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Cultural sensativity tips for Ramadan and life in (Doha)

Dear all,

Many of you are new to Qatar and to the Middle East and may not be aware of some cultural sensativity issues especially during the holy month of Ramadan. here is some useful guidelines for you.

For Muslims:


• Fasting is obligatory for every Muslim.
• Sick or travelling Muslims are exempt from fasting.
• After recuperating from sickness, one must make for the missed days by fasting even after Ramadan.
• Those who are terminally ill are exempt from fasting, but they must offer ‘fidyah’ (a day’s meals for each missed fast) to a poor person.
• Using eye drops, contact lenses and perfumes is permissible.
• One can undergo blood tests and vaccination if required.
• One can take a nap during the day.
• Menstruating women, pregnant women, those in post-natal stage and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting but they have to make up for it either through offering fidyah to needy persons or by fasting at a later occasion.
• Old men and women and children are also excused from fasting.
• One must carry a dignified and pure demeanor during the fast and should indulge in acts of charity.


• Care should be taken while brushing the teeth so that water is not taken in. However, swallowing water accidentally or involuntarily while brushing or taking a bath does not nullify the fast.
• A husband and wife must abstain from getting intimate, though they can kiss each other (but no getting passionate, ahem). In fact, sexual intercourse during fasting is considered a sin. Even masturbating is prohibited.
• It is considered a sin if a Muslim undertakes a journey deliberately in order to stay away from fasting.
• If a woman’s period begins even in the last few moments before sunset, her fast becomes null. She has to make up for it later.
• One must avoid lying, backbiting and using foul language during Ramadan.
• Vomiting deliberately nullifies a fast.
• Collecting saliva in the mouth and then swallowing it is also offensive.

For Non-Muslims:

•Abstain from eating, drinking and smoking in public places during the day. Eat and drink at home before you come to work and eat back at home when you get there after work until the Maghreb Prayeor (around 6 pm or so) when you can eat or drink anywhere you like.

•If one needs to buy food items during between sunrise and sunset, s/he must carry it in a bag, secluded from public view that is

•Ladies must dress conservatively and if you really want to impress your local colleagues, wear an Abbaya on top of your clothing for the Duration of Ramadan (you can buy those in any shopping mall ar reasonable prices)

•Join in the festivities and participate in the numerous opportunities for outing in the evenings to one of the Ramadan tents offering festive foods and drinks and off course if you are a smoker, the infamous Shisha.

•No Hand shaking with women at work if they are Muslim and No hand shakes between Muslim men and women at work during Ramadan, don’t be offended if this happens to you (this is because of wodo’a (the purification ritual of the body required for prayer).

•Refrain from swearing and using any sort of unacceptable language even jokingly as this will not be appreciated.

General Cultural Tips while you are in Qatar:

Arabic Culture in Qatar - Do's and Dont's for Expats

Qatar is an Islamic nation, built on a history steeped in tradition and rich in values, culture and heritage. Family and prayer are the foundations of modern society and the teachings of Islam are reflected in every aspect of daily life.

The Qatari people are renowned for their national pride, boundless hospitality and seemingly limitless generosity. They are courteous, respectful people who place much faith in family values and have impeccable taste, manners and etiquette. As a resident or visitor to Qatar it is only fitting that one should observe local laws and customs as well as behave in a manner that is respectful toward the local Qatari people.

Always DO

dress modestly when in Qatar. A woman's shoulders should always be covered in public.

wear mini-shorts, mini-skirts, strappy tops and see-through clothing unless you are at the beach or swimming pool. Men's clothing should be smart-casual. Tattoos should be covered up and piercings (other than earrings) are not acceptable. During the Holy month of Ramadan it is considered extremely offensive to dress inappropriately.

Courtesy is crucial, so

be polite when conversing with a Qatari person. Formalities such as 'Good morning' are expected and exchanging handshakes with someone of the same sex is customary.

be offended if your handshake is refused as members of the opposite sex are prohibited from touching in public. It may feel uncomfortable but

pull your hand away if a Qatari person keeps holding on to yours - it is merely a sign of friendship and should be reciprocated, along with a kiss on both cheeks if offered. Qataris tend to stand very close to you while talking but

back away, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, as doing so would be considered rude.

Public displays of affection are forbidden and touching a member of the opposite sex is considered to be in poor taste, whether you are a Muslim or not.

approach a female for information or directions if you are a man and


take photographs of sensitive sites such as military bases, airports and seaports.


ask for permission before photographing a Qatari, especially if that person is elderly, female or is in the police or military.


sit with the soles of your shoes or feet pointing at a Qatari and


eat with your left hand - use of the left hand is associated with personal hygiene! Remember that pork products and pornography are banned in Qatar and the use and distribution of alcohol is strictly regulated. It is illegal to be drunk in public and

drive while under the influence of alcohol.

Most of all, DO
enjoy your time in Qatar. Visit the souqs, try the local food, book yourself in for a luxury spa treatment and experience the diversity of this wonderful country.

Mark Thomson

Doha Forum