Now that we have the news on the host sites for the 2026 World Cup, we can turn our attention back to FIFA’s current project, the 2022 edition. But while the FIFA motto may be “For the Game. For the World,” the world that travels to Qatar for the game might be in for a dose of culture shock.
While it’s never a good idea to travel anywhere without a clear idea of the laws in that area, Americans (even those affiliated with Team USA) who plan to make the trek to Qatar should be aware of the restrictions that await them in the host area.
Clothing: Online Qatar (a great source of information) notes that “Qatar is an Islamic country, and people dress in a very traditional manner. Although there is no dress code as such, for foreigners, it is better to wear modest clothes, and conservative clothing is recommended.”
This implies no shorts (or sleeveless shirts) for men, and no shorts, mini-skirts or sleeveless shirts, tank tops or halter tops for women. Foreign visitors are expected to dress in a style that is sensitive to Islamic culture. Normal swimwear, including bikinis, are acceptable by the hotel pool, but covering up is required for those who are exiting, or heading somewhere else, from such places.
Women visiting the country can certainly wear jeans, as long as they also wear a shirt with a modest neckline and sleeves that go to approximately the elbow. Certain places (malls, parks and official buildings) routinely deny entry to people who flout the dress code.
Business attire, says Online Qatar, is as follows:
- For men: Suits are rarely worn in the Gulf, except during important business meetings and related social events. The standard office wear is a shirt (long-sleeved), tie and light weight trousers.
- For women: Acceptable work attire is dresses, trousers/skirts (below knee length), with a modest neckline and no less than half-sleeves.
Qatar is a desert area, and its climate is, obviously, very hot, and even during the projected dates of the World Cup (November 18 to December 21), temperatures may run between the mid-70s to the mid-80s. However, that’s not an excuse for visitors to show skin – and being a citizen of another country is not considered a good reason to disrespect the rules.
Alcohol: Qatar prohibits alcohol sales at almost all restaurants not associated with a high-end hotel or resort, and it can’t be purchased in grocery stores, either. In addition, it is illegal to be drunk in public. It appears organizers are trying to develop workarounds, however – at least when it comes to buying and serving alcohol at games.
Front Office Sports notes, “Though alcohol sales are prohibited in much of the country, organizers are considering sales inside soccer stadiums and have said that fans will be able to drink in designated areas.”
Bloomberg reporters, who investigated the issue, found the following: “Qatari officials are weighing whether to relax the country’s ban on alcohol at sporting events amid pressure from FIFA and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV to let soccer fans drink beer in stadiums at the 2022 World Cup, according to people familiar with the matter.
Deliberations so far have centered on whether to make Bud Light or another lower-alcohol Budweiser product available inside the venues, said the people, declining to be named as the matter is confidential. While Qatari officials have yet to announce a final decision, organizers have signaled increasing willingness to accommodate demands from fans as the tournament’s drawn closer.
For the World Cup, Qatar’s Supreme Committee on Delivery and Legacy has promised alcohol will be available in designated “fan zones” outside stadiums and other hospitality venues. A spokesperson said the group is working with FIFA and Qatari stakeholders to “cater to all local and visiting fans,” and “further details will be communicated in due course.”
One thing visitors occasionally try is buying alcohol in duty-free shops at airports and attempting to smuggle it in or claim it as a souvenir. Be warned, however: Qatari officials will find it in your bags, your jacket or wherever you have hidden it, and they will not be amused.
Homosexuality: It’s illegal in Qatar. Period. And while some athletes and groups have protested and some will likely boycott, it’s not going to change.
Public Displays of Affection: These are frowned upon in the Islamic world as a rule, and Qatar is no different.
CBD: The blog, CBDSloth, is constantly being updated; it notes that CBD is illegal in Qatar. (It also notes that CBD is illegal in the two nations bordering Qatar: United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia). The prohibition means that travelers can’t pack CBD in or out, in any its forms: liquids, edibles, vapes and so on. There is no allowance for percentage of THC, either; to Qatari officials, it’s all an illegal substance and subject to prosecution.
Photos: It is generally considered rude to take photos of people in Qatar; even selfies are to be avoided because people are inadvertently included in background shots.
Politics, Religion and Sex: All taboo topics in a conservative country like Qatar. Expatica notes, “Even if your opinions about these topics seem reasonable to you, you should take into consideration that they come from a different perspective (perhaps western).”
Women’s Interests: Women, according to all sources, are safe in Qatar, provided they dress modestly, as mentioned above. According to the travel blog, Zafigo, “It’s perfectly safe to travel at night, but as a woman, it’s generally better to have male company. Only because you’ll see mostly businessmen out and about at night, and a woman or women out by themselves may draw attention. It’s harmless, but can get exasperating.”
Hand Gestures: Expatica points out, “Hand gestures in Qatar are serious matters and can cause you legal punishments, from fines to imprisonment. To prevent being misinterpreted, avoid the following gestures:
- Using your finger to ask (gesture) anyone to come to you or to point someone or something; instead, you may use your hand and palm.
- Doing the thumbs-up sign – it has an offensive connotation, like using the middle finger in western countries.
- Crossing legs – it can be interpreted as arrogance or as a sign of disrespect, especially if you are sitting in front of an aged person or someone of a higher hierarchical position.
- Lifting the sole of your shoes in front of people or making a gesture with your feet to anyone.”
Pointing or using the index finger is also considered rude.
All that being said, Qatar is poised to realize a $20 billion economic impact as a result of hosting the World Cup – and in a country that small (it’s smaller than Connecticut), that is impressive.
Taken singly, the restrictions of Qatar may not be so onerous. However, it is important to remember that breaking any rule in a foreign country can land you in trouble – and sometimes in the headlines, as Brittney Griner has found out.