A Guide to Dress Codes for Expats in Qatar

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As they would when moving to any country, it's important that expats moving to Qatar take time to understand and show respect for Qatari culture and customs. Apart from helping them to integrate more readily on a practical level, such an approach will give the expat a richer and deeper appreciation for their new home. It may also help reduce the risk of culture shock.

Expats moving from Western countries like Germany or the UK may find the culture in Qatar vastly different to the one they're used to. To help expats integrate and settle, there are less obvious things they may want to consider that are sure to help them adjust. For example, knowing how to dress with respect to the country's culture.

Understanding what to wear and what not to wear could be extremely important for expats to consider. Especially in Middle Eastern countries like Qatar where views and opinions about clothing can be very different to the attitudes held in Western countries like the US, the UK, and France.

Some Muslim countries, for instance, forbid certain types of revealing clothing, either at certain times, places or altogether. Even though there are no laws against wearing revealing clothing like shorts, miniskirts, and tank tops in Qatar, expats and tourists are expected to dress modestly and in a style thatis sensitive to Islamic culture.

Everydaywear
It is common for Qatari women to cover their hair with a black head-dress called shayla, while some women also add the niqab to cover their face, leaving only their eyes visible. Although it is not common in Qatar, some women choose to wear the burqa which covers the entire face, neck, hair, shoulders, and body.

Many Qatari women wear full-length black dresses called abayas which cover the entire body, including the arm, leg, and ankle. Non-Qatari women and female expats are not required to wear an abaya or a shayla, but they should cover their shoulders and knees when they're out in public, because having these bare is considered as being indecent. Skirts and dresses which fall below the knee are ideal for expat women, as are t-shirts and light jackets which cover the shoulders.

It is common for Qatari men to wear a long white robe known as the thobe, over an undershirt and a pair of trousers. Some Qatari men also wear the ghutra, which is a white head scarf held in place with a cord-like circle, known as the agal. Again, non-Qatari men are not expected to wear these traditional types of clothing, but they are required to dress as modestly as possible by covering the shoulders and knees.

Men should wear shorts which are long enough to cover the knee and they need toavoid wearing t-shirts with no sleeves.

Dressing for the weather
It can get very hot in Qatar, with temperatures reaching more than 40c on average in the spring and summer months from April to October. To keep cool, women canwear tank tops and strappy dresses as long as they are styled with a scarf or pashmina to cover the shoulders. Light and loose maxi dresses are also ideal for wearing in the heat. Cotton and linen clothing are light and airy, making these ideal picks for both men and women.

Most rainfall can be seen in the autumn and winter months from November to March which is why expats may want to keep a light rain jacket with them.

Businesswear
In places of work, dress codes are not as formal as expats might expect. For instance, suits are usually only worn during important business meetings and business-related events. Instead, it is common for men to wear long-sleeved shirts and lightweight trousers in work environments.

For women, long trousers, or skirts which are long enough to cover the knee are appropriate with blouses or smart tops with long sleeves which cover the shoulders. Women can also wear dresses as long as they cover the knee and have a modest neck line which covers the chest.

Beachwear
At beaches and pools owned by hotels and resorts, it's acceptable for women towear bikinis and for men to wear swim-shorts. At public beaches however, it is advised women and men wear modest swim-wear which covers the shoulders, chest, and knees. Some men and women choose to wear long t-shirts to keep them covered whilst on the beach.

Expats should never walk around in public spaces wearing swimwear, instead they should always cover up when leaving the water.

Formalwear and nightlife
For expats wanting a night out on the town, dress codes in places like hotel bars and clubs are much less strict. Depending on where you are in the country, bars and clubs are not too common which could be partially because alcohol is not freely available in Qatar. Alcohol is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and expats living in Qatar can obtain alcohol on a permit system, but it is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public.

In bigger cities like Doha, clubs and bars can be found in most major hotels. Here, expats have more freedom of choice as to what they wear. When leaving the club or bar, it is advised expats should cover their shoulders, which is why itcan be a good idea to keep a scarf or pashmina with them.

Whether expats go out for dinner in a restaurant or are invited to dine at a Qatari household, it is important to once again respect Qatar's conservative andmodest dress sense.

For expat women, it can be a good idea to follow the example of how Qatari women dress for social events like these. Qatari women often dress elegantly and wear make-up to complement the shape of their faces and eyes. They also tend to dress up their outfits with stand-out handbags and shoes. This doesn't mean expats have to wear an abaya, but it can help expats decide what to wear and hopefully help them integrate comfortably.

During the holy month of Ramadan, which usually begins around May and ends in June but varies from year to year, modest and conservative dress codes are strictly enforced which is why expats need to ensure they are dressed appropriately, covering their knees, shoulders, and chest.

As an Islamic country, it's important expats respect and abide by Qatar's modest dress sense, but because they are a country with religious freedom, expats arenot expected to wear traditional Muslim clothing including abayas, shaylas, thobes,and ghutras.

Looking to your colleagues and others around you will help you decide which type of clothing is appropriate for you (as a male or female) and the occasion. If in doubt, dress more formally than informally and cover more of the skin than less.