Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Falafel: fried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) balls served with vegetables
Kebab: numerous styles exist, but usually with a base of roasted
lamb or chicken and vegetables in pita bread
Machbous: seasoned rice topped with meat or fish and sometimes
also a tomato sauce
When eating in the Muslim country of Qatar there are a couple
etiquette rules you must know and follow. If your dining hosts/guests are not Muslim,
which is the case often times as the country is quite diverse, follow the dining
rules of the host or just follow formal Western European dining customs, although
the dress and dietary restrictions or the locals is best observed no matter the
First, dress on the conservatively side (see our
Qatar Culture Page for more details). Second, in conservative homes and
even some restaurants, it is not acceptable to eat with a person of the opposite
sex unless it is your child, sibling, or spouse. While this is very uncommon today
throughout the country, to some conservative Muslims this is important so observe
the local restaurant's situation and follow a local's lead. Sometimes men
dine only with men and women only with women so don't bring a guest of the opposite
sex to any meal unless you are specifically invited to do so.
Try to arrive on time for a meal and if eating in a local's home remove your
shoes at the door if others have done so. Greet the elders first then follow your
host's lead. You will likely be offered coffee or tea and you should accept
one of these beverages. Let your host seat you and when sitting be sure to keep
your feet flat on the floor or pointed behind you as pointing the soles of your
feet at another can be offensive.
The next two important rules are two you probably won't have to worry about:
Muslims don't drink alcohol nor do they eat pork so avoid these foods if in
their company. If in the home of a local they simply won't be served, but if
eating out, don't order them if they are available when in the company of a
Muslim (pork is not served in restaurants, although alcohol is in most hotel restaurants).
Once the food is served, again follow your host's lead as either you or the
elders will likely be served first. Try a bit of everything offered as turning down
food is rude. Eat as the locals eat; in most settings this means eating in the continental
style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left), but on some occasions and with
some foods you may eat with your hand, but only your right hand. As you finish your
food, leave a bit on your plate to show there was more than enough and place your
fork and knife together in the 5:00 position.
If dining in a restaurant be sure to check the bill for a service charge. Many restaurants
include a service charge that will replace the tip, but if no service charge is
included, leave a tip of 10%.
Celebrations & Events
There are only two major food celebrations in Qatar and both
are centered around Islam. Eid al Fitr is an event filled with numerous
foods, which differ from family to family, but always includes dates and generally
also consists of various meats or fish, grains, and vegetables. This celebration
occurs immediately after Ramadan, a religious holiday that requires fasting for
The second major food celebration is Eid al Adha, which is only celebrated
after a pilgrim returns from haj, the mandatory journey for every able
Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival contains a large number of rice and
meat dishes, including many of those served during Eid al Fitr.
With a greeting you usually receive an offer of coffee as well while in
Qatar. Arabian coffee is the most common style, but Turkish coffee and numerous
other styles are also found. Juices are also very popular and can be found on busy
street corners with one interesting version being an avocado smoothie. If you want
more standard juices, milk, or soft drinks, Qatar has them all; especially since
the large foreign popular demands familiar drinks and brands.
As a primarily Muslim country, Qatar has very little alcohol
available, but it can be purchased in many hotels catered to foreigners.
The tap water is generally safe to drink in Qatar. If you
do drink the water (or the ice or salads washed in the tap water), many people may
have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different
from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.