The US ambassador to Qatar urged the Gulf country to be patient and tolerant towards World Cup fans
At the upcoming World Cup, the international FIFA championship tournament will be held in a Muslim and an Arab country for the first time. The host country Qatar expects around 1.5 million visitors from all over the world, which is about half of the country’s population.
The quadrennial Global Games, which will be held in the Middle East for the first time, will be played between November 20 and December 18 this year due to the unbearable heat experienced by Qatar during the summer.
As the events of the World Cup drew closer, US Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis on Tuesday urged Qatari local authorities to be patient and tolerant of visitors during their stay during the World Cup.
“We want to make sure law enforcement is … in the right place. We want to make sure that when you invite the world to your country, there is a degree of patience and tolerance within ministries for what the world brings,” Davis told reporters in Doha, describing his conversation with Qatari authorities this topic as “elated.”
Qatar is a small Arab Muslim country on the Persian Gulf, ruled as a monarchy. The country has been ruled by the Al Thani family for over 100 years. The vast majority of the population consists of expats; while Qatari citizens make up just over 10% of the population. Qatar is one of the world’s largest natural gas producers and has the fourth highest per capita income rate in the world. The main source of legislation is Sharia, or Islamic law, which differs in many ways from the most common Western legal systems.
Most Qataris are proud and excited to be the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup. Qatar is a relatively conservative country but extremely welcoming, said Samira Boukrouh, a Canadian expat currently working in Doha.
She told The Media Line that hospitality is a cornerstone of local culture and everyone is welcome in Qatar.
All World Cup fans should be ready to enjoy one of the best moments in football history, known as soccer in the United States, while enjoying authentic Arabic culture, Mahmoud, a tour guide in Qatar, told The Media Line. He points out that Qatar is an Islamic country, which he described as “very welcoming but close to its roots”.
The Qatari authorities have not issued an official statement on their policy towards visitors during the World Cup. Regardless, there are some elements that foreigners should consider when visiting Qatar.
Generally speaking, if you’re having a good time and enjoying sightseeing, food and local culture, Mahmoud says you don’t have to worry about a thing.
However, he continued, “Visitors should refrain from some activities that are not permitted in the country.”
Mazin Yahya, Operations Manager at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and former Head of Accreditation Center at the FIFA Club World Cup, listed some of the do’s and don’ts on the list of activities.
“Never touch a woman who is not related to you, it can get you in jail and costly fines,” he told The Media Line.
Don’t photograph police officers or military installations — which are confidential areas — and don’t engage in homosexual relationships in public, he continued.
Boukrouh said fans should avoid public displays of affection. “Holding hands in public is tolerated, but going beyond that isn’t really acceptable,” she said.
Regarding alcoholic beverages, she said fans should note that alcohol is not allowed to be brought into Qatar, which is forbidden under Islamic religious law.
“Fans should avoid traveling with alcohol from their country of origin or purchase duty-free products to avoid confiscation upon arrival in Qatar,” she advised.
Alcohol is not part of Qatari culture, Boukrouh explained, and as such it is not sold in supermarkets but is served in licensed restaurants and in many hotels across the country.
But during the World Cup, alcohol will be available in certain designated areas.
Fans can buy beer once inside stadiums, at a select number of beach clubs and kiosks on stadium grounds, but not inside the stadiums themselves, she said.
Fans should note that drinking alcohol outside designated areas is prohibited and that the legal drinking age in Qatar is 21, Boukruh added.
Mahmoud said there are a few other things to consider.
Visitors should remove their shoes when entering a mosque or a Qatari guest room known as a majlis. In addition, Kataris greet others of the same sex by shaking hands while greeting the opposite sex without touching.
Qatar is a conservative Islamic society, he continued, ‘that is, male or female, it is better to wear modest clothing in public. Women are not expected to cover their hair in public, but are expected to do so when visiting mosques.”
Boukrouh pointed out that fans attending matches should note that stripping shirts is not permitted inside the stadium.
Yahya suggests that foreign visitors to Qatar learn how to negotiate with shopkeepers. “Do not pay the first amount stated by the seller. Start lower than your ideal price and slowly work your way up until you hit a deal,” he said.
Avoid asking personal questions, “especially about female family members, and avoid expressing admiration for their material possessions,” Yahya continued.
When eating at restaurants, he added, “You can call the waiter with your palm, not your index finger.”
He added that Qatar has great food and besides the local cuisine, Indian food is very good due to the large number of Indian citizens living in the country.
Boukrouh said it’s important to remember that the first day of the week is Sunday, the weekend is Friday and Saturday and the bank holiday is Friday, so banks and other services remain closed.
She concluded: “Have fun if you come to Qatar! Enjoy what you wanted to see. Everyone is welcome in Qatar.”