Dining Etiquette in Qatar

Hold upright there! Before you accept any invitations from a local Qatari family, there are a few things you must know to save yourself from asking embarrassing questions or wondering what their sociological structure is like.

What you need to know about Bedouins:

No doubt you’ve heard about Qatar, and it’s generously hospitable people, but do you know why Qatari’s are generous? They are the descent of the Arab-speaking Bedouins who migrated from one place to another because their primary livelihood was pearl-fishing. The pearling season can only last so long in one country.

Bedouins – due to their frequent migration – enhanced the skill of “adaptability”. They adopted different ways of socialisation depending upon which country they frequented to. How cool is that?

When it came to transportation, Bedouins used camels and horses to get around according to some of the sources.

The structure of a traditional Qatari family is very similar to that of the Bedouins – they take their conservative heritage very seriously. The leaders were known as the Sheikhs, and their wives were the second hand to the Sheikh, meaning that the wives would handle all the complaints and feedback from the Bedouin women.

Now that you know the basic structure of the Qatari families, here’s how you should do what you are supposed to do.

What you should do

Getting an invitation to join a Qatari family for lunch or dinner is the best way to immerse yourself in a new culture. And if you follow this etiquette guide correctly, you will most definitely be an elevated guest in the eyes of the Qatari family, and they will make sure you get the best hospitality from them.

Regardless of their hospitality, if you get an invitation to someone’s home, don’t conclude that your partner or your family is invited too. It’s a little uncommon for the locals to entertain uninvited guests. However, if they clearly ask you to bring a plus one, or a family member, you should definitely bring them along.

Qatari are big on gifts. Don’t forget to take a little housewarming gift or a souvenir from your own country to impress the family. Sweets are also an excellent gift to take along with you.

When you enter the hosts home, be sure to take off your shoes before entering the ‘majlis’, which is the reception room for guests, and forward your right hand to accept whatever the host has offered you to drink or eat.

In Bedouin culture, sharing a meal or eating together is a way to bond with the guests and instil a trustworthiness and friendship standard.

Some families prefer the modern dining chairs and a dining table to serve their meals, but most locals sit cross-legged on the floor over a beautiful hand-woven rug where they serve their meals. It’s a part of their Bedouin tradition.

Finishing what’s on your plate is always polite, but if you are satiated enough and can’t eat more, you can leave a few leftovers on your plate, and the hosts will understand.

Also, don’t forget to say “Bismillah” before you start eating, and “Alhamdulillah” after your meal to show the guests how mindful you are of their culture. It’s also considered a way to show gratitude to the host when you say that.

One suggestion to live by in Qatar – never goes unannounced to an Arabs house. It’s just not pleasing for them or for you, for that matter. The Arabs value their privacy when it comes to home and family.

If you’ve been invited to a restaurant instead of their house, don’t worry, we got you.

Never raise your index finger to address the waiter. Always use the palm of your hand.

When the bill arrives, most of the time, the Qatari’s take the lead. Debating a little over who will pay the bill never harms anyone, but just so you know, Qatari always wins.

Worried about how much to tip the waiter? Don’t be. 10% of the total bill is the most appropriate amount of tip you should give if the service charge hasn’t already been added to the final account.

You don’t have to fret over how to get around in Qatar. You can find the metro, taxis, rent a car, etc. If you’re with a group of friends and on a budget, it would be recommended to book or rent one of the vans. Doha van rental is equally popular among youth and families who are on a moderate budget.

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