Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world and both visitors and residents have the opportunity to experience the courteous and hospitable nature of Arab culture. However, bear in mind that Qatar is a conservative Islamic state – by following a few simple rules in public you will more than repay the warm welcome shown to you.
Please dress modestly when out in public. As a show of respect towards the culture and tradition of Qatar, visitors and expatriates (both men and women) should dress conservatively. Avoid exposing the knees, shoulders, cleavage and stomach. Likewise, avoid tight, revealing clothing. Although there are many people who show disregard for the dress code here, it is in your best interest to avoid any unwelcome attention. Be particularly modest during the holy month of Ramadan. Visitors should also be mindful of the conservative dress code which is often required at the beach and by the pool in public. Topless sunbathing is prohibited. Public displays of affection between men and women are discouraged and behaviour that is considered immoral could result in prosecution.
There are many photographic opportunities in Qatar, but exercise discretion when photographing local residents, even from a distance. It is wise to ask their permission first. Muslim ladies are very modest, so if you are a man, it is best to approach another man when asking for directions or advice.
There are stiff fines for consuming alcohol other than on licensed premises or at home (you must have a liquor permit to buy alcohol for use at home). Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence, and could lead to prosecution and deportation. Alcohol is not sold or served during the month of Ramadan, or in the 10 days before Eid Al Adha. The country applies a zero-tolerance attitude to drugs.
Law No 10 of 2016 on the Control of Tobacco and its Derivatives is the principal law governing tobacco control in Qatar. The law prohibits smoking in indoor public places and the sale of e-cigarettes.
Qatar local time is three hours ahead of GMT, also known as Universal Coordinated Time. It is fixed across the country and throughout the year. There is no summer daylight saving.
Hours of Business
The working week in Qatar is from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday (a sacred day of worship for Muslims) and usually Saturday being days off. Government ministries’ working hours are from 7 am – 2 pm, Sunday to Thursday; the oil, gas and petrochemicals companies follow a similar working week. Some private businesses follow a one shift workday, but many have two: roughly 8 am – 1 pm and 4 pm – 8 pm. Shop times vary but are generally 8:30 am – 12:30 pm and 4 pm – 10 pm, although shopping malls tend to be open all day between the hours of 10 am and 11 pm. Some shops do not open on Fridays, while others open for a couple of hours early in the morning and reopen in the late afternoon. Most malls now open on Fridays at 1:30 pm, with shopping centres opening at 4 pm.
The official currency is the Qatari Riyal (QAR), which is divided into 100 Dirhams. The exchange parity has been set at the fixed rate of USD1 = QAR3.64. See Currency and The Banking Sector in Qatar in the Business and Economy section for details of banks and currency exchange houses.
The dates of religious public holidays such as the holy month of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha depend on the Hijri or Islamic calendar. The commencement of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha are confirmed the night before by the sighting of the new moon. The Islamic calendar uses the phases of the moon to mark the months’ start and end dates.
In 2024, the holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on 10 March 2024, followed by Eid Al Fitr on 9 April 2024 and Eid Al Adha on 16 June 2024.
Qatar’s National Day is 18 December each year. National Sport Day takes place on the second Tuesday of each February.
• Qatar is a peninsula of 11,521 sq km located halfway down the west coast of the Arabian Gulf.
Qatar is divided into eight municipalities: Doha, Al Rayyan, Al Wakra, Al Sheehaniya, Al Daayen, Umm Slal, Al Khor, and Al Shamal.
• The territory encompasses several islands including Halul, Sheraouh, Al Beshairiya, Al Safliya (which is a marine protected area) and Al Aaliya.
• The coastline covers 563 km with shallow coastal waters in most areas and many coves and inlets.
• The terrain is flat and rocky, covered with sand flats and sand dunes. There are some exceptional low-rising limestone outcrops in the north and the west.
• The country is centrally placed among the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which groups it with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
• Qatar’s population in October 2023 was 3,085,087, according to figures issued by the
Planning and Statistics Authority (PSA) in October 2023. For the latest demographic statistics,
• Other population centres, apart from Doha, include Dukhan on the west coast, Mesaieed City and Al Wakra in the south, and Ras Laffan, Lusail City, The Pearl-Qatar, and Al Khor in the north. Ras Laffan Industrial City (RLC) is creating a population expansion in Al Khor and the adjoining areas. Projects are underway to provide new housing and amenities in the area.
• The country has a moderate desert climate with mild winters and hot summers. Winter nights can be cool, but temperatures rarely drop below 7°C.
• Humidity levels can be very high on the coast during the summer months.
• Rainfall is scarce (average 70 mm per year), falling on isolated days mainly between October and March.
Language and Religion
• The official language of the country is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood.
• All official documents (such as visa and resident permit applications) must be completed in Arabic.
• Islam is the official religion of the country, and Shari’a (Islamic Law) is the principal source of legislation.
• The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, assumed power on 25 June 2013.
• The ruling Al Thani family was among a tribal group who had settled at the ‘Gibrin’ oasis in southern Najd, before their arrival in Qatar during the early 18th century. Initially, they settled in Zubara in northern Qatar, moving to Doha in the mid-19th century. The family is a branch of the ancient Arab tribe, the Bani Tameem, whose descent can be traced back to Mudar bin Nizar.
• The name Al Thani is derived from that of the family’s ancestor Thani bin Mohamad bin Thani, who was the first sheikh to rule modern Qatar.
The Ruling Family
• Amir of the State of Qatar His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani
• Father Amir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
• Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs His Excellency Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani
• Minister of Interior His Excellency Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, assumed power on 25 June 2013.
The ruling Al Thani family was among a tribal group who had settled at the ‘Gibrin’ oasis in southern Najd, before their arrival in Qatar during the early 18th century. Initially, they settled in Zubara in northern Qatar, moving to Doha in the mid-19th century. The family is a branch of the ancient Arab tribe, the Bani Tameem, whose descent can be traced back to Mudar bin Nizar.
The name Al Thani is derived from that of the family’s ancestor Thani bin Mohamad bin Thani, who was the first sheikh to rule modern Qatar.
The Qatari Flag
• The national flag is maroon with a broad vertical white stripe at the pole, the two colours being separated with a nine-point serrated line which indicates Qatar as the ninth member of the ‘reconciled Amirates’ of the Gulf, after the 1916 Qatar-British Treaty.
• White signifies the internationally recognised symbol of peace. Maroon symbolises the blood shed during the several wars that Qatar has undergone, particularly in the second half of the 19th century.
• The Amir is the ruler of Qatar. Rule is hereditary, with power transferred from father to son. If no son is available, power is transferred to the person whom the Amir chooses within the Al Thani family.
• The Amir is the head of the constitutional authorities, holding both legislative and executive powers. The Amir appoints the prime minister and ministers.
• The Council of Ministers (Cabinet), the supreme executive authority in the country, assists in implementing the general policies of the State.
• The first provisional constitution was issued in 1970, and amended in 1972 upon independence. In April 2003, an overwhelming 96.6% of Qatari voters said ‘yes’ to a draft permanent constitution, which became effective on 8 June 2005.
• In 1999, free elections were held to form a 29-member Central Municipal Council (CMC) for the first time in Qatar’s history. Women were allowed to vote and run as candidates. The constitution was amended in 2003 to allow for the direct election of 30 members of the Advisory Council. Held every four years, the elections for the sixth edition of CMC was held in June 2023.
• Qatar held its first-ever Shura Council elections on 2 October 2021. The Council was established in 1972, following the passing of the Amended Provisional Basic Law of Rule in the State of Qatar on 19 April 1972, to assist the Amir of Qatar, and the Council of Ministers in the performance of their duties. One of the two main pillars of Qatar’s legislative body, the Shura Council comprises a total of 45 members, 30 of whom are elected via a general ballot, while the remaining 15 are appointed by the Amir. The term of office of the Shura Council is four years commencing from the date of the first meeting. The Council assumes the following functions in accordance with the constitution: Legislative authority, approving the general budget of the government, and exercising control over the executive authority, as specified in the constitution. shura.qa
• Archaeological discoveries, inscriptions and artefacts prove that Qatar was populated as early as 10,000 – 8,000 BCE.
• In the middle of the 1st century CE, Pliny the Elder referred to the nomads of the area as the ‘Catharrei’ – an apparent reference to their constant search for water.
• One of the world’s earliest maps, The Map of Ptolemy in the 2nd century CE, shows the word ‘Catara’ at the head of the bay.
• Qatar played an important role in the Islamic civilisation when its inhabitants participated in the formation and provision of the first naval fleet.
• During the 16th century, the Qataris aligned with the Turks to drive out the Portuguese. Subsequently, along with the entire Arabian Peninsula, they fell under the nominal rule of the Ottoman Empire for four successive centuries – with the real power and control remaining in the hands of the sheikhs and amirs of Arab tribes.
• Qatar, with proved gas reserves of nearly 900 tn standard cubic feet in its North Field, and oil reserves of over 25.2 bn barrels, has one of the fastest growing economies and the highest per capita income in the world.
• In just decades, Qatar has developed into a major global supplier of energy and is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a world leader in gas-to-liquids (GTL) production.
• While developing its huge hydrocarbon reserves, Qatar has also diversified its economy, and emphasis is being placed on private-sector industrial development, education, health, sport and tourism.
• Investment laws allow foreign investment in many sectors including agriculture, industry, leisure, tourism, health, education and the exploitation of natural resources, energy and mining – see Investment and Trade in the Business and Economy section for details.
• The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strives to establish and develop close direct ties with all peace-loving countries and peoples of the world. It is keen to participate actively in efforts to deal with the concerns and challenges that the Gulf region encounters.
• Qatar was actively involved in the discussions leading to the foundation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and has hosted a number of their Supreme Council Summit Meetings.
• Qatar maintains 100 embassies abroad as well as 11 consulates and two other representations. Doha hosts 99 embassies, and is one consulate. There are no other representations in Qatar.
Qatar is a member of:
• Arab League
• Asian Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
• European Council (observer member)
• Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
• International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank
• Organisation of Arab Oil Exporting Countries (OAPEC) and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF)
• Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)
• Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM)
• The United Nations (UN) and its subsidiary global organisations
• The US officially designated Qatar as a major non-NATO ally in March 2022
• UNESCO World Heritage Committee
• World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board
• World Trade Organisation (WTO)
• World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
Transport and Communication
• The country is served by Hamad International Airport (HIA). For more information on Airports see Traveller Information in the Discovering Qatar section.
• Metered taxis and limousines are easy to find and there is a comprehensive public transport system.
• Qatar has a modern road system linking it with other GCC countries.
• The Doha Metro is fully operational, including three out of the four lines (Red, Gold and Green) and 37 stations. The future phases involve the introduction of an additional line (Blue) and the expansion of the existing ones, with more than 60 additional stations and the first expansion to be completed by 2026. Lusail Tram has started operations into Lusail City – connect at Legtaifiya from Doha Metro to Lusail Tram. See more in Getting Around Qatar in this section.
• The telecommunications system is currently being upgraded to an entirely fibre-optic network.