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!
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.
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).
Keep shoulders and knees covered
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
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.
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
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!
Saying that my instagram account makes it look like I only have this one!
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!
Tshirts are also always great for a casual day out but be sure to by ones that have more than just cap sleeves!
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!
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!
Also they are very handy if there is an unexpected sandstorm!
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!