Women’s Rights in Qatar is something quite hard to get your head around when you’re from a country where equality is more prevalent. Qatar is one of the most progressive countries in the Gulf, however it could still be uncomfortable to see some traditions perhaps we, as Brits, aren’t used to.
Claire Brand, Head of Major Events at Sportsworld, shares her experience of living in Qatar.
Before moving to live and work in Doha as a single woman, I had minimal experience of the Middle East. But settling into life in Doha as an expat and a woman was easy. With 75% of Qatar’s total population made up of expats and Doha a modern city, you get the richness and flavour of Arab culture without sacrificing Western conveniences – including Malls with shops and restaurants you would find on your average UK high street; being able to purchase a Vodafone SIM card or just being able to use my Uber App to get a taxi. Not to mention if I had any questions, locals are friendly and helpful and understandable English is spoken just about everywhere.
Doha has once again been voted one of the safest cities in world in 2022 and I can say I felt safer as a woman out alone in Doha, than I have ever done in London. I had fabulous party nights out late into the night, and never worried about getting home safely, not to mention I never thought twice about leaving my handbag on the back of my chair or mobile out on the table! I enjoyed many girls’ trips to the gym, beach and exploring the desert, as well as attending fabulous events such as the official opening of the Al Janoub Stadium.
Social interaction among Qataris is marked by courtesy, good manners and often a degree of formality. However, whilst modernised and progressive in many ways, Qatar is still a traditional Muslim country, where visitors are requested to respect local culture and values and dress conservatively out in public. But Qatar isn’t restrictive as some countries in the Middle East, local dress code requests that you cover your shoulders, with hemlines over the knees.
There is a culture of hospitality in Qatar which derives from their Bedouin heritage, and they are hugely excited about welcoming the world to Qatar for the World Cup. This is going to be a truly once-in-a-lifetime Middle Eastern FIFA World Cup!
When I was first told I was heading off to Qatar, honestly, I was excited as it was somewhere I had never been. I’d been to Dubai on holiday and experienced the behaviours towards women, but somehow the idea of visiting Qatar felt different…perhaps because it’s less ‘touristy’. As I was going for work, my initial thoughts were ‘Is my opinion going to be respected in meetings? Will I be spoken to? Why, you ask? This perception was a culmination of others’ points of view mixed with some articles, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
A few of my days were spent on my own travelling between stadiums, the sites and meetings. Uber and the new metro system were my modes of transport and I have to say, I always felt at ease and incredibly safe! Travelling on public transport in a country I don’t know, heading to places I had never been, let alone how far away they were, couldn’t have felt more breezy. People were all too happy to offer their advice for where to go to next or point me in the right direction of my next stop on the list. On my first day, I headed off from the apartment in West Bay to the Aspire Zone to seek out The Torch, the Khalifa Stadium and the 2022 building. Negotiating my way to the top floor of the Torch for the ultimate views, I was greeted by a smiley waiter who seemed very pleased I was there to visit the country he was born and was ever so proud and too willing to talk me through the 360-degree skyline.
During my time researching about the country, I often stumbled across, ‘don’t be surprised if you get stared at or receive more attention’. Being the English Rose that I am, I thought I might ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ but again, absolutely no-one batted an eyelid, even when I was stomping around the sites in a snake print jumpsuit with my big camera!
The hospitality we received at each meeting, in each restaurant or bar, was incredible. Experiencing this sort of hospitality everywhere just got me more excited about the World Cup and I can’t wait to get stuck in and amongst it all in November!
I’m not sure it’s realistic to say that every female will have the same experience as Claire and I, but would you have the same experience as another female in a different country? It goes without saying that you, as a female visitor, will likely feel very comfortable and receive incredible hospitality, whilst being mindful there is a chance you could see some cultural traditions you may find inadequate.
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