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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Address mail as follows:
APO mail: Name ARCENT-QA Box 520 APO AE 09898
International Mail: Name American Embassy P.O. Box 2399 Doha,
Pouch Mail: Name Department of State 6130 Doha Place Washington,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Tailor-made suits and shirts are more affordable, but care should
be exercised in choosing a tailor and explaining the design
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
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
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
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
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
There is a Christian burial ground near Dukhan, about an hour
west of Doha.
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
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
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: email@example.com
Doha English Speaking School P.O. Box 7660 Doha, Qatar Tel:
011-974-4870-170 Fax: 011-974-4875-921 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Doha College P.O. Box 7506 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-4687-379 Fax:
011-974-4685720 E-mail: email@example.com www.dohacollege.com
Qatar Academy P.O. Box 1129 Doha, Qatar Tel: 011-974-482-6666
Fax: 011-947-2812401 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Abu Saud, Abeer. Qatari Women, Past and Present. Longman: London,
Aby Hakima, Ahmad. History of Eastern Arabia. Khayats: Beirut,
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
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
Dickson, Violet. Forty Years in Kuwait. George Allen and Unwin:
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:
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.