Relocating to Qatar—Expat Lifestyle Guide
While Qatar may be famous for fast paced business and its World Cup bids, this booming GCC country is less known for its lifestyle and leisure options. Here’s a quick rundown on what expats can expect when moving to Qatar.
Qatar is situated on a low-lying peninsula projecting from the north coast of Saudi Arabia and surrounded by the Arabian Gulf on three sides. As a result, Qatar has a desert climate, characterized by abundant sunshine and little rainfall. While the months between November to March offer sunny skies and cool temperatures ranging 12 - 30 degrees Celsius, the summer brings high humidity and sweltering temperatures of up to 50 degrees.
During the height of summer months—from June to September, expats can be in danger of heat exhaustion and sunstroke and are advised to stay indoors during the heat of the day. To compensate for the summer heat, Qatar is heavily air-conditioned, and well-equipped for indoor recreation for those who decide to spend summer time in the country.
Because of Qatar’s extreme weather, recreational options are usually seasonal. Winter offers an array of outdoor activities such as, boating, camping, enjoying Qatar’s many beaches, and outdoor dining. The winter is a perfect time for foreign expats to enjoy local recreation such as camel racing,desert safaris, dhow cruises and dune bashing.
In addition to the Doha Corniche—a paved and landscaped running track that offers great views of the sea and skyline—Qatar also has a variety of small parks that are ideal for picnicking, jogging and working out.
During the summer months, residents tend to head to the malls, such as the popular Villaggio, Landmark, City Center, Lagoona malls. Qatar malls showcase a variety of Western brands and internationally franchised restaurants. Cafes are also popular in Qatar, offering shisha, regional and local cuisine and Arabic coffee.
For those looking for a night out on the town, there are a variety of fine dining to choose from, including internationally-acclaimed restaurants such as Opal by Gordan Ramsay, and Market by Jean-Georges. Additionally, many hotels offer a selection of nightlife outlets to choose from. Timeout Doha’s website offers all the information you need to know about Doha’s best dining and party spots.
The official language of Qatar is Arabic. However, because of its multicultural population, English is widely spoken in business and throughout the society.
Strong traditions remain at the core of Qatar’s rapidly modernizing society. Qatari locals typically wear the traditional dress of Thob for men, and Abaya for women. Expats are expected to dress modestly, and respect local regulations about behavior and interactions between the sexes.
Local holidays are centered around Islamic and Qatari themes. Eid al-Fitr is a four-day holiday, celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. During the four-day holiday of Eid Al Adha, families gather to celebrate the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’. Both of these holidays are linked to the lunar calendar and thus their dates vary. Another holiday in Qatar is Qatar National Day on December 18th.
Local souqs are a great place for expats to catch a glimpse into traditional Qatari life. For example, Souq Waqif is a traditional marketplace renovated to showcase typical Qatari architecture, shops, and restaurants. Katara and Museum of Islamic Art in addition to other museums in the country are venues that offer opportunities to explore Qatari culture and traditions.
For more information of how expat lifestyle in Qatar compares to your own or other countries’, check out HSBC’s Expat Explorer.