In 2017, Qatar’s total population was 2.6 million. 313,000 of which were Qatari citizens
Welcome to Qatar! Qataris, namely the local population of Qatar, consist primarily of people of hathari (urban) and bedouin (nomadic) origin. There are also people who come from Persia, who are called houla, and most of them are merchants. Also, there people who have come from other parts of the Gulf, even Africa, to settle; nowadays, a lot of these people are considered Qataris.
Hathari people’s ancestors were involved in pearl fishing in the past, while bedouins were associated with camel breeding and falconry. Some argue that these activities are not restricted to a group; rather, either group would make use of one during winter/summer months. Therefore, a lot of people would be moving between sea and desert depending on the season! It is not accidental that such activities form a vital aspect of Qatari national identity. In fact, the celebrations for the Qatar National Day (18th of Dec.) include lots of events that rotate around these activities. Images and ideas associated with pearl fishing, maritime trade and desert nomadism that are used to evoke Qatar’s past include Bedouin tents and carpets, falcons used for hunting, camels, weapons, sailing vessels, and pearls and pearl diving equipment. Symbols of national identity include the family, items associated with the nation’s past, and images of the current Emir, H.H. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as well as the Father Emir, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Qataris often employ an idiom of kinship and/or tribalism, referring to compatriots as “brother,” “sister,” or “cousin.” This linguistic convention signals the inclusion of those sharing citizenship while excluding foreign workers. These words are also used to address other fellow Muslims and, sometimes, non Muslims as well.
Qataris speak the Qatari dialect of Arabic, and there are some interesting phonetic and vocabulary, among other, differences between hatharis and bedouins: hatharis use the sound /y/ instead of the bedouin /j/ in words like /dayyay/ instead of /dajjaj/ (‘chicken’), and also say /tshi/ and /tshiδi/ instead of the bedouin /kiδa//kɪðə/ meaning ‘like this’. Another characteristic Qatari expression, which I have found neat and cute is ‘jau landini’, which means ‘London weather’, and it is used by Qataris on cloudy and rainy days.
Qataris are evident through their clothing and their very distinctive perfumes! In terms of clothing, the traditional Qatari attire for men includes the Qatari thοbe, which is distinctive due to its squared collar, the ghutrah, namely the white or sometimes red cloth that men wear in various styles, such as the cobra one (which is my favorite, by the way!), the agal, namely a black cord, worn doubled, used to keep a ghutrah in place on the wearer’s head. It is traditionally made of goat hair. Compared to other Khalijee (Gulf) male national dresses, the Qatari male attire also has the karakish, namely three (usually) hanging tassels. In winter, men wear thobes and ghutras of different colors, such as blue, grey and yellow. Under the ghutrah and agal men wear the gehfeya, which is an embroidered hat. They also usually wear sandals, and rumor has it that the best sandal brand is considered to be Tamima! In terms of accessories, men usually wear cufflinks, a matching pen and a watch. Such accessories started coming into fashion in the ’90s. An important aspect of Qatari masculinity is men’s beard and mustache, both of which are usually very well groomed.
Women wear a black and usually plain abaya, but nowadays due to influence from fashion designers’ social media accounts younger women have started wearing abayas in different colors as well as shoulder embroidered ones. Women also wear a headscarf, which is called sheila, and some of them also wear a niqab, namely a black cloth, which hides their face. You might have also noticed that some older women (especially in souq waqif but also in traditional weddings) wear a facial mask, which is called battoulah. Women would apply indigo on the inside of the mask to whiten their skin and cover their face. In some of the make-up flasks you will find lipstick or kohl eye-liner made from charcoal and other substances. Make-up is usually worn by women throughout the day and the same also goes for their accessories, which usually include Western fashion designer bags.
All Qataris, regardless of their gender, also walk around holding cell phones, something that attests to their engagement with social media. Lots of communication, actually, takes place via social media, even when they are sitting together or they are in the same room.
In terms of their perfumes, which are a significant cultural dimension of the Qatari identity, both men and women prefer strong and expensive perfumes, the most characteristic of which are Rakaan, Nashwa, Roohi Fedak, Attar Al Kaaba, Haneen and Alif Laila O Laila (for women), and Dar al Tamimi Hamad and Tameem perfume (for men). The list is really endless…!
Both men and women in Qatar are known for their hospitality and generosity! You can get a glimpse of these, if you are lucky enough to be invited to their weddings (celebrated differently by women and men), houses, desert camps and, also, if you are a man and get invited to their ardha (sword) dance!
Good luck and have fun discovering the hidden secrets of Qataris!
Please watch the QTips videos, which give you very useful information about Qataris and Qatari culture from an insider’s perspective and in an entertaining way!
Also, regarding Qatari perfumes, you can have a look at this website for more information: http://www.qatarcollections.com/category/perfumes/272/?page=1&
The various Gulf thobes are found here: https://findery.com/ECWC/notes/gulf-country-national-dress
Many thanks to Afra Al-Kholifi for her useful feedback on this piece. Any errors and inaccuracies remaining are my own.