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Keeping it Legal in Qatar

Dale Shelabarger

The FIFA 2022 World Cup is upon us. Football players, managers, officials and the mass media have converged on the tiny country of Qatar.

The upcoming competition has generated a huge amount of discussion and debate.  Many prominent football personalities including Bruno Fernandes and former FIFA president Sepp Blatter have spoken out against reported human rights abuses.

The Denmark squad have even designed shirts to protest the alleged abuses in the host country. Fans worldwide have also been calling for a boycott of the entire tournament.

But the World Cup 2022 is now in full-swing, with football fans from around the world flocking to Qatar.

A sizeable contingent of England fans have also infiltrated the country. Happily, there haven’t been any diplomatic incidents as of yet.

But with England looking set for a long tournament, getting to grips with Qatari laws and customs is absolutely essential. Otherwise, you could find yourself in hot water!

Qatar - Things Not To Do Infographic

Things You Can’t Do When Visiting Qatar

So here’s a guide to some of the things that you really shouldn’t do when in Qatar. These laws and customs are also enshrined in the above infographic.

Eat a Ham Sandwich (without a license)

Pork products are not completely illegal in Qatar. But their consumption is strictly controlled – it can only be purchased at one location, and you must apply for and receive a liquor license from the Qatari government to buy it. Importing pork is also illegal.

Take Photos

Not being able to take photos is going to be something of a surprise to most snap-happy Westerners. But while voyeurism has become a way of life for us Britishers, this is certainly not the case in Qatar.

Several tourist destinations in Qatar, including religious places, have strict laws against ANY photography. In addition, it is illegal to snap photos of Qatari locals without their consent.

Give Someone the Finger

Swearing in public places is illegal in Qatar. Football fans are well known for their potty mouths, not to mention some rather creative hand gestures. So try to refrain from these tribal instincts.

Share a Room If Unmarried

Marriage has become a decidedly outmoded concept in Blighty – make of that what you will. But in Qatar, the bond between man and woman remains sacred.

Thus, it’s illegal in Qatar for unmarried couples to live together or share a hotel room. This is because of the Islamic prohibition of sex outside of marriage.

While it appears that some hotels only ask for proof of marriage from Qatari guests, others state on their websites that proof of marriage will be required if checking into a room as a couple.

Snog Your Partner in Public

Nobody really likes PDAs (public displays of affection). I mean, if you really will insist on displaying your undying love for the other-half, do it out of sight.

Qataris feel the same way about this too. In fact, you can land yourself in jail for public displays of affection!

Even holding hands in public places is advised against, so strict are the rules on this topic. If you were hoping for a romantic break, Skegness might be a better option.

Bring Your Bible

A copy of the King James is probably not going to feature high on the list of holiday must-haves for most UK football supporters.

Just as well really, because it’s forbidden to import any religious books to Qatar. Best to leave your well-thumbed Bible at home, then.

Forget Your Prescription

If you bring any medication into Qatar, make sure you have documentation proving it has been prescribed by your doctor.

Several controlled substances are illegal in Qatar and without proper evidence, you could be jailed for possessing them even if it’s 100% legal in your own country.

Bring Beer to the Stadium

Alcohol consumption outside of regulated bars is banned. Even inside regulated bars, anyone under 21 will not be admitted.

You should be careful about how much you drink too. Public intoxication can be an arrestable offense. We can but hope that this law is followed to the letter by marauding fans.


Smoking is still legal in Qatar, but if you try to bring your e-Cigarette along, it will most probably be confiscated by airport security: vapes have been banned since 2014.

Show Your Shoulders

Shirtless, football fans, arms raised aloft in celebration are a sight not to behold.

It is with deep joy that we can announce that we won’t be seeing much of this from fans during the tournament – at least those with sense anyway.

And preening female fans with bare midriffs, etc, etc, will have to watch their step too. Why?

Because in Qatar, visitors must dress ‘modestly’, meaning knees and shoulders are covered – skirts must not be worn either. Swimsuits are also banned on beaches.

Us Brits are of course used to wearing shorts and t-shirts in hot weather. But be warned – this could get you in serious hot water in Qatar.

Social Norms to Observe in Qatar

It’s critical to stay on the right side of the law, but it’s also essential to ensure you understand the customs and social norms of the country you are going to; if you don’t, you could find yourself in hot water! When in Qatar, don’t…

Talk to Strangers of the Opposite Sex

Be careful about striking up a conversation in Qatar regardless of how gifted you are with ‘the chat’. What you might see as harmless conversation can cause great offense to Qataris.

Their culture demands that the genders keep their distance and refrain from communicating unless they know each other.

Admire Someone Else’s Possessions

While this one isn’t strictly illegal, it’s seen as a huge faux pas to admire someone else’s possessions.

In Qatar, the custom is that if someone verbally admires your possession (for example, ‘I love your watch!’), then that person is socially obligated to give you either the item itself or a gift of higher value!

To put someone in this situation is seen as unforgivably rude. So hold the compliments.

Eat With Your Left Hand

Qataris consider the left hand to be ‘unclean’. It’s used for personal hygiene so you can well imagine that it’s extremely rude to use it at the table.

Make sure you are picking up your utensils and passing any dishes across the table with your right hand!

Refuse an Invitation

Qataris are known for their hospitality and will be insulted if you refuse an invitation to dine. So if you’re invited for a meal, accept graciously.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, keep in mind that you’re the visitor to Qatar. If you don’t agree with their customs, don’t go!

But if you decide to, abide by their rules, no matter how alien they may seem. That way, you’ll have an enjoyable World Cup. Bon vogage!

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