Everyday life in Qatar

by Gundula Haage

Poorest nation, richest nation (Issue III+IV/2018)


Clothing

Men wear a long, loose white shirt called a “thawb” and a white head covering, the “ghutrah”, that is held in place with an “agal”, a black band of fabric. Qatari men also wear cufflinks, watches and carry a pen in their shirt pockets, often as status symbols. A bracelet of prayer beads, or “misbah” is another common accessory. Women traditionally wear a long black, all-covering robe called an “abaya” over their clothing and a head covering called a “shayla”. These dress standards don’t leave much room for individuality so make-up, shoes and handbags are important options for a woman to show individual style. That’s why you often see designer shoes literally flashing at you from under an abaya.

Greetings

When men meet they shake one another’s hands and press their cheeks together (as if they were doing an air kiss but without puckering up). If they do not know one another, the cheek press happens twice. If they do, it happens three times. If the situation is more formal, they may also touch noses twice. When men and women meet, they do not touch at all. They are more likely to lay one hand on their heart and nod their heads at one another.

Eating

It is always an honour to be invited to dine with someone in Qatar. Courtesy requires that the invitee bring a small edible gift with them, something like a sweet. To eat one sits at ground level and uses the right hand. The left hand is seen as unclean. Often Muslims will say a prayer – “Bismillah” - at the beginning of the meal, thanking God for the blessing of food. Leaving a small portion of food on the plate is seen as a compliment to the host: The diner is so satisfied by what the host has provided that they couldn’t eat another bite. At the end of the meal, one might say “Alhamdulillah”, to thank God as well as the host.  

Flirting

It is not generally accepted in Qatar society that men and women go out with one another without chaperones, or that they openly express romantic interest in the opposite sex. But somehow there is still flirting! Qatari men like to use some fairly cliched expressions when they’re trying to charm a lady, including some that don’t always make much sense to non-Arabic speakers. Such as: “Ya ba-at chabdy” (you are behind my liver), “amoot ala trabich” (I will die on the sand), “ma asawy thifrich” (I am worth less than your fingernail), “anty il gumar” (you are my moon).

Showing respect

Older people are accorded much respect in Qatar. They are given precedence in queues, offered the best seats and are greeted in a special way: As an acknowledgement of their age and wisdom, one gives an elderly person a light kiss on the forehead, the tip of the nose and the right shoulder or right hand.

With information from Khalifa Al Haroon 



similar articles

The new Poland (Books)

In the countryside

By Birthe Mühlhoff

In his new novel, Mathias Énard observes French rural life in the 21st century as though it were a strange, foreign culture. 

more


Heroes (What's different elsewhere)

No jealousy

by Amira Bassim

"That's a pretty boy" or "I have a great new job" are sentences which are rarely heard in Egypt for fear that they spark envy and the evil eye.

more


Poorest nation, richest nation (Topic: Inequality)

Bangui the Terrible

by Adrienne Yabouza

Terrorist attacks, armed robbery, water scarcity: Everyday life in the capital of the Central African Republic is hard. And yet people here are safer than in the rest of the country.

more


Under the Earth (A House in ...)

A house in Guinea-Bissau

by Kristin Bethge

Doors wide open in the Cuntum Madina neighbourhood

more


Poorest nation, richest nation (Topic: Inequality)

“I am an optimist”

an interview with Moussa Abdoulaye

How does politics function in a crisis-torn state? Moussa Abdoulaye, special advisor to the Prime Minister, describes his day job.

more


Fear of women (Topic: Fear of women)

A walk in Kabul

by Nargis

Girls scavenging in piles of rubbish and scarcely any cars on the streets: The Afghan capital has changed. An author takes us for a stroll in her neighbourhood

more