Qatar Country Report
Qatar (population 2.6 million), located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf to the east of Saudi Arabia, is a small, prosperous nation. Its location in the troubled Middle East, however, presents security threats that should be considered prior to travel.
In June 2017, several Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, started a campaign to diplomatically and economically isolate Qatar after accusing the country of establishing "friendly" relations with Iran and supporting groups alleged to have ties to regional terror organizations, including Shi'a groups in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. The countries involved (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt) cut diplomatic ties with Doha, closed their borders to Qataris (Qatar shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia), and suspended all flights to and from the country. As of autumn 2017, the embargo remains in place and the diplomatic crisis remains at a standstill, despite repeated calls from the international community for the parties to engage in negotiations.
Qatar is geographically near countries plagued by crises and domestic and geopolitical tensions (e.g. Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia), as well as the presence of terrorist cells operating in the region (notably in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia), resulting in an elevated terror threat. Even though there have been no terrorist attacks in the country since the March 2005 attack on a Doha theater (in which two were killed and 12 wounded), travelers should exercise vigilance in public places.
Qatar has been a member of the international coalition that is carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria; terror groups may attempt reprisal attacks in Qatar. In particular, the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group has called for its fighters to attack Western interests and citizens throughout the Middle East. As such, the American military, which has a large air base near Doha, could be a potential target in the event of an attack.
The many popular uprisings that have sprouted in the region since the 2011 Arab Spring have not affected Qatar. Protests are rare and only allowed to take place with prior governmental approval.
Crimes rates are low and acts of violence against foreigners are rare. Nevertheless, travelers should note that Westerners are sometimes the victims of physical and verbal harassment. For this reason, visitors are advised to remain vigilant and to avoid being alone in public, particularly at night.
Foreign manual laborers (mainly from India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the Philippines) make up more than 85 percent of the country's population. It is advised to avoid neighborhoods with foreign labor camps - which feature predominantly young male populations - as there is an increased likelihood of crime in such areas.
Doha's Hamad International Airport (DOH), which opened in 2014, is considered one of the biggest travel hubs worldwide; more than 90 percent of travelers flying to DOH are in transit to another location.
However, all flights to and from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the UAE have been suspended since June 2017 until further notice due to an ongoing diplomatic rift (see the POLITICS section). Qatar Airways was also forced to reroute its flights given that neighboring countries (UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain) closed their airspace to Qatari planes.
The land border with Saudi Arabia is also closed until further notice and sea routes are suspended.
The national road network is well developed but construction sites located throughout the country regularly disrupt traffic. Due to rapid development in Doha, maps can be inaccurate, and GPS devices are rarely up to date. Finally, cultural and sports events usually lead to the closure of the "Corniche," one of Doha's main roads.
Authorities are very strict in enforcing traffic laws; traffic cameras are numerous and fines can be high. Qatar has a zero-tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving.
Metered taxis (turquoise in color) are available in Doha and are reliable and safe, and can be hailed on the street. Furthermore, many drivers speak English. The Uber ridesharing system is also well implemented in the country.
Road accidents are frequent due to unskilled and/or young drivers (especially on Thursday and Friday evenings), speeding, and the presence of animals on the roads.
Sandstorms can occur at any time and regularly disrupt road and air traffic.
Rain, while rare, is generally violent and often leads to flash flooding, which can cause road accidents. Periods of heavy rain usually occur between October and March.
From April to October, temperatures can rise to 50°C (122°F). In the winter, nights can be cool with temperatures around 7° C (45 °F).
Qatar is located in a seismic zone. Strong tremors have previously been felt from powerful earthquakes with epicenters in neighboring Iran (e.g. April 2013) and Afghanistan (e.g. October 2015).
Modern medical services are available in Qatar. Most pharmacies are open 24 hours per day and most medical professionals speak English. All visitors are advised to purchase a travel health insurance policy prior to their departure.
Tap water in Qatar is safe to drink.
Travelers are advised to protect themselves from sun exposure and to stay hydrated. In the case of extreme heat, wear lightweight, loose, covering clothing that is light in color. It is advised to wear a hat and apply sunscreen to protect your head and face. If temperatures reach extreme levels, it is recommended to drink at least two to four glasses of water per hour (four liters per day), and to avoid soda and alcohol.
Cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are sporadically reported in Qatar. MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV). Approximately 35 percent of reported patients with MERS have died.
There is a risk of leishmaniasis, which can result in skin or mucous ulcers, damage to vital organs including the liver. This disease is transmitted via sandflies, small insects that are active at night.
There are cases of animal rabies in the country. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact (e.g. bites and scratches) with both domestic and wild mammals.
Travelers suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions may experience discomfort due to the high level of dust in Doha.
In August 2017, the Qatari government announced a visa-free entry program for citizens of 80 countries to encourage growth of the tourism industry. Nationals from various European countries as well as India, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States (among others) are only required to have a valid passport to travel to Qatar; multi-entry visas are issued at the border. For more details, visit this website
Obtaining a residence permit may require proof of a work contract, valid diplomas, health insurance, and medical examinations; individuals that test positive for HIV, tuberculosis, or hepatitis B or C are not permitted to live in Qatar.
Qatar is a Muslim country, though most of the population is made up of foreign nationals. Individuals traveling the Qatar are advised to respect local customs and to dress modestly. Alcohol consumption is authorized in hotels or at home for non-Muslim foreign nationals, but not in public. However, it is forbidden to import pork, alcohol, or pornographic material, and luggage is systematically searched on arrival.
Qatari society is conservative and immodest behavior (e.g. public displays of affection) is punishable by law. Homosexual acts are illegal.
Photography of government buildings and military installations is prohibited by law.
Since September 2017, voice calls via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) applications (e.g. Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram etc.) have been blocked.
During Ramadan (mid-May to mid-June in 2018), travelers are advised not to drink, eat, or smoke during daylight hours in public out of respect, particularly in the presence of observant Muslims.
Qatar has an arid climate. Summers, from May to October, are scorching (up to 46°C) and humid. During this time the Shamal, a violent and dusty wind, can provoke sandstorms. Conditions during the winter (November to April) are milder with cool nights and low levels of rainfall.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +974 Police: 999 Fire Dept.: 999 Ambulance: 999
Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz
Qatar: Strong wind and dust warnings Nov. 28
TIMEFRAME: from 11/28/2017, 12:00 AM until 12/1/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Qatar).
Qatar: New visa extensions announced for visitors Nov. 14
TIMEFRAME: from 11/15/2017, 12:00 AM until 11/22/2017, 11:59 PM (Asia/Qatar).