What to Wear in Doha – Essential Guide

What to Wear in Doha – Essential Guide
Whenever I’ve asked about life in Qatar probably the number one question I get asked is ‘Do You Have to Wear a Headscarf?’ The answer is no but I think the frequency of this questions shows that there are many misconceptions about what to wear in Doha. Now I will be the first person to admit that I am not a fashionista! These days I consider a fashion hit to be getting out the house without a stain on my clothes! However, I do like to think that I have got dressing for desert life down and am never disrespectful to my host culture. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a guide on what to wear in Doha – a practical perspective!

The Rules of What to Wear In Doha

When my mum was coming here she kept checking with my about everything because, in her word, ‘She didn’t want to break the rules!’. I don’t think anyone wants to offend or be disrespectful to their host country so here is a quick overview of the rules of dress in Doha.

 Rules for What Women Should Wear in Doha

Always keep shoulders and knees covered. Shorts and strappey tops are out!
Don’t have too much cleavage
Although tightness isn’t against the rules I always like to keep to the spirit of the guidance rather than look for loopholes. I therefore avoid wearing overly tight clothing (Not that I ever really wore tight stuff to begin with).

Rules for What Men Should Wear in Doha

Keep shoulders and knees covered

Rules for What Children Should Wear in Doha

Young children its all about dressing for the weather. The shoulder and knee rules don’t apply. Keep them safe in the heat is the main concern

Exceptions to Doha Dress Code

Whenever you are in the grounds of a 5* hotel you can wear whatever you want. Short, tight, straps, strapless, bikini you name it! However it is best to be mindful if you are traveling in between places.

What to Wear in Ramadan in the Middle East 

While there aren’t any additional guidelines for Ramadan, I always err on the more conservative side! Ramadan is all about abstinence and restraint so I try and adhere to everything a little more closely.
For the past few Ramadan’s there has been a campaign, called Reflect Your Respect all about clothing and educating expats on appropriate dress. I think this shows that clothing is actually quite important in terms of cultural respect!
For more information on life in Qatar during Ramadan check out my essential guide.

What the locals wear in Doha

For women it is usually the abaya –a black robe worn over clothes alongside the black headscarf known as the shayla. You will see some older members of the Qatari community wearing a batoola – a golden metal face covering.
For men it’s the thobe! A white robe, that always looks pristine with a gutra (Headscarf).

What to Wear in Doha – My Middle East Style

I’m all about loose and comfortable clothing. The summers can get to up to 50 degrees so you really need to dress for the heat.
My number one wardrobe item has to be the Maxi dress! I have a whole wardrobe full of them!
Falcon at Bab al Shams - what to wear in Doha

Falcon at Bab al Shams

Saying that my instagram account makes it look like I only have this one!

Enjoying the Gardens at La Veranda

It’s great because my shoulders are covered and isn’t too low. It’s made of cotton so very breathable and comfortable even in the desert.
Following on from the above, maxi skirts are my next favourite. Lose and flowing I feel like they are the perfect clothing for the Middle East. They can be made to look casual or fancy depending on where you are going!
What to Wear in Doha

How to dress in the desert

Tshirts are also always great for a casual day out but be sure to by ones that have more than just cap sleeves!
What to wear in Doha

Maxi Skirts and Tshirts

In many respects the most important thing to consider, after areas that the outfit covers is the fabric its made of! Man made fabrics are not your friend in the hot desert country. Look for cottons, silks and linens. These cotton trousers are one of the staples in my wardrobe!
What to Wear in Doha

Desert Dress Code

A key staple for work and every day for me are long sleeve blouses and light weight chinos! You remain covered while keeping cool!

Number One What to Wear in Doha Tip

But perhaps my number one tip for what to wear Qatar is always carry a pashmina. It is great if you need to cover up more say for travelling between home and a hotel, for in air conditioning and is great for those cold desert nights. Yes we do have them! The winters can in fact get quite chilly and anyone who has spent time in the desert will tell you how quickly the temperature drops! The air con can be very fierce in malls and I swear that Qatari cinemas are the coldest places on Earth. I recommend always having a pashmina or cardigan to hand!
What to Wear in Doha

Essential Pashmina

Also they are very handy if there is an unexpected sandstorm!
what to wear in Doha

The essential pashmina

Shoes – there are no rules here about the type of shoes you wear but I would recommend lots of flip flops and sandals!
Don’t forget to bring those sunglasses and sun hats!

On the Beach

There is only one public beach in Doha and that’s at the Katara Cultural Village. Here women would expect to covered as they would in the city. At all hotel beaches feel free to wear a bikini but make sure you have a cover for when walking in the lobby etc.
There are some beaches outside of the city not on hotel property. Usually these are very remote so you have a bit more freedom in attire but I would still try and be as respectful as possible.
What are your fashion staples for living in the Middle East? How has you style been influenced by living in the Middle East? 

Interested in learning more about Doha? Why not check out our A-Z Guide of things to see and do in Qatar or take a look at some of Qatar’s hidden gems!

What to wear in Doha Qatar

Wander Mum

54 Comments

    • May 8, 2017 / 1:08 pm

      Thank you – you are right they would be applicable across the Middle East North Africa region! I just know most about qatar – hope you enjoyed morocco

  1. May 8, 2017 / 4:01 pm

    It seems that you have to be very careful with your dress code in the Middle East, not sure I would want to visit for a holiday. I suppose that I am too used to wearing what I want to here in Spain.

  2. May 8, 2017 / 4:24 pm

    Yikes – I don’t know how I’d manage those temperatures, I can’t even mentally process 50 degrees!! I can definitely see why the scarf would be handy if you’re going in and out of air conditioning all the time!
    Jane @ Raincity Librarian recently posted…MONDAY FUNDAY – May 8, 2017My Profile

  3. May 8, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    This is a really useful post! I was talking to a friend about this the other day as she is visiting soon and we weren’t sure what was appropriate. I’m going to send this to her now. 🙂

    • May 8, 2017 / 7:34 pm

      Thank you – tell her to shoot me a comment or email if she has any questions

  4. May 8, 2017 / 9:20 pm

    Excellent post, so many people haven’t a clue what’s appropriate, it always surprises me! And the pashmina tip for air con is hilarious, I hate air con and feeling cold, will defo remember that!

  5. May 8, 2017 / 11:35 pm

    Super interesting! I wouldn’t have ever known!

    • May 9, 2017 / 5:04 am

      Thanks – a lot of people worry about it so thought it might be useful

  6. May 9, 2017 / 2:14 am

    Great tips, thanks for sharing. I have a friend that just got back from the Middle East and she pretty much did what you outlined.

    • May 9, 2017 / 5:04 am

      I’m glad she agrees. I’ve been here almost four years so like to think I have a good understanding

    • May 9, 2017 / 8:12 am

      Thank you – definitely applicable across the Middle East and North Africa but I know Doha best living here

  7. May 9, 2017 / 8:45 am

    This is a great post! Sometimes people don’t really think much about what they wear and end up in awkward situations. Like when I was in Thailand, our tour guide lamented how people went for the Phang Nga Bay excursion in bikinis, but lunch was served at a Muslim gypsy village and going there in only bikinis was kind of just wrong. I’ll be sure to keep those shorts and strappy tops at home if I’m visiting Doha! #CityTripping
    Bumble Bee Mum recently posted…Driving Daisetsuzan National Park & Visit to Daisetsu Asahigaoka Mori no Garden (Hokkaido, Japan)My Profile

    • May 9, 2017 / 8:46 am

      Aww thank you for your thoughtful comment! I think appropriate dress is so important when travelling

  8. May 9, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    This is a wonderful informative post! We were in Morocco and so much of this applied. Its not a problem once you know what is considered respectful. Thanks for answering all the questions people are too embarrassed to ask! #CityTripping.

    • May 9, 2017 / 2:18 pm

      Thanks for the lovely comment! I hope it will be useful across the mena region

    • May 9, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      Thank you – it is so important to be respectful when travelling

  9. May 9, 2017 / 4:41 pm

    very similar to Dubai. when the younger generation visit i always advise them to dress appropriately for their first day out and get a feel of what others are wearing and then make their own choices, i tell them they are adults now, but on their own if they get into trouble with not being suitably dressed. i tend to follow the rule of shoulders and knees covered for government buildings, if i wear a stripy top i wear long trousers, or if I’m wearing shorts I wear a tshirt with sleeves, an evening out and it’s anything goes, but i advise against getting a taxi on your own if scantily clad
    #mondayescapes

    • May 9, 2017 / 4:53 pm

      It’s great to hear another perspective. You are right about government buildings. It does always surprise me how some people dress in Dubai. Doha is definitely more conservative and people in general I think adhere more to the rules

      • May 10, 2017 / 6:23 am

        I’ve seen people in Dubai, mainly young girls with midriff and arse hanging out, being approached discreetly and asks to go home and get changed or buy something to cover up, it’s all done very nicely and i must say i rather like the ‘rules’
        chickenruby recently posted…Bob and Pushkins go on holiday – Animal TalesMy Profile

    • May 10, 2017 / 7:31 am

      The Ramadan post goes live next wk – sorry for the confusion

  10. May 9, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    This is a really helpful post Leona! It can be confusing in places like Dubai because the 5* resorts allow so much freedom but so important to dress appropriately outside those areas. A pashmina or cardigan always comes with me in. I’m not an air con fan in general but it has its merits! Love the maxi dresses! Thanks for linking #citytripping
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) recently posted…City Tripping #75My Profile

  11. May 10, 2017 / 3:42 am

    Thank you for giving out this helpful suggestions. Bringing the appropriate clothes to wear can be a bit of a dilemma for some. These tips help us to know that we can wear comfortable clothes by not breaking rules with their tradition.

  12. May 11, 2017 / 1:46 pm

    That’s a useful guide, I really like the maxi dress idea. It’s intimidating to plan a trip to some countries because I’m a bit concerned about what to wear, for modesty and the heat.

    • May 12, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      Yes the modesty combined with heat is a difficult coupling

    • May 12, 2017 / 8:05 pm

      Thank you! I agree people don’t mean to offend but often are unsure about how to respect the local culture

  13. May 12, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    This is really useful. We do get confused about what to wear in the Middle East and it’s so important to be respectful of local customs. Having a scarf in your handbag is a great idea. It can also come in handy if you’re visiting a cathedral or church in a Catholic country too. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • May 12, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      You are right – it is applicable across all holy sites really regardless IOC religion

  14. May 12, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Great post. There is a lot of confusion out there about customs and dress requirements in Middle Eastern countries. I think erring on the side of caution as you do is the best approach and at the end of the day it is about showing respect for the country you are visiting’s culture. Thanks for clearing things up on #FarawayFiles

    • May 12, 2017 / 7:57 pm

      I always err on the more conservative side as I would hate to offend anyone

  15. May 13, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Really liked reading the dressing etiquette views of a foreigner! Well written!!

    • May 13, 2017 / 8:56 pm

      Thank you that means a lot. I know everyone who has visited us has been worried about what to wear. I may not be the most fashionable but hopefully always respectful

  16. May 14, 2017 / 8:15 am

    Nice article!!! There is no harm in respecting the local culture.. And your dress looks very neat and stylish…

  17. May 14, 2017 / 11:26 am

    Excellent guide! and I deeply appreciate how you are very careful about respecting the culture of the host country.
    Ohhh and I love maxi dresses too. Invariably I have one under my abaya when out and about. 😁

  18. May 14, 2017 / 1:56 pm

    Girl, I was never a dress girl but I’ve come to appreciate those maxi dresses in this ridiculous heat! These are excellent tips for those coming to Doha. May I also add, SUNSCREEN. Never leave home without it!

  19. May 15, 2017 / 7:35 pm

    Great read …: being in Doha for almost all of my life, I love and keep wearing maxi dress … it’s one of th comfortable outfit and apt for the country

  20. May 18, 2017 / 8:11 am

    Great tips. I think the fact that there are so many questions is a positive that people want to be respectful of the culture that they are visiting. Good thing I love a good maxi dress and skirt anyway! Excellent information – thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • May 21, 2017 / 5:06 am

      Yes, I think you are right. People don’t want to offend its more misunderstanding

  21. June 1, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Great post! I’ve done both a long layover as well as a week long tour around the Emirates. Dubai has its pros (weather, ease of getting around, and beaches), but also has its cons (expense and lack of authenticity). I think you did a great job highlighting them all. If you are able to getting outside of Dubai is totally worth it. Driving while crazy at times is totally doable. We produced a guide to the Emirates on our blog!
    Sofi leen recently posted…Khasab Musandam tour from DubaiMy Profile

  22. September 8, 2017 / 8:15 am

    Cruise aren’t for everyone but most people do really enjoy them. It’s funny, one of the biggest barriers to cruising is for people to actually take their first cruise. There’s a static in the cruise industry that is something like well over 90% of first-time cruisers say they want to return for another cruise.

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