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Qatar is an Arab country that sits along the Gulf coast. You’ll spot it dead easy on the map, it’s the bit that sticks out. Not too far from neighbouring country the UAE, where you’ll find tourist favourite Dubai, Qatar is small but mighty. And hot. And just a little on the conservative side. Actually, it’s quite a lot on the conservative side. More strict than the UAE, it is, however, more relaxed than neighbours Iran and Saudi Arabia – all fellow Islamic countries.

So what does the weather – and the dress codes – mean for your Qatar jollies? And what should you definitely NOT wear? Right, keep on reading, because we’ll break it all down for ya!

Qatar dress codes? What dress codes?

A woman looks at the skyline of Doha at night.

Being an Islamic country, visiting Qatar means that, as an outsider, you should seek to observe – and respect – the local customs, especially when it comes to clothing. Not only should you respect these customs anyway, it’s widely expected that you will – and if you don’t, you may very well get pulled up on it by an official. So let’s avoid all of that altogether, eh?

What exactly are these customs, anyway?

Well, we’ll split it up for both men and women, as both have differing rules to follow. For children, there are no dress codes per se – but we’ve got some tips to help them dress appropriately for the hot Qatar climate.

For women

1. Don’t leave your shoulders (or knees!) bare

We’ve put this one first because we reckon it’s the one most likely to catch you out, but the good news is that it’s also pretty easy to rectify should you fall foul of it. When in a particularly public place, especially a mosque, government building, or museum, make sure to keep your shoulders covered. It’s an easy one to forget after you’ve checked all the other areas like midriffs and legs – even if you’re not the one to wear short skirts or skin-tight clothing, you’ll probs think nothing of heading out in a vest top (especially with that heat!) but think again, because this could trip you up in no time.

If you’ve ever had to queue for an obscene amount of time to get into St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, only to get turned away at the door (so close, yet so far away…), you know exactly what we mean.

If you do happen to step out with those sunkissed shoulders, then don’t worry. It just gives you an excuse to stop at a souq – the market, in other words – and grab a lovely shawl or pashmina in an intricate Islamic design. There’s three main patterns found in Islamic art: calligraphy, arabesques, and geometric – all equally gorgeous.

It’s a similar story for your knees too – unless you’re sunbathing on a private beach or by the hotel pool, keep ’em covered. A midi skirt, maxi dress, or some loose linen or cotton pants should do the trick nicely.

2. Leave the bodycon dress at home

Bodycon dresses (or anything super form-fitting, for that matter) don’t really fly in Qatar. For one, that’s not really something you’re gonna want to wear when it comes to the dry heat common to this country, but it’s also probably something you should avoid when heading out for the night to a club or elsewhere. It’s true, clubs do like it when you dress up – and you might very well get turned away if you don’t – but we reckon you should opt out of anything really revealing and clingy, even if it’s totally cool at home and something you love to wear. Here, it’s definitely going to raise some brows – unfortunately.

This still leaves you with a ton of options, though. Midi-length skirts and dresses are a-okay in this neck of the woods, and while the temps do drop at night (surprisingly so!), you could still benefit from donning something like a loose maxi dress. And of course, if you don’t do dresses anyway, there’s nothing stopping you from wearing a cool two piece suit.

And there’s always the classic ‘nice top and a pair of jeans.’ That’ll never fail you.

3. You can wear a bikini, but…

Bikinis aren’t unheard of here, and they’re becoming more common over time at public beaches and waterparks. It might be best to err on the side of caution and opt for a swimsuit instead of a two piece if that makes you feel more comfortable, but we reckon you should cover up when transferring from the beach to somewhere else or heading back to your hotel. Boarding the bus in your bathers is definitely not a thing here, even though that seems normal when elsewhere on holiday (although, if you think about it, it is a bit weird).

That being said, none of this applies if you’re sunbathing on a private beach or are within the confines of your hotel! In these spaces, you can pretty much dress how you like, at whatever time.

Oh, but there’s one thing you definitely shouldn’t do, anywhere: sunbathe topless. It’s not just heavily frowned upon here, it’s actually against the law. We go to some lengths to get the perfect tan, it’s true, but maybe not quite that far.

A busy souq in Qatar.

For men

1. Blokes shouldn’t get their shoulders or knees out either

As with women, men too need to keep those shoulders and knees covered! It’s pretty much the norm for both locals and foreign residents to wear trousers, even in the height of the Qatari summer. It’s actually required in public places. But if you’re struggling with the heat, then you can wear shorts, but only if they’re below the knee.

You also want to avoid vest tops that reveal the shoulders, or shirts that gape open to show the chest. Sorry, guys, but you’re just gonna have to hide that chest hair away.

Hey, we don’t make the rules.

2. That T-shirt might be funny back home, but…

Yeah, it’s best not to take the risk with this one. If you’ve got T-shirt with a funny logo on it that you love but you’re not sure if it will be found offensive here, then don’t bother. As with any new and different culture you meet on your travels, it can be easy to cause tension without realising you’re even doing it!

3. Maybe ditch the mankini

Yep, you heard right, fellas. It’s not just illegal for women to bathe topless here, it’s also off limits to you too. So that means the mankini needs to stay at home. You can wear swim shorts if they reach below the knee, and you’ll have to pop a shirt on too.

Again, this only applies if you’re heading out to a public beach or water park – back at your hotel or at a private beach club, go ahead and wear what you like.

Although, we’d still recommend that mankini stays at home…

How should children dress in Qatar?

Children under puberty age aren’t limited by any specific restrictions, but it’s still wise to dress appropriately for the Qatar weather and place you’re visiting. If you’re headed to a government building, museum or mosque, it’s a good idea for boys and girls to keep their shoulders and knees covered to show respect. Head coverings are just a good idea for the heat – too much sun is asking for sunstroke.

How to dress for Qatar heat

Speaking of which – light, loose clothing is your absolute best bet for Qatar’s desert heat. Cotton, linen and even silk are the best choice of clothing materials in Qatar. None in your wardrobe? Don’t sweat it – Qatar’s souks and shopping malls have tons for you to choose from.

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