Dating in Qatar requires some discretion, but can look like dating in your home country. We walk you through the good, the bad, and what to expect.
As dating in Qatar is technically not allowed, it requires some discretion among expats living there. In many ways, however, dating can look similar to how it does in your home country; exploring the numerous bars and restaurants the country has to offer. That said, as an expat, it pays to do your homework and know the law, as well as your rights, in Qatar. This helpful article will walk you through the good, the bad, and what to expect when dating in Qatar.
The guide includes the following sections:
- Dating in Qatar
- How to meet people in Qatar
- Dating etiquette in Qatar
- Moving into a relationship in Qatar
- The role of family in dating in Qatar
Dating in Qatar
Dating in Qatar is a very stratified process. Qataris practice a courtship routine that essentially involves getting engaged before getting to know a potential spouse; the families – and the fathers in particular – must give their approval of the entire process.
Expats living in Qatar generally date as they would in their home country, albeit in a much more subtle way. Although sex before marriage and dating are taboo, it not very common to be questioned about your status; this is especially true if you are being discreet. Your biggest problem while dating in Qatar will be finding someone to date, because men outnumber women three to one. Men, therefore, are at a numerical disadvantage while ladies have to wade through excessive and unwanted attention.
How to meet people in Qatar
Despite the challenges, it is totally possible to find romance in Qatar, and you have a number of options:
Whether Tinder, OKCupid, or LoveHabibi is your cup of tea, you will find that many people are trying their luck on digital platforms. If you are planning to check one or more out, be sure to take the safety precautions that you would take in your own country. Be careful not to share too much personal information, such as your address, and if you do decide to meet, do so in a public place. Also, it is important to bear in mind that sex outside of marriage is illegal in Qatar; so, if you are planning to get physically intimate, be sure to be discreet – and safe.
In person activities
Finding activities you enjoy will not only give you something fun to do, but also bring you closer to people with similar interests. Whether you love theater or sport, books or photography, you will likely find an expat group for it in Qatar. Start by asking around in your expat circles for recommendations and, if you are still searching, check out sites like Meetup for further options.
Happy hours and ladies nights
If you enjoy nightlife, then you will be pleased to know that dozens of restaurants and bars in Doha offer mid-week and weekend opportunities for people to drink, mingle, and have a good time. The bar scene there is very expat-heavy; women come for the free or subsidized drinks, while men come for a chance to meet women. It might seem a bit old school, but this creates a great opportunity for expats to meet interesting people from all over the world. For more inspiration, read our article on The best rooftop bars and terraces in Doha.
Dating etiquette in Qatar
A typical dating scenario in Qatar
The fascinating thing about living in a cultural melting pot like Qatar is that everyone has their own way of doing things. For example, a Swiss man might approach a woman very differently than an Argentinian or Moroccan.
The multicultural nature of the dating scene in Qatar means that there are no typical traits or patterns to observe. That said, generally speaking, it is more common for men to make the first move in this part of the world. A man might ask a woman out in person, via phone call or text message, depending on how they met and their level of familiarity. A first date might take place at a casual bar or restaurant, or perhaps involve taking a stroll through the souq or along the Corniche.
If a couple is discreet, people will generally look the other way at a man and a woman spending time together alone. That said, public displays of affection are few and far between; you may see some light hand-holding, but nothing more.
Dating behavior in Qatar
How a couple dates in Qatar is highly variable. If one or both people are from the West, you might see more open or inviting body language; such as leaning in towards each other at the table. Depending on what chivalry looks like in the man’s home culture, he might pull out the chair or hold the door for his date. For many non-Western men, however, it is considered chivalrous to enter a room before a woman instead of allowing her in first. Many men in Qatar will insist on picking up and dropping off their dates; they may also insist on paying for meals, gifts, and so on.
What to wear
How you dress for a date depends on the establishment you are going to. However, given the cultural context, it is wise to dress a little more conservatively; especially if it is your first time at a place and you aren’t sure of the vibe yet. For instance, a maxi dress with a nice scarf to cover her shoulders is a great outfit choice for a woman. Another good option is loose linen trousers with a pretty top. If you are planning to show your arms, however, your scarf is your best friend.
For men, slacks are always safe, paired with a nice button-down shirt. Wherever possible, men and women should try to cover their knees and shoulders unless they are very familiar with a venue. Generally, though, people in Qatar dress on the fancy side – so you won’t see too many sweatpants in the mall!
Qatari men tend to be chivalrous – opening doors, giving gifts, driving you home, paying for dates, and so on. That said, if you are a Western woman going on a date with a Qatari, be aware that he might be married. He might also be biding his time and having fun before he has to settle down with someone his parents approve of. There is an assumption of Western women being fast and loose; therefore, be prepared to be confronted by men who expect a physical relationship.
As a foreign man, approaching or dating a Qatari woman carries a lot of accountability. This is because her behavior directly impacts her family’s honor; therefore, if you are undeterred, you should try as much as possible to let her take the lead. Just make sure you are not misreading the situation as this could get you into a very difficult situation; even arrested or deported.
Moving into a relationship in Qatar
Moving into a formal relationship in Qatar will likely mirror the process in your home country. If you are from a Western country, it might take some time to settle on exclusivity, but if you are from a more traditional culture, it could be faster.
One thing to bear in mind, no matter your background, is that dating – and especially sex – are taboo subjects. Keep that knowledge in the back of your mind and always remain discreet about your public and private intimacies. Moving in together while unmarried is illegal in Qatar, and although some people do it, getting caught could land you in hot water.
The role of family in dating in Qatar
Depending on the cultures of the two people dating, the role of family can differ significantly. Single people rarely move to Qatar with their parents, so meeting their partner’s family will likely mean buying a plane ticket. However, this is quite a serious step and perhaps unlikely to happen in the first few months.
If you are dating a Qatari and meet their family, keep in mind that you are likely on a one-way track to marriage. Family is extremely important to Qataris. In fact, extended families even live together in the same house; the woman is expected to move into her husband’s father’s house.
For more information, read our Guide to getting married in Qatar.