Culture of Qatar

The culture of Qatar is strongly influenced by traditional Bedouin culture, with less acute influence deriving from India, East Africa and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. The peninsula's harsh climatic conditions compelled its inhabitants to turn to the sea for sustenance. Thus, there is a distinct emphasis placed on the sea in local culture.[1] Literature and folklore themes are often related to sea-based activities.

Oral arts such as poetry and singing were historically more prevalent than figurative art because of the restrictions placed by Islam on depictions of sentient beings; however, certain visual art disciplines such as calligraphy, architecture and textile arts were widely practiced. Figurative arts were gradually assimilated into the country's culture during the oil era.[2]

Since July 1 2008, Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari has been the Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar.

Visual arts

Main article: Qatari art

Because of Islam's stance on figurative art, paintings and plastic arts played a relatively insignificant role in Qatari culture until the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century.[3] Other visual arts such as calligraphy and architecture were the most historically dominant forms of Islamic visual expression. Calligraphy was most prized in society because of its close connection with Islam.[4] Calligraphy is often used in the design of official state logos, for example, the Qatar National Vision 2030 logo.[5]

Art exhibitions were held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education until 1972, whereupon the state began providing its full support to the art scene. The Qatari Fine Arts Society was established in 1980 with the objective of promoting the works of Qatari artists.[6] Yousef Ahmad is a leading figure of Qatar's art industry and regularly represents the country at international biennials and events. His art work has been displayed internationally.[7]

For the last twenty years, several members of the Al Thani family have led Qatar’s interest and involvement into the field of arts and continue to shape the cultural policy of the country.[8] Qatar was revealed to be the world's biggest art buyer in 2011 by The Art Newspaper.[9]


Poetry has been an integral part of the culture since pre-Islamic times.[10] Qatari ibn al-Fuja'a, a folk hero dating to the seventh-century, was renowned for writing poetry.[11] It was seen as a verbal art which fulfilled essential social functions. Having a renowned poet among its ranks was a source of pride for tribes; it is the primary way in which age-old traditions are passed down generations. Poems composed by females primarily focused on the theme of ritha, to lament. This type of poetry served as an elegy.[10]

Nabati was the primary form of oral poetry. In the nineteenth-century, sheikh Jassim Al Thani composed influential Nabati poems on the political conditions in Qatar.[12] Nabati poems are broadcast on radio and televised in the country.[13]


The modern literature movement in Qatar began in the 1970s.[14] Unlike most other forms of art in Qatari society, females have been involved in the literature movement on a similar magnititude to males.[15] In the 1970s, much of the early work of females revolved around ritha poems which were published in local newspapers.[16] Kaltham Gaber was the first Qatari female writer to publish a major work when she released a book containing an anthology of short stories she wrote between 1973 and 1978.[17]


Traditional Qatari male dancers
Main article: Music of Qatar

The folk music of Qatar has a close association with the sea. Songs related to pearl hunting are the most popular genre of male folk music. Each song, varying in rhythm, narrates a different activity of the pearling trip, including spreading the sails, diving, and rowing the ships. Collective singing was an integral part of each pearling trip, and each ship had a designated singer, known locally as al naham.[18]

Ardah, a folkloric dance, is still practiced in Qatar.[19] The dance is performed with two rows of men opposite of one another, each of whom may or may not be wielding a sword, and is accompanied by drums and spoken poetry.[20]

Women primarily sang work songs associated with daily activities such as wheat grinding and cooking. The songs were performed collectively in small groups some pertained to general themes, whereas others were related to specific work processes.[21] Women would also sing when returning pearl ships were sighted.[18] After a sighting was made, they would gather around the seashore where they would clap and sing about the hardships of pearl diving.[21]


Qatari men wear thawbs (a long white shirt) over loose pants. They also wear a loose headdress, a ghutra, which comes in white or red and white. Females wear a long black dress known as an abaya. They cover their head with a shayla and sometimes conceal their face with a burqa.[22]


Main article: Media of Qatar

There are currently seven newspapers in circulation in Qatar, with four being published in Arabic and three being published in English.[23] Additionally, there are nine magazines.[24]

All radio programmes from Qatar are state-owned and are amalgamated as the Qatar Broadcasting Service.[25] Radio broadcasting in the country began in June 1968 and English transmissions started in December 1971[26] in order to accommodate the increasing non-Arabic speaking expat community.[27][28] The QBS currently features radio stations in English, Arabic, French and Urdu.[29]

Al Jazeera, currently Qatar's largest television network, was founded in 1996 and has since become the foundation of the media sector.[30] Initially launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the internet and specialty TV channels in multiple languages. The 'Al Jazeera effect' refers to the global impact of the Al Jazeera Media Network, particularly on the politics of the Arab world.[31]


Qatar's weekends are Friday and Saturday.[32] Qatar National Day was changed from 3 September to 18 December in 2008.[33] Notable holidays in the country are listed below:

Date English name Local (Arabic) name Description
1 January New Year's Day رأس السنة الميلادية The Gregorian New Year's Day, celebrated by most parts of the world.
Second Tuesday in February National Sports Day اليوم الوطني للرياضة A public holiday.
Early March March bank holiday عطلة البنك A bank holiday.
18 December Qatar National Day اليوم الوطني لقطر National Day of Qatar.
1st Muharram Islamic New Year رأس السنة الهجرية Islamic New Year (also known as: Hijri New Year).
1st, 2nd, 3rd Shawwal Eid ul-Fitr عيد الفطر Commemorates end of Ramadan.
10th, 11th, 12th Zulhijjah Eid ul-Adha عيد الأضحى Commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son. Also known as the Big Feast (celebrated from the 10th to 13th).


National anthem being performed prior to an Emir Cup final.
Main article: Sport in Qatar

Football is the most popular sport in regard to player base and spectatorship. Additionally, athletics, basketball, handball, volleyball, camel racing, horse racing, cricket and swimming are widely practiced.[34] There are currently 11 multi-sports clubs in the country, and 7 single-sports clubs.[34]

Prior to the introduction of football, traditional games played were al dahroi, al sabbah, and taq taq taqiyyah for boys, and al kunatb, al laqfah and nat al habl for girls.[35] Variations of a family of board games known as mancala were played in previous decades. Two of the most popular board games were a’ailah and al haluwsah.[35] Other traditional sports practiced in the country include falconry, camel racing and hunting.[36]

Food and drink

Main article: Qatari cuisine

Qatari cuisine reflects traditional Arab and Levantine cuisine.[37] It is also heavily influenced by Iranian and Indian cuisine. Seafood and dates are staple food items.[38] Machbūs, a meal consisting of rice, meat, and vegetables, is the national dish.[37]

Alcohol is not illegal in Qatar, but its sale and consumption is heavily regulated. Muslims are prohibited from purchasing and consuming alcohol. A liquor license is required to buy alcohol.[39]


The multinational media conglomerate Al Jazeera Media Network is based in Doha with its wide variety of channels of which Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher, beIN Sports Arabia and other operations are based in the TV Roundabout in the city.

Al Jazeera Arabic Building
Terrestrial television

Terrestrial television stations now available on Nilesat include:

Channel Signal Format Station name Network Status
21 UHF DVB-T2 Net TV Arabia Network Media Middle East Local / national
31 Al Watania TV JPMC
37 MBC 1
MBC Action

SportOne TV

39 Fox EMTEK
43 ITV 1
ITV Arabia Group
45 Al Jazeera Al Jazeera Media Network
47 OSN First More
OSN News
Al Yawm
Series Channel
49 Radar TV
MNC Sports 1
MNC Sports 2
JPMC Local
51 Jak TV City TV
53 Qatar TV 1
Qatar TV 2
55 Colors
Sony TV
57 Zee TV
Zee Alwan
O Channel
Zee Network
59 Ajman TV
Infinity TV
Noor Dubai TV
Al Rayyan TV
Elshinta TV
Pay television


Doha has a variety of radio stations, some of which include:

FM radio
  • 90.8 – QBS Arabic
  • 91.7 – QF Radio
  • 92.0 – MBC FM
  • 92.6 – Radio Sawa Gulf
  • 93.7 – QF Radio
  • 94.0 – Oryx FM French
  • 97.5 – QBS English
  • 99.6 – Radio Monte Carlo
  • 100.3 – Panorama FM
  • 100.8 – Sout al Khaleej
  • 102.0 – Fox News Talk
  • 103.4 – Quran Kareem Radio
  • 107.4 – BBC World Service

DAB radio
  • 10B Arabic Multiplex
    • C221 – QBS Arabic
    • C222 – QF Radio More
    • C223 – MBC FM
    • C224 – Radio Sawa Gulf
    • C225 – QF Radio
    • C226 – Oryx FM French
    • C227 – QBS English
    • C228 – Radio Monte Carlo
    • C229 – BBC Arabic Service
    • C230 – Panorama FM
    • C231 – Sout al Khaleej
    • C232 – Fox News Talk
    • C233 – Quran Kareem Radio
    • C234 – BBC World Service

DAB radio
  • 10C Indonesian Multiplex
    • C235 – Sonora FM
    • C236 – Delta FM
    • C237 – Indika FM
    • C238 – Radio Elshinta

See also


  1. Abu Saud, Abeer (1984). Qatari Women: Past and Present. Longman Group United Kingdom. p. 133. ISBN 978-0582783720.
  2. Abu Saud (1984), p. 134
  3. Abu Saud (1984), p. 140
  4. Abu Saud (1984), p. 141
  5. Aysha Khalid Mahmood. "Expressions of Arabic Calligraphy in Arabic Typography for a Cultural Identity of the Visual Arabic Script" (PDF). Cultural Diplomacy. p. 8. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  6. Abu Saud (1984), p. 142
  7. McCoy, Lisa (2014). Qatar (Major Muslim Nations). Mason Crest.
  8. Robert Kluijver. "The Al Thani's involvement in the arts". Gulf Art Guide. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  9. "Qatar becomes world's biggest buyer of contemporary art". The Guardian. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  10. 1 2 Abu Saud (1984), p. 152
  11. "نبذة حول الشاعر: قطري بن الفجاءة". Adab. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  12. Abu Saud (1984), p. 154
  13. Abu Saud (1984), p. 156
  14. Rebecca L. Torstrick & Elizabeth Faier (2009). Culture and Customs of the Arab Gulf States. Greenwood. p. 45. ISBN 978-0313336591.
  15. Culture and Customs of the Arab Gulf States (2009), p. 49
  16. Abu Saud (1984), p. 158
  17. Abu Saud (1984), p. 161
  18. 1 2 Abu Saud (1984), p. 146
  19. "Arts and Culture". Embassy of Qatar in London. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  20. Urkevich, Lisa (19 December 2014). "5". Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar (Google Play). Routledge. pp. 142–143/689. ISBN 978-0415888721.
  21. 1 2 Abu Saud (1984), p. 147
  22. "Qatar culture". Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  23. The Report: Qatar 2010. Oxford Business Group. 2010. p. 237.
  24. "IREX Report 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  25. Qatar Country Study Guide Volume 1 Strategic Information and Developments. Int'l Business Publications, USA. 2012. p. 196. ISBN 978-0739762141.
  26. "QBS FM Radio - Doha". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  27. "Radio". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  28. Kadhim, Abbas (2013). Governance in the Middle East and North Africa: A Handbook. Routledge. p. 273. ISBN 978-1857435849.
  29. "Information and Media". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  30. The Report: Qatar 2009. Oxford Business Group. 2009. p. 200. ISBN 978-1902339252.
  31. "The 'al-Jazeera Effect': - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy". 2000-12-08. Retrieved 2012-10-24.
  32. "Public Holidays in Qatar in 2015". Office Holidays. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  33. "National Day Observances". Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  34. 1 2 "Sports chapter (2013)". Qatar Statistics Authority. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  35. 1 2 "Society 2 of 6". Catnaps. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  36. "Traditional sports". Qatar Tourism Authority. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  37. 1 2 "The 3 M's of Qatari Cuisine". The Daily Meal. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  38. "Culture of Qatar". Hilal Plaza. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  39. "Culture and Etiquette in Qatar". Life in Qatar. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
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