lectures.
There are strict rules concerning hours of work, but many employers ignore them. Long hours are the norm, although not for all (government workers spring to mind) and the private sector often work six days a week. See Working: Qatar style.
The Qatar Living forum is the sources of tonnes of information about life in Qatar.
Qatar: Daily Life and Social Customs : from Encyclodia Britannica.com
Images of Life in Qatar: A photo gallery by John Thompson
Life on the Spot: Life and Leisure in Doha, Qatar: A blog by a Filipino family living in Qatar. Has both personal posts and useful information about Qatar