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Culture & People
 
 
 

General

Culture in Qatar is similar to that of other Arab countries of the Persian Gulf; see Culture of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. Arab tribes from Saudi Arabia migrated to Qatar and other places in the gulf; therefore, the culture in the Persian Gulf region varies little from country to country.

Qatar explicitly uses Sharia law as the basis of its government, and the vast majority of its citizens follow Hanbali Madhhab. Hanbali is one of the four schools of Fiqh or religious law within Sunni Islam (the other three being Hanafi, Maliki and Shafii). Sunni Muslims believe that all four schools have "correct guidance", and the differences between them lie not in the fundamentals of faith, but in finer judgments and jurisprudence, which are a result of the independent reasoning of the imams and the scholars who followed them. Because their individual methodologies of interpretation and extraction from the primary sources (usul) were different, they came to different judgments on particular matters. Shi'as comprise around 10% of the Muslim population in Qatar.

Clothing

There are two distinct types of women’s clothing in the region: one for locals, the other for expatriates. Outside the home, most Arab women dress according to religious custom, which means that they must cover most of the body, from head to foot. The traditional black over garment (abaya) is ankle length with long sleeves and a high neckline, and the hair is covered. Some Arab women are totally covered, including their face and hands, especially Saudis and those with strictly religious husbands. This is meant to protect women protection from unwanted attention.

The region’s hot climate and customs call for informal but smart dressing. Arabs frown on clothes which reveal the shoulders, arms and legs, and any woman dressing provocatively will be regarded as being of ‘easy virtue’ or perhaps even as a prostitute. In the home, however, when not entertaining close friends or relatives, Arab women often adopt western dress, particularly younger women, and there are no restrictions on the way foreign women may dress in private.

Arab men wear the thobe, a loose, ankle-length robe made from fine white cotton (or heavier woollen material in winter). There are different styles of thobe, both in the cut of the cloth and in the fastenings at the neck and front. Perhaps the most distinctive are those worn by the Omanis, which sport a tassel. The thobe can be worn for all occasions, either social or business. An outer cloak, the bisht, is worn on formal occasions and can be very costly, with border embroidery in gold thread and the material itself of the finest quality.

The traditional, distinctive head covering is the guthra, a white or red and white checkered cloth held in place by the agal, a black ‘rope’ which was originally a camel tether. There are different types of agal: for example, Qataris normally wear a more African-style headdress, with two long ‘tails’ reaching down the back. Arab men sometimes wear casual dress on very informal occasions or at the beach, but Saudi men are strongly encouraged to wear national dress at all times.

Obviously, foreign men aren’t expected to wear Arab garments, and western dress is the norm. Men should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts in the street, as is these are regarded as excessively casual, although with the development of tourism, this attitude is softening. However, suits are rarely worn in the Gulf, except for important business meetings and related social events. Standard wear in the office is a shirt (usually long-sleeved), tie and lightweight trousers.


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