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Qatar

Qatar (Arabic: ???; pronounced kut-ar) is a rich Arab state occupying a small peninsula extending into the Persian Gulf to the north of Saudi Arabia, east of Bahrain and west of the United Arab Emirates.

Many come to the Middle East seeking the mystic, traditional life of the Bedouins, wandering the desert with their life's belongings on a camel's back. Although tradition is still an important part of the Qatari ethos, the country has well and truly moved into the twenty-first century with the piercing glass skyscrapers of Doha, a booming trade sector and a new-found place in international diplomacy.

Cities

  • Doha – capital
  • Al Khor – northern city with a population of some 36,000, close to Ras Laffan LNG (liquified natural gas) terminal
  • Al Ruwais (Ar Ru'ays) – this article covers the wider area of the northern municipality of Madinat ash Shamal
  • Al Shahaniyah
  • Al Wakrah
  • Dukhan
  • Mesaieed – industrial town south of Doha, and 25 km south of Wakra, with recreational activities on the coast, including the sand dunes of Khor Al Udeid (the Inland Sea)
  • Umm Salal Mohammed

Other destinations

  • Zubarah - the ruins of a deserted city and a fort built in 1938 by Sheikh Abdu'llah bin Qasim Al-Thani

Understand

Qatar has the world's third-largest natural-gas reserves, behind only Russia and Iran. Its oil reserves are similar in size to those of the United States of America but will last much longer due to production levels being only one-sixth the rate of that country. By most accounts its people are the wealthiest in the world.

Due to its Al Jazeera TV satellite networks broadcasting throughout the globe in Arabic and English, it is hugely influential in an otherwise very conservative region.

History

There is evidence that shows the Qatar peninsula had been inhabited by Bedouin and Canaanite tribes from as early as 4000 BCE. While the museum houses a variety of artifacts including spearheads and pieces of pottery, there is little left of the structures that may have once existed. The Al-Jassassiya rock carvings north of Doha give some idea of how these tribes may have lived. More recently, some sandstone buildings and mosques were discovered, piquing the interest of archaeologists as they seek to discover what still lays beneath the sand.

Emerging out of ancient history, Qatar was dominated by various Western and Eastern empires. The Ormus used the peninsula as a trading post and military port, until the Portuguese were able to extend their rule over the region. Neighbouring Bahrain eventually annexed the peninsula, until rebel movements and British intervention again made Qatar independent. Under pressure, Qatar became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1871 before becoming a British protectorate at the close of World War I. After a brief stint as part of the United Arab Emirates, independence was declared from Britain peacefully in 1971.

Since these times, Qatar has transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for its pearling industry into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues, which enable Qatar to have the highest GDP per capita in the world. Qatar has become deeply involved in world affairs under the royal family, offering support in peacekeeping missions and UN-mandated wars such as that in the Gulf in 1991. Qatar also plays host to various world conferences, including those of the World Trade Organisation, the UN Climate Convention and various mediation bodies. It leaped onto the world stage with the development of the popular Al Jazeera news network and expansion of Qatar Airways to most of the world's continents, and is rapidly gaining interest among foreigners as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup after already holding the Asian Games in 2006.

Geography

Qatar is a peninsula that juts into the Persian Gulf. Most of the country consists of low barren plain with covered with dunes. In the southeast of Qatar lies the Khor al Adaid, an area with sand dunes and an inlet from the Persian Gulf.

Government

Qatar is an absolute monarchy headed by the emir, who is from the Al-Thani family. While the country has rapidly modernised under the leadership of former emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, questions remain on the treatment of migrant workers from other parts of Asia, which many human rights groups describe as exploitative and slave-like. As in most other countries in the region calls for reform and more democracy on the one hand, and a rising islamist movement calling for a "purer" (i.e. more conservative) interpretation of the Qur'an and Islam on the other hand, are a major factor in domestic politics.

Economy

Oil is a cornerstone of the Qatari economy; it used to account for more than 30% of GDP, roughly 80% of export earnings and 58% of government revenues. Proven oil reserves of 15 billion barrels should ensure continued output at current levels for at least the next 20 years. Oil and gas have given Qatar the highest GDP per capita by most studies. Qatar's proved reserves of natural gas exceed 7 trillion cubic metres, more than 11% of the world's total, making it the third largest reserve in the world. Production and export of natural gas are becoming increasingly important. Qatar manages to post very high surpluses each year, and escaped the Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed.

In addition to the energy sector, Qatar also exports petrochemicals, cement and steel. Doha has a rapidly growing financial sector that is cementing itself as one of the centres of trade and finance within the Middle East. The Qatari government has also outlined its plan to boost tourism and media businesses on the peninsula, creating new sectors to further increase Qatar's profile. In addition, many foreign universities have set up outposts in Qatar, transforming Qatar into one of the main education hubs of the Middle East.

Climate

The climate of Qatar can be described as arid and unforgiving. In the summer, which runs from May through to September, the days are characterised by intense and humid heat, averaging 35°C but not unknown to peak at 50°C. In the winter, October to April, the days are much more bearable at about 20-25°C, with a nice cool evening down to around 15°C. If the heat is to be avoided, the best months to visit would be December through January.

Rainfall and storms in Qatar are extremely rare, forcing locals to retrieve water from newly-constructed desalination plants. However, huge sandstorms that envelop the peninsula are common in the summertime. These can be hazardous if not under shelter, and will descend the country into darkness as it blots out the hot sun above. There may also be disruptions to transportation and other services.

Read

  • Allen J. Fromherz, Qatar: A Modern History.
  • Abdul Aziz Al Mahmoud, The Corsair. A debut novel about 19th-century piracy in the Persian Gulf, and the very first novel by a Qatari author.
  • Sophia Al-Maria, The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir. Written by a Qatari-American based in Doha, this is an entertaining account of a childhood spent trying to bridge the divide between Bedouin and American cultures.

Get in

Effective November 2016, if you are transiting Doha on a Qatar Airways ticket, you may be eligible for a free-of-charge transit visa. The rules for a free transit visa are:

  1. you must be on a ticket issued by Qatar Airways (so a redemption ticket from another airline's frequently flyer program won't count).
  2. your scheduled transit time in Doha must be between 5 hours and 96 hours.
  3. the ticket must be one single ticket from an international destination to another, (e.g. Paris-Doha-Bangkok) not two separate tickets (e.g. Paris-Doha and Doha-Bangkok).
  4. on a return ticket, transiting Doha twice, you are only eligible for a free transit visa in one direction (so if you plan to avail of this, try and book one long stopover between flights and one short).
  5. however, if on a return ticket originating in Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, or the United Arab Emirates, the Doha stopover can only be on the outbound trip; and if on a one-way ticket originating in these countries, no free-of-charge transit visa is available.
  6. you must apply for the visa at least 7 days before the departure of the first flight, and you cannot apply until the first flight is 30 days away. So any tickets booked less than a week before departure won't be eligible.
  7. all nationalities are eligible.
  8. if the stopover is scheduled for less than 24 hours, then you may not retrieve your checked baggage from the airport and it will be sent to your next flight automatically; but if the stopover is scheduled for 24 hours or more, then you must retrieve your checked baggage and re-check it for your continuing flight (i.e. you will need to bring your baggage through Qatar customs, which may have implications if you are carrying alcohol or pork products etc.)

The visa is applied for through the Qatar Airways website and involves submitting a scan of your passport.

If you are not eligible for a free transit visa, then you will have to pay. Qatar issues a 30 day visa on arrival at Doha's airport to citizens of Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Greece, Guyana, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Malta, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela. The price is QR 100, with payment by credit card accepted. These visas can be extended once for another 30 days (QR 100) at the 24-hour 1 Airport Immigration Office (in a building near the Oryx Rotana Hotel).. Overstaying a tourist visa incurs penalties of QR 200 per day.

Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and United Arab Emirates, do not need a visa to enter Qatar.

For other nationalities, visa procedures can be complicated, as you will need a guarantor on the Qatari side; either a company or a government entity. Additionally, Qatari embassies, unlike those of most other countries, are not entitled to issue visas, so someone within Qatar will have to file the application for you.

Contrary to popular belief, Qatar permits entry to Israeli passport holders (although you will need a visa in advance) and holders of other passports containing Israeli stamps and visas.

4 to 5-star hotels offer full visa service, for a price, if you book a room with them for the duration of your stay. Qatar Airways can also arrange a hotel and visa for you.

For stays longer than 30 days, visas must be arranged by having a sponsor, which can be a business, government entity or possibly a hotel. Unmarried women under the age of 35 will have a difficult time in procuring a visa for a lengthy stay, as the government fears that they may stay in Qatar to work as prostitutes.

By plane

Entry by air into Qatar has boomed in the last decade. Most people visiting the country will enter via Hamad International Airport (DOH IATA) near Doha. State-owned flag carrier Qatar Airways has secured a huge network of flights operating out of its hub in Doha to 124 destinations. Flights to Sydney scheduled to begin in February 2016 will make Doha airport another of the very few airports in the world with non-stop services to all inhabited continents. Other major airlines also serve the airport, usually running a route between Doha and their own hub in the base country.

A taxi fare from the airport has a default tariff of QR 25.

By car

The only land route to Qatar is from/through Saudi Arabia. Unless you are a citizen of one of the GCC countries, it is fairly difficult to obtain a Saudi visa. Tourism often closes at short notice for extended periods of time, and the visas are both confusing and costly. If you plan on driving from the UAE, Bahrain and other Gulf countries to Qatar through Saudi Arabia, you will need a Saudi transit visa in advance and documents proving your onward journey. There are future plans for a major bridge to link Qatar with neighbouring Bahrain, although these are constantly delayed.

Even if you do manage to obtain a Saudi visa, travel by car is not recommended. The roads between Qatar and other major cities/countries are poor. If you are travelling during the day, be cautious of speeding cars and trucks. Always wear your seat belt and do not speed over 50 mph (80 km/h). Travelling at night is risking your life, with poor visibility and semi-suicidal drivers.

By bus

You can travel to Qatar by bus from/through Saudi Arabia, there are fixed bus routes, within Qatar, although mostly used by men only. However, customs can take up to 4 hours especially at night. You will not be treated nearly as well as if you fly into Doha. Flying in costs only slightly more than a bus ticket.

By boat

There are no specific boat routes, but there are commercial freight boats coming into Doha from all over the world, as well as small commercial boats coming in from Dubai and Iran.

Get around

Public transport comes in three forms in Qatar: buses, taxis and limousines, all of which are owned by government-owned Mowasalat (Karwa) apart from some private limousine companies.

By bus

The bus service began in October 2005. Ticketing is handled using a Karwa Smartcard, which comes in three flavours:

  • Smartcard Classic - Initial fee of QR30 with QR20 credit included. Journey prices vary, costing QR2.50 for a short ride. You must tap-in when you get on the bus, and tap-off when you get off to avoid a default QR30 penalty. Can be purchased in various retailers as listed on the Karwa website, but not on board buses.
  • Smartcard 24 Limited - An initial fee of QR10 allows 2 trips on the bus (one return trip) within 24 hours of first tapping-in. You only need to tap-in, and should not tap-off. Can be bought on board the bus for travel in Greater Doha only.
  • Smartcard 24 Unlimited - An initial fee of QR20 gives the user unlimited travel throughout Qatar within 24 hours of first tapping-in. Again, there is no necessity to tap-off. Can be bought aboard the bus.

A large number of routes criss-cross the country, with the network stretching north to Al Khor, west to Dukhan, and as far south as Mesaieed. A somewhat complicated map can be viewed on the Mowasalat website . Timetable and ticketing information can be obtained by calling +974 4436 6053.

By taxi or limousine

The government-owned Mowasalat also runs the taxi and limousine service. The taxis are easily spotted due to their uniform light blue colour with a maroon top. The initial fare on the meter is QR 4, with an extra QR 1.20 per kilometre within Doha and QR 1.80 anywhere outside the capital. A trip to or from the airport has a single tariff of QR 25. To ensure you are not scammed, some precautions should be noted:

  • For journeys within Doha the tariff should be set to '1', and those at night or outside of Doha should be set to '0'.
  • Check the meter is not tampered; signs of a tampered meter include tape and strips of paper around the outside.
  • By law, if a driver refuses to use the meter, the ride should be free.
  • There are occasional reports of unruly drivers locking the taxi doors or refusing to open the trunk until extra payment is made. If such an occurrence happens to you, attempt to leave the car. If not possible, calling the police on 999 should cause the driver to become very cooperative.

The demand for taxis exceeds the supply and waiting times can vary greatly. Attempting to obtain one during morning business hours requires at least 24 hours notice, although even in practice this is unreliable, as the scheduled taxi often doesn't show up. At other times, it may take 90 minutes or more to get an on-call taxi, and hailing one on the street may be impossible much of the time. The only places where you are guaranteed to find a taxi are major malls, the airport and international hotels.

Taxis can be booked and summoned by calling +974 4458 8888.

An alternative to taxis and buses would be to use a limousine service, which will send an unmarked limo car to your location. They are expensive, but luxurious taxis with an initial fee of QR 20, but do not always feature a meter.

International limousine services, such as Uber, Careem, and Lyft are available in Qatar. The apps allow for quick and easy summoning of a driver.

Occasionally, a local driver may offer you a lift if they see you waiting on the side of the road. It is customary to offer some money at the end, though usually they will refuse to take it. A driver offering a lift will slow down and flash their headlights at you; they can be summoned with a wave in response. Although the practice is safe, it is not advisable for solo women.

By car

You can hire a car with local car rental companies. Plenty of them are located near the airport and Doha city centre, or else ask your hotel for some advice.

Talk

Arabic is the official language of Qatar although the majority of residents do not speak it. Expatriate workers from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines far outnumber native Qataris, particularly in Doha (where the proportion of foreigners is about 90%), many of whom have a very limited knowledge of Arabic. English serves as the lingua franca, and many Qataris speak it to communicate with the foreign workers who work for them. English is the most common second language, and most locals will be able to converse in at least basic English. Among native Qataris, the dialect of Arabic that is spoken is the Gulf dialect. You may encounter foreign labourers speaking diverse languages such as Afrikaans, Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog and Thai. While you can get by just fine in Qatar with only English under your belt, your hosts and any other locals you may meet will be very impressed and appreciative if you can recite a few basic Arabic phrases.

See

For a comparatively small peninsula in the Middle East, there is quite a lot to see in Qatar.

Historical monuments

The history-seeker will not be disappointed, with an assortment of ruins, cave art and museums to keep the mind wandering. Most famous is the archaeological site of Zubarah, where there are the remains of what was once a thriving port city. An early 20th century fort on the site still stands as a museum, a testament to a bygone era. The Al-Jassassiya rock carvings in north-eastern Qatar are a remarkable site of 900 petroglyphs that are believed to date back to ancient tribes who inhabited the peninsula during the 15th century BCE.

A number of forts and towers exist around the country; most of them have also been restored as museums. The Barzan Towers stand at the edge of the town of Umm Salal Mohammed, erected to safeguard the country's rainwater basin. Another defensive watchtower stands in Al Khor. The popular Al Koot Fort is located in the heart of the capital Doha, with a wide variety of traditional handicrafts within. Others structures include Marwab Fort, Al Thughab Fort, Al Shaghab Fort, Al Rakiyat Fort, Al Wajbah Fort and the ruins of Al Yussoufiya Fort, Umm Al Maa Fort and Al Ghuwair Castle.

While the National Museum is closed for renovations, there are a number of other museums across the country that specialise in history. The Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum in Al Shahaniya is the Sheikh's collection of relics, artefacts and art from Qatar, the Middle East and around the world.

Culture and tradition

Nature and the land

Modern attractions

  • The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
  • Souq Waqif : the traditional old marketplace of Qatar. Has many good restaurants, especially at night time. Also sells many national products - bargaining is recommended.
  • The Pearl : a man-made island connected to Doha by a bridge. You can find a big variety of restaurants and shops, mainly in the high range.
  • Villaggio Mall: a spectacular Venetian style shopping mall with a canal and gondolas as well. A huge variety of shops from casual to luxury.
  • Mathaf : The Arab museum of modern art
  • Katara : Cultural village which is home to many international and Arab restaurants, a beautiful beach, and holds many cultural events. Definitely a place to see.
  • Aqua park : Aquatic Funfair.
  • Qatar Mall: A huge meal with a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
  • Aspire park: A beautiful park next to Villaggio mall, it is reserved for families only on the weekend, visiting in the winter months is recommended.
  • MIA park: A beautiful park next to the museum of Islamic art , single people are allowed in, visiting in the winter months is recommended.

Buy

The national currency is the Qatari riyal, denoted by the symbol "?.?" or "QR" (ISO code: QAR). The riyal is pegged to the US dollar at the rate of QR 3.64 to US $1. One riyal is divided into 100 dirham, with 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 dirham coin denominations. The riyal is available in 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 banknote denominations.

It is fairly straightforward to change major world currencies within Qatar, along with the currencies of Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the UAE. Rates are fairly similar between banks and moneychangers, with a large concentration of moneychangers near the Gold Souq of Doha. Banks are abundant across Doha, with branches in the larger cities as well. Travellers cheques are accepted by the major banks.

Qatar has many malls in which regular international brands such as H&M, Zara, Mango etc. The biggest malls are Mall of Qatar, Festival City, and City Center. Middle eastern and local brands are also present

The pearl has luxurious brands from all over the world. It is the premium luxury shopping destination in Qatar.

Blue Salon has huge sales twice a year where you can pick up Armani, Valentino and Cerutti suits for half price. There are many things to buy here but be wary of cheap pearls that have a high possibility of being fake. The many skilled tailors in Qatar make it a good place to have clothes made-to-fit.

The souqs in the centre of Doha also have a lot to offer, although the goods are usually of cheaper quality than those of the malls. Prices are usually negotiable, so practice your bargaining skills. Souq Waqif (The Standing Souk) is the most interesting of the souqs; it has been renovated to look as it did 50 or 60 years ago. You can buy anything from a turban to a pot large enough to cook a baby camel in!

Do

A great activity for tourists is simply to experience the nation's tradition. The traditional Qatari way of life was simple: Bedouin nomads wandering the desert with their camels, and fisherman scouring the ocean floor for pearls to trade. While these two lifestyles are mostly extinct on the peninsula, the government has taken some measures to preserve their traditions for future generations to experience.

Many tour companies run desert expeditions by both four-wheel drive and camel. Some may just be for the day, while others can go for up to a week with trekkers camping overnight in a Bedouin tent. The one day "dune-bashing" tours simply involve speeding over the desert's endless dunes in a Landcruiser.

The pearling tradition has existed as far back as 2000 BCE, when Mesopotamian records speak of shining "fish eyes" imported from the Gulf region. While the industry went bust after the discovery of oil, a large festival is held each year to celebrate the tradition. The Qatar Marine Festival in Doha often includes a huge sea expedition by various dhow boats to find oyster beds on the ocean floor. Other activities at the festival include a musical performance, a seal show, a sandsculptor's expedition and a water, light and sound show.

Many companies offer shipwreck diving for tourists, which can be organised from Doha. Popular diving sites include the man-made Old Club Reef and New Club Reef just out of Messaied, Qapco Reef, the M.O. Shipwreck and the Al Sharque Shipwreck.

Other popular watersports include kite-surfing, driving jet-skis, surfing and chartered fishing expeditions.

Eat

Qatar has seemingly endless options for food, much of it excellent. If you would like European cuisine in a fancy setting, visit a hotel like the Ramada or the Marriott, both of which also offer excellent sushi and the choice of having alcoholic drinks with your meal (the only restaurants in town that can do this are in the major hotels), but at a steep price. Authentic and delicious Indian and Pakistani food is found throughout the city, ranging from family-oriented places to very basic eateries catering to the Indian and Pakistani workers. You may attract some curious stares in the worker eateries, but the management will almost always be extremely welcoming, and the food is very inexpensive.

Middle Eastern cuisine is everywhere as well, and in many forms—kebabs, breads, hummus, the list goes on. It can be purchased on the cheap from a take-out (many of which look quite unimpressive, but serve awesome food) or from a fancier place, like the wonderful Layali (near Chili's in the 'Cholesterol Corner' area) that serves gourmet Lebanese food and has hookahs with flavored tobacco. Refined Persian cuisine is available for reasonable prices in the royally appointed Ras Al-Nasa`a Restaurant on the Corniche (don't miss the cathedral-like rest rooms). Traditional Qatari food is, however, surprisingly hard to find in restaurants, and is largely confined to the homes of locals. As Qataris have a strong culture of hospitality, if you have Qatari friends, being invited to their homes is generally the best chance you'll get to sample the local cuisine.

Don't be afraid to venture into the Souqs looking for a meal; it will be a unique experience in an authentic setting, and although some of the places you see may look rundown, that's just the area in general, and the food will be probably be quite good. Be advised that many of the restaurants in the Souqs (as well as the shops) shut down during the afternoon hours. If you are in a funny kind of mood, you can try a McArabia—McDonald's Middle Eastern sandwich available only in the region.

Drink

There is one liquor store, Qatar Distribution Centre, in Doha. To purchase things there, you must have a license that can only be obtained by having a written letter of permission from your employer. You can only get a license when you have obtained your residency permit and you will need to get a letter from your employer confirming your salary in addition to paying a deposit for QR1000. The selection is good and is like any alcohol selection of a large supermarket in the West. Prices are reasonable although not cheap. Alcoholic beverages are available in the restaurants and bars of the major hotels, although they are pricey. Be aware, driving under the influence and public intoxication carry heavy penalties, including deportation, so be responsible. As far as non-alcoholic drinks go, be sure to hit some of the Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants and juice stalls. They whip up some tasty and exotic fruit juice combinations that really hit the spot.

It is forbidden to bring alcohol in to the country as a tourist; at Doha airport customs xray bags and will confiscate any bottles of alcoholic drink. They will issue a receipt valid for 2 weeks to reclaim the alcohol on exit from the country.

The national drink of Qatar is the "Karak Tea", it is available in many roadside cafeterias and restaurants. The biggest and most famous place to offer the Karak Tea is Tea Time, which has branches all over Qatar. Ask your taxi driver for the nearest Tea Time to experience the traditional Qatari Tea.

Sleep

Hotel prices are on the rise in Qatar, and you can expect to pay as much as US$100 for an ordinary double room in a mid-range hotel. Budget accommodation does not seem to exist in Doha. The only hostel[1] is very hard to find; even the taxi drivers at the airport may have to talk it over! It costs 100 Qatari Riyals per night if you don't have YHA membership, QR90 if you do.

Learn

Education City is a new project in Doha funded by the Qatari Government through the Qatar Foundation. It is the home to Qatar Academy, the Learning Centre, the Academic Bridge Program (similar to a college prep school), as well as branch campuses of Texas A&M University (Engineering) [2], Weill Cornell Medical College (Medical) [3], Virginia Commonwealth University (Arts and Communication), Carnegie Mellon University (Business and Computer Science), Georgetown University (School of Foreign Service), and the latest addition to the fold, Northwestern University (Journalism) [4] and Faculty of Islamic Studies [5] all located in Education City to the east of Doha in the Rayyan area.

In addition to this Education City is home to the Qatar Science and Technology Park, one of the only places in the Middle East undertaking research and development initiatives. The location of so many academics and students is very appealing for research focused organisations.

The College of the North Atlantic (based in Newfoundland, Canada), also maintains a campus in Doha in the northern section of the city, near the local Qatar University. The University of Calgary (Nursing) is also in Qatar.

Work

You will need a work visa to be able to work in Qatar, and receiving one will require a Qatari sponsor to apply on your behalf. Similar to the neighbouring Arab Gulf countries, foreigners on work visas require an exit visa in order to leave the country, and receiving an exit visa requires the permission of your employer. Foreigners have been known to be denied exit visas because of disputes with their employers.

The work day starts quite early in Qatar. Do not be surprised by 7AM meetings!

In the summer, many small stores and Arab businesses will be open from 8AM-12PM and 4PM-8PM. During the "siesta", most people return home to escape the oppressive heat.

Qatar does not issue permanent residence visas, but foreigners who wish to stay permanently and have good relationships with locals of significant clout have been known to retire in Qatar while nominally on a work visa. Foreign women may obtain citizenship by being married to a Qatari man (though this does not apply to foreign men married to Qatari women), but otherwise obtaining citizenship is next to impossible for foreigners.

Stay safe

The emergency phone number for police, ambulance or fire department is 999.

Qatar is a significant contrast from the surrounding region, with no war, no conflict and minimal crime.

Western women travelling on their own sometimes experience staring from local men, along with other unwanted curiosity. However, this is more of an annoyance than a threat, and Qatar officials deal harshly with any complaint of harassment. If you want to fit in better with the locals and attract less stares, a long, black cloak and headscarf worn by local women called the abaya can be purchased at a variety of places in Doha.

Travelling on the roads is probably the largest danger to your wellbeing. Although being safer than most other Asian and Middle Eastern drivers, Qataris often ignore road rules and are intolerant of pedestrians attempting to cross the road. Be safe when walking near or over major highways.

Dust storms and sandstorms are another major issue, being common throughout the dry summer. These natural events can shroud the country in darkness and cause severe respiratory issues. If a sandstorm is approaching, immediately seek shelter or wear a facemask.

Homosexuality is not tolerated in Qatar, and is punishable by the death penalty.

Stay healthy

Drink lots of water and take proper precautions for the sun, including clothing that covers your skin and sunscreen.

Respect

Respect the Islamic beliefs of Qataris and Bedouins: While there is no legal requirement to wear the hijab, women shouldn't wear tube tops and skimpy outfits, although there is no strict rule and women are free to dress as they feel. It is absolutely acceptable for any nationality to wear the traditional Qatari clothes, the thobe.

If you're dining with a Qatari, don't expose the bottoms of your feet to him/her. Don't eat with your left hand either, since the left hand is seen as the 'dirty hand'. Similarly, don't attempt to shake hands or hand a package with your left hand.

If your Qatari friend insists on buying you something—a meal or a gift—let them! Qataris are extremely hospitable, and typically there are no strings attached. It is generally a custom to argue for the bill.

Cope

Newspapers

  • Gulf Times newspaper
  • The Peninsula newspaper
  • I Love Qatar Community News
  • Al Watan Arabic newspaper
  • Qatar Tribune
  • Marhaba Magazine

Connect

By phone

When calling from abroad, the country code of Qatar is 974. There are no city or area codes. When calling overseas while within Qatar, the international access code is usually 0. Qatari phone numbers now have eight digits. Previously, they contained seven, but this was changed by the government regulator in 2010. If you encounter a number with only seven digits, you can still use it by repeating the first digit. For example, a phone number that previously began with '3' would now start with '33'.

Previously, Qtel, a government-owned company, held a monopoly over telecommunications in the country. Although this changed in 2006 when the Emir allowed new companies to be formed, competition is still weak with only two major operators:

  • Ooredoo (formerly Qtel) - the "Hala" prepaid starter pack costs QR 50 with QR 25 of initial credit. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute. Has overall better coverage than Vodafone.
  • Vodafone Qatar - prepaid sim packs start from QR 60 with an initial credit of QR 35. International calls to most countries costs QR 0.66/minute.

By post

Qatar has a fairly efficient postal system run by Q-Post. There are dozens of post offices scattered across Doha, along with branches in many major cities. It costs QR 2.50 to send a standard postcard to most Western countries. The price drops down to QR 1 to 1.50 when sending a postcard domestically or to most nations within the Middle East and North Africa. Sending parcels can get costly, being counted per kilogram and by distance. A full list of rates and branch locations can be found on the Q-Post website.

Addresses on international letters and postcards should be formatted as:

Name of recipient House number and street name City, Postal code Country

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Terrorism

There is a constant and high terrorist threat throughout the Arabian Peninsula. From time to time, reports emerge that terrorists plan to attack specific locations in one of these countries. Targets could include government buildings, public areas, tourist sites and Western interests. Heightened security measures are currently in place and may be reinforced on short notice. Maintain a high level of vigilance and personal security awareness at all times. Exercise caution in areas known to be frequented by foreigners (commercial, public and tourist areas), monitor local developments and follow the advice of local authorities. You should also register and keep in contact with the Embassy of Canada in Kuwait City, Kuwait, and carefully follow messages issued through the Registration of Canadians Abroad service.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Crime

The crime rate is low and violence is rare. Petty crime could occur, including banking and credit card fraud. Do not show signs of affluence and ensure that personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Women’s safety

There have been reports of physical and verbal harassment toward women. Women should not travel alone, especially after dark. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Transportation

Accidents are common. Unsafe driving practices, poor lighting, fast driving and roaming animals create hazards. The main international routes from Saudi Arabia are often impassable during the rainy season (December-January).

Off-road driving can be hazardous and should only be undertaken in a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles with an experienced guide. Leave a travel itinerary with a relative or friend. Be well prepared and equipped with gasoline, water, food and a cell phone.

In the event of an accident, do not attempt to move the vehicle, even if it is impeding traffic. Call 999 and wait for the police to arrive. If the accident resulted in injuries or deaths, the driver must not leave until permitted to do so by the police; to do otherwise is considered a criminal offence.

Use only officially marked taxis or reputable limousine services.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Sea travel

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Exercise caution if travelling by sea, including for recreational purposes, in the Persian Gulf, particularly around the islands of Abu Masa and the Tunbs. Iran and the United Arab Emirates each claims sovereignty over these islands.

General safety information

Carry identification documents at all times. Leave your passport in a safe place and carry a photocopy for identification purposes.

Emergency services

Dial 999 in case of an emergency.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Western Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Western Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Modern medical care is available in main cities but could be inadequate in remote areas. Immediate cash payment is required.

Health tips

Dehydration is a serious risk during the summer months due to very high temperatures. Ensure that you are protected from the sun and drink plenty of water.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

An International Driving Permit is required

The work week is from Sunday to Thursday.

Illegal or restricted activities

Religious proselytizing is not permitted.

Common-law relationships, homosexual relations, adultery and prostitution are illegal and are subject to severe punishment.

Avoid physical contact, such as holding hands, in public.

The use of drugs and alcohol is prohibited. Transgressions could be punished by detention or other penalties. Penalties for using or trafficking drugs, as well as for drunk driving and other related offences, are severe.  There is a zero tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving.

Do not drink alcohol outside licensed hotels. Also, you should not be intoxicated in public.

It is forbidden to photograph government buildings and military installations. Do not photograph people without their permission.

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is not legally recognized, which may limit the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular services. You should travel using your Canadian passport and present yourself as Canadian to foreign authorities at all times. Consult our publication entitled Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know for more information.

Marriage

If you are marrying a Qatari citizen, the Qatari government may retain your Canadian passport and inform you that you have lost your Canadian citizenship. However, governments do not have the authority to annul citizenships of other countries. If such an event occurs, contact the nearest Canadian government office as soon as possible. For more information, consult our Marriage Overseas FAQ.

Custody

Children of a Qatari father automatically acquire Qatari citizenship at birth and must enter and leave the country on a Qatari passport. Child custody decisions are based on Islamic law. It is difficult for a Western woman, even a Muslim, to obtain custody of her children through the Qatari courts. Minor children of a Qatari-national father must have his permission to leave the country.

Legal process

Suspects as well as witnesses to incidents may be held for lengthy periods without access to legal counsel or consular officials. If access is granted, it may be severely limited by the Qatari authorities. Authorities may withhold the passport of an individual involved in legal processes, pending resolution of the case. This could result in the delay of a planned departure.

Dress and behaviour

The country's customs, laws and regulations adhere closely to Islamic practices and beliefs. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities.

It is uncommon for Western women to cover their head. Dresses and skirts are permitted, provided they cover the shoulders and knees. Shorts and short skirts are considered inappropriate.

Exercise particular care in your behaviour with others, especially officials, to avoid offending local sensitivities. Verbal insults and obscene gestures may be considered a criminal act and, if found guilty, you could face deportation, fines and/or a prison sentence.

Money

The currency is the Qatar riyal (QAR). Credit cards and traveller's cheques in U. S. dollars are widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, take traveller’s cheques in U. S. dollars or pounds sterling.

Climate

The rainy season extends from December to January and often results in flooding.

High levels of humidity and severe heat occur from June to September.

Sand and dust storms also occur.

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