Qatari traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Qatar?

Brief drawing of the customs and traditions of Qatar.

Food in daily life

The presence of foreign workers has introduced foods from all over the world.

Qatari cuisine has been influenced by close ties to Iran and India, and more recently by the arrival of Arabs from North Africa and the Levant, as well as by Muslim dietary conventions. Muslims generally refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol, and neither is served publicly.

Central foods of Qatari cuisine include the many native varieties of dates and shellfish. Other foods grown locally or in Iran are considered local delicacies, including sour apples and fresh almonds. The traditional machbous dish is richly seasoned rice combined with meat and/or seafood and traditionally served on a large communal platter.

The main meal is eaten at noon, with lighter meals in the morning and evening. However, with the increasing number of Qataris entering the workforce, evening family meals are becoming more common.

The Friday noon meal, after prayers, is the main gathering of the week for many families. During the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, elaborate and festive meals are served in the evening.

Coffee is a central feature of the kitchen. Arabic coffee made from a lightly roasted bean, sweetened and flavored with cardamom, is served in small thimble-shaped cups to guests in homes and offices.

Most homes have a pot of coffee and sometimes tea ready for visitors. Another drink, qahwa helw (sweet coffee), a vivid infusion of saffron, cardamom, and sugar, is served on special occasions and by the elite.

In recent years, restaurant and fast food franchises have opened. These establishments cater mainly to foreign workers. Qataris, especially women, are reluctant to eat in public places, but will use restaurants’ takeaway and delivery services. Qatari men sometimes socialize and do business in restaurants and cafes.


Most marriages are arranged. Typically, the groom’s mother and sisters ask initial questions about potential brides, discuss the possibilities with the young man, and if interested, approach the potential bride’s family. That woman has the opportunity to accept or reject the proposal.

Marriages are often arranged between families with similar backgrounds, and it is common for multiple members of two lineages to intermarry. Marriages between Qataris and other Gulf Arabs are common, but the government discourages marriage with non-Gulf citizens.

One must obtain official permission to marry a non-citizen, and the citizen may have to forgo the promise of government employment and other benefits.

Polygamy is religiously and legally sanctioned. Although still common among the ruling family, the number of polygamous marriages has decreased in recent years.

A wife can divorce her husband if he takes another wife, and with more education and economic options, women are more likely to do so now than they were in the past. Another reason for the decline in polygamy may be the increased cost of maintaining more than one household.

The divorce rate has increased considerably since 1980. Both women and men can file for divorce, and custody is granted in accordance with Islamic law. Small children stay with the mother; once they reach adolescence, custody falls to the father.


Social behavior is carried out in a manner that is respectful of family privacy, hospitality, and public separation of the genders. Visits with unrelated persons occur outside the home or in designated guest areas, separate from areas regularly used by the family.

You don’t needlessly wonder about someone else’s family. Despite this strong sense of family privacy, it is considered impolite not to extend hospitality to strangers.

Tea, coffee, food and a cool place to sit must be offered to any visitor. On the contrary, it is rude not to accept hospitality. When greeting a member of the opposite sex, it is best to act with reserve, following the example of Qatar.

Some Qatari women are comfortable shaking hands with a man, but others refrain. Likewise, men may refrain from reaching out to women or sitting next to them.

Religious beliefs

Most of the citizens and the ruling family are Sunni Muslims, specifically Wahhabis. However, there is a large minority of Shia Muslims. Recent events such as the Iranian Revolution, the Iran -Iraq War and alleged discrimination against Shia Muslims have exacerbated sectarian tensions. These divisions are rarely openly discussed.

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