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Preface Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The Arabian Gulf, better known in the West as the Persian Gulf, is an area of contrasts where rapid modernization coexists with ancient tradition. Ambitious development programs, fueled by oil wealth, have swept through the Gulf in recent years, bringing Western products and ideas in their wake. Only remnants of the once-thriving pearl diving, fishing, and handicraft industries remain. Even with all these changes, the values, customs, and traditions bear the unmistakable mark of Arabian and Islamic culture.

Well known for its harsh climate, Doha is uncomfortably hot for about 4-5 months of the year. Although warm clothing is sometimes required in the evenings from December through February, summer temperatures routinely top 100ºF and drop only marginally in the evening. Alternating humidity and hot desert winds necessitate reliable air-conditioning in the home, office, and car. Power outages are rare. Sea breezes over the Gulf make boating trips or visits to the beach comfortable during all but the hottest few months.

Overland driving is not recommended due to the harsh desert climate and restrictive travel policies followed by the Saudi Arabian Government. However, short air travel distances separate the Gulf posts of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Manama, and Doha, and each is worth visiting for its own unique flavor. Doha is a mixture of traditional sleepy seaport and vigorous modern city. Manama, the first city in the lower Gulf to develop, is maturely handsome in appearance. Dubai is undoubtedly the most sophisticated town in the area; Abu Dhabi is as highly developed as Dubai, but greener and with less commercial bustle. Nevertheless, Doha has some of the most striking architecture anywhere in the region, most of it located along the palm-fringed Corniche, the focal point of evening promenades, picnics, and public celebrations on national holidays.

Qatar's public entertainment options, once very limited, have been steadily increasing in recent years. In addition to restaurants and parks, the capital has a national theater; several small museums; a modern and attractive children's amusement park; a zoo; several luxury resort hotels; Western-style shopping malls; an English-language theater group; movie theaters; bowling alleys; pool halls; an ice skating rink; fishing and boating; and several higher priced social clubs, which are open to expatriate members. Numerous undeveloped, secluded beaches ring the peninsula, most requiring a four-wheel-drive or other heavy-duty utility vehicle to reach. Doha is home to several foreign expatriate communities, all of which enjoy active social lives composed of overlapping groups and circles that enrich the local scene with elements of their own cultures. The comfortable, small-town flavor compensates for the lack of public amenities, especially for families with small children.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

A sovereign Arab State on the western shore of the Arabian Gulf, Qatar occupies a 4,200-square-mile peninsula somewhat smaller than Connecticut, as well as several small offshore islands. The Qatar Peninsula projects north into the Gulf for about 100 miles and has a maximum width of about 55 miles. Halul, a permanently settled island, is an important storage center and tanker terminal for three offshore oil fields.

Doha, the capital city, is situated on the east coast, as are the country's larger towns.

In the south at the neck of the peninsula, Qatar borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, the Saudi capital, lies 250 miles due west beyond the Jafura Desert.

The port of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is about 150 nautical miles southeast. The vast Rub' al-Khali Desert, one of the largest and driest deserts in the world, lies below Abu Dhabi and extends to Qatar's southern border.

The nearest seaward neighbor is Bahrain to the north. Although Bahrain's capital, Manama, is 100 miles from Doha, only 20 miles separate the two countries at the narrowest part of the channel that runs between them into the Gulf of Salwa.

The eastern (Iranian) shore of the Gulf is 120 miles beyond Qatar's northern tip. The nearest Iranian port, Busheir, lies about 250 miles east of Doha. The Iraqi port of Basra, on the northern shore of the Gulf, is 350 miles away. The southern Strait of Hormuz, 310 miles from Doha, provides access to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Thus, Qatar occupies a central position in the Arabian Gulf.

The overall outline of the peninsula was not defined on European maps until well into the 19th century, though Karsten Niebugh briefly described the peninsula in his Voyage en Arabie, published in Switzerland in 1780. The historical appearance of Qatari place-names on European maps suggests strongly that, until recent times, international navigators were familiar only with the northern end of the country and the eastern pearling banks.

Qatar's terrain is monotonously flat, except for the Dukhan anticline in the west and some low rock outcroppings at the northern end of the east coast. Blown sand covers much of the south, and shifting dunes predominate in the southeast. The Dukhan anticline rises from the west coast as a chain of separate hills of up to 325 feet in height, about 35 miles long and 3-5 miles wide, covering the country's onshore oil fields.

Natural vegetation, including semipermanent pasture, is limited to areas surrounding wells, depressions, and short drainage courses active only after the winter rains. Most flora is confined to the northern half of the country. Elsewhere only sparse patches of camel thorn and isolated datepalm plantations relieve the featureless terrain.

The coastline is uneven and rises gently on both sides of the peninsula. Sandy reefs abound in the surrounding shallows. Extensive salt flats at the landward end of the peninsula, between Salwa on the west coast and Khor al-Odeid in the east, support the local belief that Qatar was once an island, separated from what is now the Saudi Province of al-Hasa.

Qatar lies outside the area of the annual monsoons. Its seasons are similar to those of the Temperate Zone, although usually much hotter. The winter months from December through February are cool, considering that Qatar's latitude is about the same as that of Miami, Florida. Intense heat persists at least from May through September. March, April, October, and November normally provide the most agreeable climatic conditions. Average humidity ranges from 32% during the cooler months to highs of 96% and 100% during late summer and early fall. Rainfall is usually very light and averages less than 3 inches per year, mostly in the winter months. Almost no rain falls from May through October. Frequent high winds, especially from March through August, can fill the air with fine dust and create a brownish haze on the horizon.

The prevailing desert wind, known as shemal, comes from the north during the spring and summer months. This constant, rather strong wind can be irritating, especially for allergy sufferers. In late summer, when the shemal dies, the humidity rises, making the climate even more unpleasant. It is not uncommon for building windows to fog up and drip moisture during the months of August and September.

Population Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The population of Qatar—including large expatriate communities comprising of other Arabs, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Baluchis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Iranians, and Westerners—is estimated at almost 650,000 people. Some 4,000 British, 2,000 other Europeans, and 5,000 Americans reside here. About 80% of the total population is concentrated in and around Doha.

The indigenous Qataris, who total around 150,000, can be traced to three main migratory movements: 1) overland, in the 1760s, by members of tribes already concentrated in Kuwait and along the shores of the Saudi Province of al-Hasa; 2) by tribal elements during one period of the Wahhabi expansion from al-Hasa at the end of the 1700s; and 3) by sea from neighboring Gulf shores.

Those involved in the overland influx were almost entirely Bedouin in origin. Their interest in the peninsula hinged on rainfall and grazing factors. Coastal wells and suitable sites for pearling and fishing ports controlled the pattern of immigration by sea from other regions of the Gulf.

Qatar appears in fifth century A.D. writings as a seafaring community, and Qataris continued to look to the sea for their communications and livelihoods until the advent of oil. The surrounding deserts and seas isolated them from their neighbors. Pearling and fishing represented the only sources of wealth. The elderly still recall a time when Qatar's 400 pearling ships constituted one-third of the entire Gulf fleet and when the pearl beds of the peninsula, Bahrain, and the lower Gulf Coast were recognized as the worlds most prolific. But the development of the cultured pearl by the Japanese in the 1930s almost destroyed this trade, which had flourished since Babylonian times.

Islam is the official and predominant religion of the population. Most Qataris are Sunni Muslims of the Wahhabi sect; Sunnis are the more numerous and orthodox of the two main Islamic streams and Wahabism is the fundamentalist, puritanical school prevalent in Saudi Arabia, though more moderate in Qatar.

The official language is Arabic, although most senior Qatari officials are bilingual and government business may be conducted in English. Many native-born Qataris are only a generation or two removed from a very simple village life. The most obvious traditional customs are the universal wearing of the white, full-length robe known as a "thobe" or "dish-dash" and the infrequent public appearance of women outside of shopping centers. When they do appear outside their homes, virtually all Qatari women wear ankle-length black shawls, or "abayas," and many women still wear a face mask called a "batula." Although alcohol is forbidden for Muslims, non-Muslims are allowed to buy limited quantities under a controlled program administered by the Qatar Distribution Company. Qataris are somewhat shy but very polite and hospitable. Qatari social functions, such as teas and weddings, are segregated with the men and women attending separately, sometimes on different days. Most restaurants, from traditional to fastfood, contain a "family section" separate from the more public areas of the establishment.

Any discussion of the Qatari population should make mention of the large numbers of foreign nationals present. The first foreign workers were brought in after 1949 to provide the manpower for Qatar's ever-growing oil industry, and they have come to fill nearly all service sectors, labor, or other wage-earning positions. The largest groups are Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos, but large numbers of other nationalities are also present. Foreign nationals make up almost 75% of Qatar's total population and are one of the main sources for Qatar's population growth. Although many foreign nationals are successful members of the middle and upper classes, they also make up the poorer portions of Qatari society, which are noticeable for a distinct lack of Qataris.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 2/15/2004 6:21 AM

Qatar became a British protectorate after the fall of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The other Gulf emirates had come under British protection 100 years earlier.

The British role in Qatari affairs was never as complete as in other colonies. In 1971, Qatar announced its intention to terminate the special treaty arrangements with Britain and to assume all responsibility for internal and external affairs.

A draft constitution was approved by over 96% of the voters in a 2003 referendum . It specified that rule would be hereditary within the Emir's branch of the Al Thani family. The Al Thani trace their ancestry to the Bani Tamim, one of the ruling tribes of ancient Arabia. In the 18th century, members of this tribe had moved 200 miles north from the Jabrin Oasis to the western shore of the Gulf. The Constitution provides guarantees of basic rights. It also provides legislative authority to a new Advisory. Council, consisting of 30 elected and 15 appointed members. In April 2003 Qatar held its second elections for the Central Municipal Council by direct, universal suffrage.

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The Adlea Courts and Sharia Courts are the principal judicial institutions, and operate under the authority of the Supreme Judicial Council. Commercial and criminal cases are generally handled by the Adlea courts; family, inheritance, wrongful injury, and most other civil cases are dealt with in the Sharia Courts.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The National Museum, dedicated on June 23, 1975, contains collections illustrating the development of the state of Qatar and the way of life of its people. Intended to serve as a repository of the culture and traditions of the peoples of the Gulf, the museum occupies the restored, former Emir's palace. Prized exhibits include an aquarium, a Bedouin camp, and several examples of dhows, the wooden ships that have sailed on the Gulf and the Indian Ocean from the earliest times. These are moored in an artificial lagoon dug out of reclaimed waterfront land.

Excavation of ruins and buried cairns on the west coast and elsewhere by Danish and French archeological expeditions between 1956 and 1982 have yielded evidence of pre-historic habitation. The finds are mainly of the Stone and Iron Ages and include artifacts dating from about 4000 B.C.

The Doha Public Library houses a collection of thousands of ancient Arabic manuscripts, as well as modern works and a small collection of books in English. Qatar also has a system of branch and school-affiliated libraries.

A public school system was established in 1956, and adult education was introduced a year later. Adult teaching centers offer basic literacy courses. Outside the public system are American, British, French, Indian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Iranian, and other private schools serving the various expatriate communities as well as some Qataris. Qatar University, established in 1977, enrolls full-time and part-time students (two-thirds women) in five departments: education, humanities, Islamic studies, science, and engineering. All public education in Qatar is free through the university level, and full scholarships are provided by the Ministry of Education to qualified Qatari students wishing to study abroad. Many educated Qataris are graduates of U.S. universities.

Active cultural centers in Doha include the British Council, the French Cultural Center, the Indian Cultural Center, and the Public Affairs Office at the American Embassy.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

From 1949, when the first cargo of crude was exported, the economy of Qatar has depended on one resource—oil. In 1974, when oil revenues rocketed to $1,928 billion—a 500% increase over 1973 earnings—the pace of economic development increased dramatically.

Qatar's oil income has since fluctuated with changes in production levels and world prices, but it remains the mainstay of the local economy. The oil sector accounts for about 85% of Qatar's export earnings and some 75% of government revenues. In recent years, production has been steady at approximately 650,000 barrels per day. The state has full control over oil production and marketing, and Qatar Petroleum (QP), the state-owned oil corporation, is one of the largest employers in the country.

At current production rates, and without application of enhanced oil recovery techniques, Qatar could deplete its oil reserves in about 25 years. However, vast offshore natural gas reserves are under development and will anchor the economy for the foreseeable future. The North Field, with estimated reserves of 450 trillion cubic feet, is the world's largest single natural gas field and lies just off the northern tip of the Qatar Peninsula. Development projects involving billions of dollars have attracted investment from numerous international companies, particularly from Japan, France, and the U.S. In addition to gas production, much of the investment centers on construction of facilities form liquefaction of the gas and shipping the liquefied natural gas (LNG) to overseas markets. The first phase of the North Field development, funded mostly by foreign investment and orchestrated by a state-owned corporation known as Qatargas, was completed in 1997. A subsequent project, RasGas, began LNG production in 1999 and represents a new era of cooperation with foreign investors, namely Exxon/Mobil. The natural gas liquefaction plant and shipping facility at Ras Laffan, about 1 hour north of Doha, is an engineering marvel. Although these projects have put Qatar into substantial debt, they promise to sustain its economy for years after oil production tapers off.

Beginning in 1969, when construction began on a chemical fertilizer plant, Qatar embarked on an ambitious industrialization scheme. Not surprisingly, all heavy industrial projects rely on indigenous petroleum and natural gas reserves for either fuel or feedstock. For the execution of most of these projects, the government has formed joint ventures with foreign partners under which the foreign company acquires a minority ownership while providing technical, managerial, and marketing expertise. This arrangement has been employed in establishing petrochemical, chemical fertilizer, and steel factories and is now being used for gas development.

Thus far, the government and its foreign partners have generated most of the economic activity in Qatar. The private sector has largely limited its participation in the larger ventures to trading and construction contracting. Early in 1998 the government began cautiously encouraging privatization of certain areas. In 1999, Q-Tel, the government-run telephone monopoly, was put on the market as the first phase of a larger privatization plan. Despite strong private-sector enthusiasm, the Qatari Government has been cautious in moving further ahead.

Qatar has not emerged as a regional business center. Service industries and banking, while active, have focused on the domestic economy. The tourist trade is benefiting from several government projects, including the creation of the Qatar Tourism Authority earlier this year, but it still represents only a small segment of the economy.


Automobiles Last Updated: 4/28/2004 9:10 AM

Most of the well-known American, German, Japanese, and Korean brands of vehicles are available in Doha, although some parts are hard to find and/or expensive. Several European makes not sold in the U.S. are also available. Four-wheel-drive vehicles, including U.S.-made Jeep Cherokees, Ford Explorers, and General Motors models, are sold and serviced in Doha at slightly higher prices than in the U.S. Anyone planning to purchase a vehicle in Doha should also plan to sell it before returning to the U.S.-local vehicles do not meet U.S. emission control or safety standards and require costly modifications before they can be imported into the U.S.

All vehicles must be shipped in the name of the employee and must be registered and licensed upon arrival. Before registration, local third-party insurance must be obtained. Although the price of insurance depends on vehicle size, the average annual cost for third-party insurance is about $100; comprehensive car insurance starts at about $1,000 per year. After the required insurance is obtained, vehicles are inspected to assess their roadworthiness and to ensure that they meet local safety standards. Serious defects or significant variations from local standards must be corrected before registration can be completed. Very dark or reflective window glass must be replaced before a vehicle can be registered and driven, although light-tinted, or "smoked," glass is acceptable. Also, vehicles must not be more than 5 years old.

To obtain a local drivers license, applicants must have a valid U.S. or third-country drivers license and must be able to pass an eye and road sign test. Unlicensed applicants must take a costly course in driver education and undergo a more difficult driving test. The roads in Qatar are good to fair. Most are hard surfaced and reasonably well maintained, although the lack of proper subgrading causes many dips and swells, even on recently constructed sections. Because of spreading urban development, Doha's streets are constantly being excavated and repaired. The result is occasional driving delays and higher vehicle maintenance costs. Most local roads are dual carriageway, limited access highways designed for high-speed driving, but are interrupted frequently by British-style traffic circles ("roundabouts") that require heavy braking and sharp turns to negotiate. Extreme heat and dusty conditions also contribute to the need for extra vehicle maintenance, including more frequent engine oil, oil filter, air filter, and fuel filter changes. Tires and brakes also wear out at a higher rate and should be checked and replaced more often. Getting used to the city's many roundabouts is a disorienting experience, but most Americans are able to adapt.

As of February 2004, super and premium unleaded gasoline were sold at stations around Doha for QRs .70 (19 cents) and QRs .65 (18 cents) per liter, respectively. The catalytic converter does not need to be removed from the vehicle. Diesel (known here as "kerosene") is available for the same price. No restrictions apply to the use, purchase, or sale of vehicles imported into Qatar. Owners must pay duty on any imported duty-free vehicles that are sold within 1 year of importation to anyone without duty-free privileges. Duty depends on car value and size but averages 3% to 4% of the vehicle's value.

As in the U.S., driving is on the right, and left-hand-drive vehicles are the norm. Local driving customs can be frustrating—other drivers are rude by American standards and will take advantage of a courteous driver, refusing to yield at intersections, tailgating at high speeds, turning left from the right lane, etc. Fortunately, driving distances in Doha are fairly short, and the aggravation of local driving never lasts for very long.

Because of extremely high summer temperatures and humidity, all vehicles should be equipped with factory installed air-conditioning before shipment. Dealer installed air-conditioning for most models is available locally, but it rarely works as well as factory-installed units, costs at least $1,500 to purchase and install, and requires numerous trips back to the garage for adjusting. Vehicles with larger engines (six to eight cylinders) and dual air-conditioners (front and rear) are far more comfortable in the summer heat. The smaller air-conditioning units available in four-cylinder engines are not adequate for the extreme Gulf heat.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Private cars provide the only practical and dependable transportation in Doha. Taxis may be hailed at the airport, at the main hotels, or as they cruise the streets, but they have no telephone callout service and are poorly equipped (e.g., with no seatbelts or air-conditioning), and the drivers tend to speak only Arabic. They are more or less reliable, usually have functioning meters, and are relatively cheap. A more expensive alternative is a local limousine service, which more closely resembles taxi service in the U.S. "Limousines" are Lexus sedans and Chevy Caprices, driven by English-speaking drivers, and are equipped with air-conditioning, rear seatbelts, functioning meters, and telephone/radio dispatch equipment. Prices for this higher grade of service are comparable to taxi fares in New York and other large U.S. cities. Reasonably priced rental cars are available from Avis, Hertz, Budget, and other franchises.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Travel within the country is solely by car. Vehicle travel to neighboring countries is not recommended for safety reasons (long, desolate driving distances and the lack of shoulders or emergency lanes) and because of border crossing difficulties. Air transportation links to neighboring countries are extensive, fairly well managed, and much more convenient. Planes are often overbooked, and travelers are advised to reconfirm reservations and arrive at the airport well in advance of posted flight times. Doha is served by Gulf Air, Emirates Air, Qatar Airways, Saudia, KLM, Air India, British Airways, Iran Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Egypt Air, and most other non-Gulf Arab airlines. No U.S. airline serves Doha directly, although several "code share" flights are available to and from European transit points. The Fly America Act requires that persons traveling on official U.S. Government orders use code share service whenever it is available. Current code share flights to and from the Gulf include selected flights on Gulf Air (American Airlines), Emirates Air (United), KLM (Northwest), and British Airways (American Airlines).


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 2/9/2004 6:34 AM

Telephone service in Doha is excellent. An unlimited number of local calls can be made for a nominal line charge of about $10 per month. For calls to the U.S. the local phone company, Q-TEL, charges QRs 2.36 per minute (65 cents) during the peak hours of 7:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. Off peak calls are QRs 1.72 per minute (47 cents). Telegram and telex facilities are readily available, but these have mostly been eclipsed by fax machines. Mobile phones are expensive but very popular with the Qatari nationals. Personal pagers, known as "bleeps," are also present and are much less expensive.

Q-TEL is also the sole provider of internet services in Doha. Though reliable, internet access is more expensive than in the U.S., customer support is poor, and line speeds are slow. Modem connections cost roughly $1.20 per hour, plus a small one-time only hookup fee. ADSL with unlimited monthly hours is available for around $81 a month plus a one time hookup fee.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

There are currently limited APO facilities available to State Department personnel. A maximum of 13 oz. applies to all incoming and outgoing mail, thus most Mission members use APO for bills and other small items.

Transit time for pouch mail and international mail to or from the U.S. is 10 to 21 days. Federal Express, DHL Worldwide Express, and other overnight mail services are available for urgent deliveries to Europe. The international parcel post rates to the U.S. are high, and local postal authorities insist on opening and inspecting packages before accepting them for shipment.

Embassy personnel are authorized to use the diplomatic pouch to receive packages and personal mail. With a few exceptions, outgoing pouches are restricted to letter mail only. Turnaround time for catalog orders and other Qatar/U.S./Qatar correspondence is about 6-8 weeks. Newly assigned personnel should bring a supply of stamps to get started, however, stamps can be purchased at the ARCENT Post Office.

Address mail as follows:

APO mail: Name ARCENT-QA Box 520 APO AE 09898

International Mail: Name American Embassy P.O. Box 2399 Doha, Qatar

Pouch Mail: Name Department of State 6130 Doha Place Washington, D.C. 20521-6130

Radio and TV Last Updated: 2/9/2004 6:07 AM

Qatar TV (QTV) broadcasts in color in Middle-Eastern PAL format on two channels, English and Arabic. The English-language channel often shows American programs, but all broadcasts are censored. English-language news is broadcast at 8 p.m. and includes up-to-the-minute film footage via commercial satellite service.

Q-TEL, the government-owned phone company, operates a 60-channel cable TV service with 22 channels in English. Most major channels are available, including CNN, CNBC, the BBC, ESPN, the Discovery Channel, and several music channels. Some movie channels are available, but HBO or other U.S. standbys are not available.

Satellite service is just being introduced officially, although it has existed on the black market for several years. Q-TEL is the sole provider of the service and also regulates all dish sales. The selection is vast; spanning several hundred channels, but the system lags behind Western equivalents technologically due to restrictive Q-TEL practices.

Cable and satellite service is expensive, and broadcasts, with the exception of the news, are often out of date and censored for nudity and inappropriate language. The local purchase price of a PAL format TV set (19-inch screen) is about $200 to $300. A multisystem TV, capable of receiving both PAL and NTSC (American format) signals, is about $100 more.

Radio programming on the English-language station of the Qatar Broadcasting Service (QBS) is excellent, with 19 hours a day in FM stereo. English-language news is broadcast several times daily, and a variety of programs are aired, including classic rock, contemporary rock, jazz, classical music, country music, children's shows, and a number of informational talk shows. FM English-language stations from the UAE and Kuwait are also broadcast in Qatar. Short-wave radio owners can pick up VOA, BBC, and other foreign radio signals. Radios can be purchased locally at reasonable prices.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Qatar has two English-language dailies, the Gulf Times and the Peninsula, which carry many major world news and feature syndicates. The papers' weekend editions carry several popular American color comic strips. A selection of state-supported and semiprivate publications is also available, but almost all are in Arabic. Many U.S. and British magazines are sold in Doha, including the International Herald Tribune. Photos and texts considered objectionable are censored before distribution. Magazines and periodicals sent through the pouch are not censored. Although low sales volume publications are marked up 300% over the original price, high-volume items such as Time or Newsweek are more reasonable.

The Public Affairs Office has a very small student-advising center. The British Council maintains a library, but its offerings are limited, and, as noted above, the National Library has relatively few volumes in English. Bibliophiles should bring a good supply of reading material and may want to arrange for periodic resupply.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Medical and dental health facilities in Doha either belong to the Ministry of Public Health or are privately owned and operated. Public Health Ministry services include a general hospital with modern facilities, a women's obstetrics hospital, and several neighborhood primary care clinics.

Public care is accessed with a government-issued health card available through the Embassy for a fee and is valid for 1 year. A small user fee for expatriates is being charged at the public clinics and hospital for care received. These clinics can be noisy and crowded, and waiting times can range from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the time of day and the number of patients to be seen.

An increasing number of private medical and dental clinics and two private hospitals have opened in recent years. Most Americans prefer to pay a reasonable fee at the private clinics, which are quicker and more convenient. All public facilities and most private ones are segregated; separate waiting areas and treatment rooms are provided for male and female patients.

Emergency treatment is available at the local hospital, which runs a U.S.-style Emergency Medical Service, and an ambulance service is available. Most local physicians are Egyptian-trained, although some are European or American trained. Judged by Western standards, local nursing care ranges from fair to poor.

The regional medical officer is based in Riyadh and visits Doha about once every 4 to 5 months. The Health Unit is staffed by a registered nurse who is available for general advice and referrals to the local community. An American employee or dependent afflicted with a serious medical condition will generally be evacuated to London for treatment.

Obtain eyeglass prescriptions before traveling to Doha. If the need arises after arrival, there are a number of private optometrists and ophthalmologists and a large stock of lenses and frames to choose from.

Pharmacies are generally well stocked with European brands of common medications and supplies. It is highly recommended that you bring your own supplies of any frequent medications and the necessary paperwork to reorder from the U.S. A well-stocked family first-aid kit is essential.

Community Health Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Doha itself is one of the cleaner cities in the Gulf, but some goods are imported from high-risk areas. For this reason, proper food care and hygiene standards should be followed. Food sold at major supermarkets is of good quality and is examined by local health inspectors. Expired products are almost always removed from the shelves promptly.

The general state of public health in Qatar is fair to good. The Ministry of Public Health's veterinary section inspects animals before slaughter. The Doha municipality has a rodent control program, available when needed. The municipality also arranges for free daily garbage collection. Despite these efforts, the control of flies and other insects remains a problem, especially in the cooler months. On the positive side, Qatar has relatively few mosquitoes and no mosquito-borne diseases.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

All adults and children should have up-to-date, age appropriate immunizations such as DPT, Polio, MMR, HIB, HEP B, HEP A, Tetanus, Varicella and Typhoid. TB testing must be current.

Tapwater comes almost exclusively from desalination plants. Routine tests reveal that the water is chlorinated and suitable for drinking, though filtering is advised, particularly in the summer months. Inexpensive bottled water is manufactured in Qatar and the U.A.E.; more expensive varieties come from Europe. Bottled water contains fluoride, but tapwater does not. Fluoride supplements to children under 16 are currently not recommended, but parents may wish to consult with their dentists.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

No formal restrictions prevent foreign dependents from working, but job opportunities are usually limited to low-level clerical work, especially for women. Nevertheless, female spouses with experience in secretarial or teaching positions have found employment in Doha. English-language teachers and tutors are in particular demand and can command reasonable salaries. Others have worked for radio and TV stations, in private businesses, as sports instructors, and in the medical profession. Some higher paying jobs are available, but they are more difficult to find and generally limited to male applicants.

Because of the Embassy's small size and limited budget, full- and part-time employment within the U.S. Mission is limited.

Qatar has a de facto reciprocal work arrangement established by precedent, spouses and dependent children of U.S. Government employees assigned to official duty at the Embassy may apply through specified channels for a permit to work.

American Embassy - Doha

Post City Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Doha's 2001 population is about 550,000 and growing. Most have arrived in the past 20 years, as the city has expanded at an incredible rate. Although generally well maintained by municipal authorities, the city has grown faster than its basic infrastructure, resulting in a large number of ongoing renovation projects (roads, sewers, telephone cables, etc.)

Privately funded residential and office building construction is found throughout the city. Notwithstanding this large-scale development around the capital, a shortage of reasonably priced, Western-style housing persists.

The majority of new living units are large, poorly designed (and expensive) European-style "villas," with high-perimeter walls, very small interior gardens, and only small appliances.

Once a sleepy seaport, Doha has come a long way since the oil boom of the mid-1970s.

The modern skyline now includes a number of multistory buildings that contrast sharply with the flat, rocky plains surrounding the city. Streets in the old section of the city are narrow and congested, but a system of wide, high-speed parkways links the newer, suburban areas. Several large, Western-style shopping malls have been built, but these co-exist with more traditional souqs and small vendors. Very few open spaces are found in the city center, but a 7 kilometer-long park system along the waterfront Corniche offers agreeable vistas and a place to walk or jog and is a popular gathering spot in the cooler months. In addition, a limited number of public parks and museums are located around the city, including the attractive Doha Zoo, the National Museum, Doha Fort, Khulaifat Park, Muntaza Park, the Airport Park, and Aladdin's Kingdom, a Western-style amusement park.

Mosques appear in every neighborhood; one is never more than a few blocks from an impressive example of Muslim architecture.

Security Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM


Compared to other medium-sized cities around the world, Doha is very safe. Although there is the occasional robbery, violent crime is almost nonexistent. There is a large police presence in Doha, and this can be summoned quickly by dialing 999 from any telephone. The most common problem is harassment of females in public. Because of Qatar's conservative Muslim norms and the presence of many young male workers, Western women who do not dress conservatively in public often find themselves the object of unwanted attention. With this exception, the streets of Doha are safer than most in the U.S.


Currently, there is no specific threat of terrorism or political violence. However, organizations that have participated or supported terrorist acts are located in Qatar. Consequently, travelers are urged to register with the Embassy Consular Section upon arrival in Qatar and to stay abreast of political events in the entire Gulf Region. Residents should exercise caution and remain vigilant.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 2/9/2004 6:37 AM

The U.S. Mission to Qatar includes the State Department, the United States Liaison Office (USLO), and the Defense Attaché‚ Office (USDAO). The Army Corps of Engineers has a small office. The staff moved into the newly completed Chancery in October 2001. It is located on 22 February Street on the western side of the city. The Embassy telephone number is (country code 974) 488-4101. The Embassy fax number is (974) 488-4298. Office hours are 8 am to 4:30 pm. The Embassy workweek is Sunday through Thursday, with the weekend observed on Friday and Saturday. Doha is 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, 7 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, and 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean (Zulu) Time.

The State Department is currently authorized the following 25 positions at Embassy Doha: Ambassador, DCM, political/military officer, administrative officer, general services officer, budget/human resources officer, public affairs officer, consular officer, consular/political officer, economic/commercial officer, information programs officer, information management officer, regional security officer (RSO), assistant RSO, an RSO office management specialist, two executive office management specialists, a facilities manager, and a Marine Security Guard (MSG) Detachment Commander with five marines. USLO currently has three positions: USLO chief, exercise and programs officer, and a training and information management specialist. The Defense Attaché‚ Office (USDAO) has a Defense Attaché‚ (DATT), Air Attaché, and an Operations Coordinator (OPSCO). Doha receives regional support from Embassies Riyadh, Manama, and New Delhi.

In-processing for new employees includes staff introductions, security briefings, and applications for ID card, drivers license, medical card, and special allowances. Newcomers should plan to provide about 20 ID-sized photographs per adult and 10 per child, to assist in processing the applications for various local ID cards, licenses, permits, etc. Photos can be taken locally at a reasonable cost.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

New arrivals usually move directly into permanent housing. If housing is not ready for occupancy at the time of arrival, hotels used for newcomers include the Doha Marriott and the Sheraton. If necessary, reservations will be made by the post before the employee's arrival.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

All American employees live in furnished government-leased quarters. The houses are in attractive housing compounds with full amenities.

The Ambassador's residence is located about 10 minutes from the Chancery. The house is an attractive, split-level villa with built-in servants quarters and a separate guard house and pool house. The residence contains a large representational area, a dining room, five bedrooms, and a study. The walled garden contains large patio areas and a swimming pool with a surrounding fenced-in apron. Additional details are available from OBO/IF or from the Embassy's administrative officer.

The compound housing consists of two- and three-bedroom townhouses, and three- and four-bedroom homes with walled garden areas, known locally as "villas." Residences are located in several compounds around Doha, all of which are close to the Embassy and the downtown area. Houses leased by the Embassy include a variety of floor plans, both one-story and two-story, all with carports. All homes include dishwashers and a washer/dryer set for clothing. The compounds are landscaped and include community recreation facilities (a swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, a weight room, a clubhouse, and children's playgrounds). All compounds are gated and have security guards posted around the clock. Pets are permitted.

The housing board makes housing assignments based on position, rank and family size, and almost all of Doha's housing assignments are within A-171 square footage standards. Date of arrival and availability of other suitable housing are also considered when permanent housing is assigned.

Furnishings Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

In addition to basic furniture sets for the house, all living units include major appliances (refrigerators, freezers, electric stoves, washers, and dryers), plus vacuum cleaners, microwaves, transformers, and patio furniture.

Curtains and draperies are provided as part of the home furnishings. Each house has one queen-sized bed in the master suite and twin beds in the other bedrooms. Cribs, baby gates, infant car seats, and other special equipment for families with small children are not available and should be brought to post. They can also be purchased locally by the employee.

Employees are expected to buy or ship their own kitchenware, china, glassware, table and bed linens, wastebaskets, irons, ironing boards, coat hangers, garden hoses, and other items necessary to furnish a home. The Embassy has hospitality kits containing all of these items, which are made available until the employee's airfreight (UAB) arrives.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

All living quarters are supplied with city water, electricity, and daily trash collection. Except for residential telephone service, all utility costs are borne by the Embassy.

Electrical current in Doha is 220v/ 240v, 50 cycles. Appliances purchased in the U.S. require step-down transformers. The Embassy provides each home with one heavy-duty and one medium-sized transformer. Employees must furnish additional units, which can be shipped with their personal effects or purchased locally. Motor-driven appliances such as electric clocks, tape recorders, record players, and movie projectors designed to operate on 60-cycle AC current must be adjusted to operate on 50-cycle current. However, most recently purchased VCRs, tape decks, CD players, and other electronic equipment operate on DC current and will not require cycle adjustments.

Local TV signals are PAL format, and an American-purchased (NTSC format) TV or VCR cannot be used to receive local broadcasts unless it is a "multisystem" unit. A good selection of electrical appliances, radios, and PAL/multisystem audio/video equipment are available on the local market at prices slightly higher than in the U.S.

Food Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

With the exception of fresh fish, some chicken, and seasonal, locally grown produce (cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, etc.), all food consumed in Doha is imported. Several large, Western-style supermarkets exist and it is possible to get most name brand U.S. goods at any time of the year, albeit at higher prices. Local equivalents, generally of decent quality, are also available at cheaper rates. Dairy products, including fresh and "shelf life" milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, and butter, are available at most local retail outlets. Both imported and locally manufactured soft drinks are available at reasonable prices. All food stores also have a wide selection of Middle Eastern foods, making for an eclectic variety of food choices. In addition to the large supermarkets, numerous small food stores dot the city. These stores have a more limited selection and do not sell fruits or vegetables, but there is usually an accompanying fruit and vegetable shop nearby. For those who enjoy open air shopping, a wholesale produce market on the outskirts of the city sells imported fruits and vegetables at Washington, D.C., area prices. An adjoining fish market offers a good selection of fresh, reasonably priced fish and shellfish. Local bakeries of numerous nationalities produce various types of bread, rolls, pies, and cakes; however, the quality is not quite up to U.S. standards. Food in Doha is of good quality and available year round. Perishable items are usually stored properly, but care should be taken when selecting goods, especially in the smaller food stores. The many restaurants of numerous ethnicities provide a wide range of opportunities for anyone with an adventurous palette.

Due to its small size, the post has no recreation association or commissary. Alcoholic beverages are available but carefully rationed and controlled—using a ration card issued by the Qatar Distribution Company, one can purchase a limited amount of alcohol per family per month. Prices include importation duty and are higher than U.S. retail prices for similar items. Diplomatic personnel can also order duty-free shipments of alcoholic beverages individually or jointly from companies in the U.S., the U.K., and Cyprus.

Clothing Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

For 4 to 5 months of the year, Doha's temperatures exceed those of the hottest August days in Washington, D.C. Cotton and other cooler fabrics for both women and men are essential during this period. For 2 to 3 months in winter, it is cool enough for light jackets and woolen clothing in the evenings. If possible, incoming personnel should ship clothing sufficient for their entire tour, as good-quality clothing is about twice the cost in Doha as in the U.S. By contrast, the local fabric market is reasonably priced, and local dressmakers and tailors can be hired to custom-make clothing items for significantly less than retail outlets charge for pre-manufactured items. However, the skills of local tailors and dressmakers vary widely, and custom-made clothing can be a hit-or-miss proposition.

Men Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Because all offices and homes are centrally air-conditioned, lightweight suits and jackets are comfortable for office and evening wear. For informal occasions, slacks and sport shirts are appropriate. Formal wear is optional for two-to-three occasions per year (dark suits are also suitable for these occasions). Accordingly, incoming officers are advised to bring tuxedos only if they already have them.

Dress shoes and some fashionable men's clothing are available in Doha. English and continental shoes, plus a few American brands, average $100 to $200 a pair. American shirts, ties, socks, underwear, and pajamas are available, but again at very high prices. Continental suits are sold for $700 to $900 and sport coats for $350. Bring a supply of everything if you are unwilling to pay these prices. Occasionally, a reasonably priced suit or jacket is found at one of the local shops, though apparel stocked locally is inferior by U.S. standards. Even if the price is right, fit and size can present problems.

Tailor-made suits and shirts are more affordable, but care should be exercised in choosing a tailor and explaining the design requirements.

Women Last Updated: 2/9/2004 6:49 AM

Although Qatari women wear the traditional, ankle-length black cloaks (abayas), Western women wear regular Western dress. Knee-length and mid-calf-length dresses and skirts are preferable, as very short dresses, shorts, and tank tops are considered in poor taste and offend the host country's religious and cultural principles. Bring conservative suits and dinner dresses with sleeves and high necklines for official Embassy functions. More casual clothing can be worn in the homes of other Americans or around the compound. Many women have dresses or skirts made locally.

Only a few brands and styles of American shoes are available in Doha. European shoes in the latest styles can be purchased, but many Americans have difficulty finding the correct size, and prices are very high. One should consider bringing enough shoes for an entire tour or plan on placing some American catalog orders while in Doha. The rough outdoor terrain is very damaging to shoes, and replacements will be needed more often than in the U.S. Shoe repair work is available but not always of good quality.

Swimsuits are usually available, but incoming personnel should bring along a few spares just in case. Bring a good supply of hosiery, as quality brands cost about $9 to $10 a pair.

Children Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Children's clothing is available, but quality and style are uneven, and all items are much more costly than in the U.S. If possible, include a full supply of clothing and shoes in your household effects shipment. Children's toys, although widely available, can also be quite expensive.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 2/9/2004 6:54 AM

Ample supplies of toiletries, cosmetics, shaving supplies, and home medications, mostly European brands, are available at higher than U.S. prices. Pharmacies carry a wide range of prescription and nonprescription drugs, first-aid supplies, and birth control products.

British, French, and some American cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories are available locally at prices comparable to those in the U.S. Home entertainment equipment is available at reasonable rates. Video clubs abound in Doha, but all (local PAL format) tapes are censored. American Embassy employees more typically obtain NTSC format videotapes from the U.S. via pouch mail and trade or loan them among themselves.

Some American products including DVDs, clothing, electronics, food items and pork are available from the PX at As Saliyah, a short drive from Doha.

Most paper products are available. Greeting cards, napkins, paper plates, and cups decorated for specific holidays are sometimes hard to find.

Basic Services Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Drycleaning is available at several retail outlets. A man's business suit typically costs about $6, a woman's suit about $4.50.

Business hours for drycleaning establishments are short, sometimes only a few hours per day.

Hairdressing salons for men and women are adequate by Western standards. A man's haircut costs $5 to $10, depending on the shop patronized. A shampoo and set, without a cut, costs about $25 for women.

Spare parts and tires are available for all makes of vehicles. Labor is cheap, but parts costs are very high. The quality of automotive repair work is sometimes very poor, even at authorized dealerships. Parts for U.S.-made cars are sometimes unavailable, and it is a good idea to ship a supply of commonly needed spares (filters, brake pads, belts, tires, etc.).

When parts are available from the local dealerships, repair service for electronic equipment is reliable and relatively inexpensive.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Finding, hiring, and training domestic employees can be difficult, mostly because of a complicated local immigration/sponsorship system that strictly controls the domestic labor market. Most domestics are Indian, Sri Lankan, or Filipino, and all command relatively high salaries, about $600 a month for a cook and $350 for a housekeeper. A full-time domestic must also be provided with free housing and a food allowance, according to the local labor law. Additional benefits required by law are 1) annual and sick leave, 2) a round-trip ticket to the employee's home country every 2 years, 3) severance pay upon termination, and 4) a one-way ticket home after termination. Some domestics will work part-time for other families for several hours per day, but the cost is fairly high; the going rate for an experienced housekeeper is $3.50-$5.50 per hour.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Islam is the only officially sanctioned religion in Qatar and is by far the predominant faith. There are no problems for Muslims to find a place to worship, as there is almost literally a mosque around every corner. The call to prayer echoes throughout Doha five times a day, and there are many who break from work to attend these prayer sessions. The city virtually shuts down on Friday mornings, and it is not uncommon to see major roads blocked during this time as locals triple and quadruple park out into the street in front of the larger mosques.

Until recently public display of other religions was banned, but this policy has been changed and land has been allocated for the building of Christian churches. There are active religious groups here for both Catholics and Protestants, and each sect has a philanthropic program. Groups currently meet in private homes and at the American School, but this should change when the churches are constructed.

There is a Christian burial ground near Dukhan, about an hour west of Doha.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 2/9/2004 7:06 AM Expatriate schools are available for the American, British, French, Lebanese, Indian, Filipino, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Iranian, and Pakistani communities. In 1988, the American School of Doha was founded as an independent, coeducational private school. ASD offers an American-style educational program for students of all nationalities, from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. ASD receives grant money from the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools (A/OPR/OS). It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. The school operates on a quarter term system from the beginning of September to the middle of June and runs at full capacity with 500 students, about half of whom are American citizens. ASD is housed in a recently constructed building with up to date facilities, and there is an active PTA that holds an annual ASD Friendship Festival.

Other local schools include the Doha English Speaking School (DESS), a British-style grade school, and Doha College, a British high school. These schools are sponsored by the British Embassy and follow traditional British educational models, preparing students to pass the qualifying exams that control access to the better public and private schools and colleges in the U.K. Despite differences in goals and methods, the British schools can prepare American children to enter U.S. public schools with their age groups. Supplemental courses beyond the British curriculum, such as U.S. history, must be arranged privately. The schools operate on a trimester basis from September to late June. Qatar Academy follows the IB system and operates under the Qatar Foundation umbrella. It is located within Education City.

The post educational allowance covers the tuition and expenses of all these schools. For further information, contact:

American School of Doha P.O. Box 22090 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-422-1377 Fax: 011-974-422-0995 E-mail:

Doha English Speaking School P.O. Box 7660 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-4870-170 Fax: 011-974-4875-921 E-mail:

Doha College P.O. Box 7506 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-4687-379 Fax: 011-974-4685720 E-mail:

Qatar Academy P.O. Box 1129 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-482-6666 Fax: 011-947-2812401 E-mail:

Away From Post Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM Few desirable boarding schools are available in the Gulf area. A Department of Defense boarding school exists in Manama, and there are a few others in Egypt and India, but these are rarely utilized. Most Mission members wishing to send their children to schools away from post have chosen schools located in Europe or in the U.S.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Organized athletic events include soccer, basketball, tennis, sailing, squash, baseball, and a few others. For those who can afford to join private clubs or pay the high rental rates at the hotels, sports such as wind surfing, jet skiing, weight lifting, volleyball, etc., are available. Fishing and boating are popular but expensive. A few bowling alleys are available, both for league play and individual play. There are a few cyclists in the area, but equipment is next to impossible to find and suitable trails are nonexistent.

A new, 27-hole championship golf course with a driving range opened recently just north of Doha. Due to the costs of maintaining grass greens and fairways, and lighting the course at night, membership fees and greens fees are quite high. Two older golf courses also exist, both with dirt fairways and oiled sand greens (browns). One is a 1-hour drive west of Doha, and the other is a 40-minute drive south. Membership at either club is less expensive, but may require a wait of several months. A few private tennis and squash clubs operate in Doha. A local rugby club is open to all reasonably skilled players. There is also a scuba club and a few private scuba operators in Qatar. Relatively inexpensive dinghy sailing is available through the Doha Sailing Association, which offers lessons and reasonably priced memberships.

Many private clubs with sports facilities, some at hotels, offer individual and family memberships. Typically, these clubs offer swimming, squash, tennis, and weight room facilities. Membership fees are relatively high. All U.S.-leased compounds have pools and workout facilities that are free for residents and guests, although the quality and extent of these facilities varies.

Opportunities for children's sports are fairly good in Doha. Little league baseball and soccer programs exist, and children's classes in gymnastics, sailing, martial arts, and other such activities are available. School-run sports programs also provide an opportunity for youth athletics. City Center Mall has a small ice rink, a water park, and a climbing wall appropriate for children.

The summer heat is severely limiting to any outdoor athletics. This means that, for several months out of the year, many of the above-mentioned activities are either not available or extremely uncomfortable to participate in.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The principal outdoor activity in Doha is the weekend beach trip. The beaches that are easily reached over good roads are adequate, but heavily used, not properly maintained, and usually visited only by men. The more attractive beaches in the north and west are also more remote, with most being 1-2 hours away from the city. The remote beaches offer better privacy and family enjoyment for Westerners. Beach goers travel in convoys and bring all necessary supplies with them, including food, drinking water, tents, firewood, etc.—all beaches are "primitive" (no shade, freshwater, restrooms, or concessions of any kind). At the Inland Sea south of Umm Said, sand dunes extend to the water's edge, sheltering mile after mile of beautiful, deserted beaches. However, a trip to the Inland Sea is 2 hours each way, much of it over salt flats, gravel flats, and loose sand. It requires substantial planning and a minimum of 3 to 4 well-maintained four-wheel-drive vehicles. Due to the distance involved, many visitors to the Inland Sea camp out overnight and return to Doha the next day.

Doha's National Museum is among the finest of its type in the Gulf. The facility is a treasure chest of Bedouin artifacts, crafts, jewelry, and other works associated with the history of the Qatari people. It also has an aquarium and a lagoon, in which local sea life and traditional fishing boats are displayed.

The Arabian Oryx can be seen at the Doha Zoo and on a farm at Shahaniya. These extremely rare animals were captured elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula to form a breeding herd in Qatar and to help save the strain from extinction.

Entertainment Last Updated: 2/9/2004 7:25 AM

Doha has a few Western-style bars and nightclubs, but they are only allowed in some of the larger hotels and are smaller than most American clubs. These nightclubs are fairly easy to get into for Westerners, as long as the cover charge is paid, but natives dressed in traditional clothing are not allowed. Restaurants in the major hotels and in private clubs offer alcoholic beverages to members and paying guests only. These restrictions are due to a ban on public drinking and dancing that is strictly enforced outside of the above-mentioned areas. All other liquor is sold via a local ration system. Most evening activities are either alcohol-free or take place in private homes and hotel clubs.

Doha has four cinema complexes, three of which show English-language films. Most major U.S. titles are shown, but are often 3 to 4 months out of date and censored. The majority of residents have VCRs in their homes and buy or rent videotapes. Most rentals are done through the USLO office, but private rental companies do exist.

An amateur, English-language theater group that produces several plays every year, including one or more musical productions exist. There are a few private choral, instrumental and dance groups in Doha, but no city choir, dance troupe or orchestra exists. The National Folklore Troupe, established to preserve Qatar's traditional music and dance, presents public performances on holidays and for special events.

Qatar hosts several international sporting events, including the Qatar Tennis Open (men's and womens'), the Qatar Squash Masters (men's and women's), the Qatar Master's European PGA tournament, and a professional Track and Field competition. Doha will be the site of the 2006 Asian Games and has hosted the Asian championships for the World's Cup soccer tournament in the past. Local and regional soccer and basketball competitions, rally (automotive) racing, thoroughbred racing, and camel racing also take place.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM The Ambassador and officers of the Mission maintain active social relationships with Qataris, other diplomats, and American and other expatriates. The winter social schedule is exhausting but slacks off in the summer. Most staff members have frequent social contact with the diplomatic corps and other members of the international community.

Opportunities for charitable volunteer work exist but are limited since local social services enjoy massive government support. Several charities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been established in recent years. The Qatar Charitable Society and Friends of the Environment are two of the more popular groups, and the Family Development Center holds an annual Diplomatic Charity Bazaar. Both Catholic and Protestant churches have small charitable organizations and the Red Crescent has a branch in Doha.

International Contacts Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM Although Qatar is still a traditional society, opportunities exist to establish rewarding personal relationships with Qatari nationals, both men and women. Cross-cultural ties have been strengthened by the large number of young men and women who have been sent abroad for higher education. The size and variety of expatriate communities also present excellent opportunities for staff members to develop personal and business relationships.

Official Functions Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The Ambassador and the officers of the Mission maintain active social relationships through official functions and informal events with Qataris, other diplomats, and Americans and other expatriates.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 2/9/2004 7:26 AM

In order to comply with the Fly America Act, most travelers fly an American air carrier to Europe and then continue via a "code share" carrier to Doha, sometimes with a stop in Bahrain or Dammam. These "code share" flights must be taken whenever available, so check with your agency travel office for the latest code share information before making final arrangements. The most common transfer points are London, and Amsterdam. Within a few days of commencing their travel, all incoming personnel should ensure that they have reconfirmed their air reservations and notified the Embassy of their arrival plans by cable.

Although it is possible to drive overland from Europe or nearby Middle-Eastern States, this is not recommended. Long driving distances and strict customs/immigration requirements in neighboring countries make this a tedious and problem-ridden endeavor. Anyone planning to arrive by road should provide the Embassy with full vehicle identification and arrival details, secure all necessary visas, ensure that their vehicle is in good mechanical condition and plan to spend a minimum of several hours at each border crossing point while en route.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 2/9/2004 7:29 AM

According to Qatari regulations, accredited diplomatic personnel have duty-free importation privileges during their entire tour. In theory, non-diplomatic personnel are entitled to duty-free entry only up to 3 months after arrival. In practice, the host government has always extended duty-free privileges to all Mission personnel for the length of their tours. For private citizens, only 4% duty is charged on incoming effects. There are no export or airport departure taxes in Doha.

Except for prohibited items (alcohol, firearms, pork products, and uncensored videotapes) all types of personal belongings may be imported in the baggage and household effects of Mission members and their dependents.

Visas are required for all U.S. citizens traveling to Qatar. Airport visas are not available. You should obtain a visa at the Qatari Embassy in Washington, D.C. prior to your departure. Currently, no immunizations are required for entry, but it is advisable to carry an international health certificate reflecting your vaccination history.

Mission employees will need about 20 ID-sized photographs of themselves upon arrival at post. Dependents can usually get by with half that number. These can be obtained locally at reasonable cost. he pictures will be used to obtain the various IDs and permits needed to live in Qatar. Overnight photo services are available in Doha if needed.

A valid U.S. or international driver's license is required for a local license. Those without a previous license must take a course and pass a driving test before they can be issued a Qatari drivers license.

Passage Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Travel to Doha from the continental U.S. takes 20-36 hours. Many travelers take an overnight rest stop at a European transit point en route. Airfreight (UAB) shipments usually take about 3 weeks to arrive in Doha. Household effects (HHE) shipments take 3-4 months from the date of pack out. All incoming HHE shipments pass through the European Logistics Support Office (ELSO) in Antwerp on their way to Doha.

Automobiles may be shipped uncrated. License tags should be left on, but stereo tape decks and other valuable accessories should be removed and shipped separately. There are no limitations placed on the size of air shipment cartons, liftvans, or containers that may be sent to Doha. Incoming employees should not use the residence-to-residence shipping method, as local agents are not familiar with that type of shipment. Both air and surface shipments should be marked as follows:

Name of Employee American Embassy 22nd February Street Doha, Qatar Tel: 488-4101

Pets Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Most types of pets may be imported into Qatar, provided that an importation permit is secured from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture in advance of the animal's arrival. With a U.S. veterinary certificate supplied by the owner, the Embassy can assist in obtaining the necessary importation permit. All pets must be accompanied by their owners—the post will assume no responsibility for unaccompanied pet shipments. All U.S. Government-leased housing is in compounds that accept pets. Write to the post as soon as possible if you wish to bring a pet to Doha.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

Embassy employees wishing to import a firearm should first contact the regional security officer.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

The local currency is the Qatari Riyal (QR), worth about U.S. 28 cents and divided into 100 dirhams. The official rate of exchange is US$1=QRs 3.639. Local banks offer only slightly lower rates for cash, less favorable rates for credit cards and personal checks. American employees and spouses may cash personal U.S. dollar checks at a local bank at the rate of US$1=QRs 3.615, plus a processing fee of QRs 5 per check. The Embassy has limited accommodation exchange facilities.

More than a dozen commercial banks operate in Qatar. The state imposes no restrictions on the import, export, or exchange of currencies. In addition to their U.S. bank accounts, most American employees maintain smaller local currency checking accounts to pay phone bills, grocery bills and other expenses. Travelers checks may be cashed locally without difficulty. Most ATM machines give cash for international credit cards and CIRRUS/ Visa Plus debit cards.

The metric system is used for weights and measures.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

No automobile fees or taxes are charged to U.S. Government employees on the diplomatic list. Those who purchase a vehicle locally may seek a diplomatic rebate of the 4% import duty on automobiles. The standard automobile registration fee is waived for diplomats. However, third-party liability insurance is required by law and must be purchased before any vehicle may be registered. Liability insurance costs about $100 per car per year.

The Qatari Government levies no personal income tax, sales tax, or tax on the resale of personal property.

As in other countries, U.S. Mission employees are prohibited from making a profit on the importation and exchange or resale of personal property. However, this policy rarely affects government employees in Doha—the market for secondhand goods is small, and most vehicles and other personal property items are sold well below their original cost.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Abu Saud, Abeer. Qatari Women, Past and Present. Longman: London, 1984.

Aby Hakima, Ahmad. History of Eastern Arabia. Khayats: Beirut, 1965.

Anscombe, Frederick F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Columbia University Press: New York, 1997.

Augustin, Rebecca. Augustin, Byron. Qatar. Children's Press: New York, 1997.

Busch, Briton C. Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1894-1914. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1971.

Busch, Briton C. Britain, India, and the Arabs, 1914-1921. University of California Press: Berkeley, 1971.

Clubs of the British Residents and Agents in the Arabian Gulf. The Doha Club Library: Doha, 1987.

Cordesman, Anthony H. Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE: Challenges of Security. Westview Press: New York, 1997.

Crane-Eveland, Wilbur. Ropes of Sand: America's Failure in the Middle East. Norton: New York, 1980.

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge and New York, 1994.

Dickson, Violet. Forty Years in Kuwait. George Allen and Unwin: London, 1971.

Ferdinand, Klaus. et. al. Bedouins of Qatar: Carlsberg Nomad Series. Thames & Hudson: New York, 1993.

Ghougassian, Joseph H.E. Qatar: Linchpin of the Gulf. Sunset Press: San Diego, 1989.

Key, Kerim L. The State of Qatar, an Economic and Commercial Survey. Howard University: Washington D.C.

Lacy, Robert. The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1981.

Mallakh, Ragaei. Qatar: Development of an Oil Economy. Croom Helm: London, 1979.

Mansfield, Peter. The Arabs. Penguin: London, 1978.

Othman, Nasser. With Their Bare Hands. Longman: London, 1984.

Raban, Jonathan. Arabia Through the Looking Glass. Collins: London, 1979.

Rich, Paul J. Elixir of Empire. Regency Press: London, 1989.

Robinson, Gordon. Greenway, Paul. Lonely Planet Bahrain, Kuwait, & Qatar. Lonely Planet Publications: Oakland, 2000.

The Rule of Ritual in the Arabian Gulf, 1858-1947. UMI Dissertation Information Service: Ann Arbor, 1990.

Sadik, Snavely. Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Heath and Company: Lexington, 1972.

Sampson, Anthony. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Made. Viking Press: New York, 1975.

Zahlan, Rosemarie Said Said. The Making of the Modern Gulf State: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Garnet: New York, 1999.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 7/31/2002 6:00 PM

In addition to the usual 10 U.S. holidays, the following local holidays are observed at the U.S. Mission to Doha:

Qatar National Day September 3rd

Eid Al Fitr* (3 days)

Eid Al Adha* (3 days)

*Lunar holiday; dates vary every year.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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