Qatar Business Etiquette


Have a professional translation of written material provided in Arabic. Provide an Arabic translation on the back of your card.

Consider learning a few words of Arabic: it will be much appreciated, and may even be remarked upon. It is also handy to know the meaning of certain often used phrases, such as:

Inshau’ Allahh: means God Willing, and is often used when a promise is made. The premise is that everything is controlled by God, not by us, and therefore we can not make an absolute promise.

Alhumdillilah: Thanks be to God.

Being Personal

Personal contact is essential, and time should be taken over this. Initial contact should focus on chit chat and getting to know one another rather than getting straight down to the nitty gritty of business. Building trust will be essential in establishing a successful business relationship.


Always keep business cards on your person. When accepting a business card, don’t put it away without looking at it. Take your time to glance at it, then keep it in your hand or on the table in front of you.

Contracts and Promises

You may find locals wary of contracts, relying instead on the spoken word. As a result, be careful of what you say: a careless remark could be construed as a promise, and you may be held to it later.


Be wary of complimenting a possession. Your host may feel obliged to offer it to you. Do compliment actions/qualities/ideas effusively.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is regarded as important – make sure you looking at the person you are speaking too.


Do not ask about wives or (older) female children. Instead ask: How is your family? Your host may offer information about the female members of his family, but do not press him. Women, on the other hand, are often keen to tell you about their female friends and relatives.

Expect your clients’ families to be given greater importance than your business arrangements – and for Qataris to go dashing away in the middle of a business meeting after receiving  a call on his mobile phone!


If attending the house of a Qatari with a spouse, expect to be separated for the duration of the visit.

Initially you will be served Arabic coffee. You should have at least one cup of this. When you have finished, swirl the coffee in your cup around to signify that you have finished. The coffee boy will relieve you of your cup. Food and refreshments so at the very least be nibbled, however sweet they may be.
When incense is lit, it is time to leave!

Mobile phone

Or phones! It is not unusual for a Qatari to carry a selection of mobile phones. If you want to get in contact with a Qatari this is a very good way – emails may be abandoned to the inbox for ever but a mobile phone must be answered wherever and whenever. (That includes when hurtling towards a roundabout in a Land Cruiser!)


Following on from time, punctuality is not considered important, at least for Qatari – your punctuality may be expected! Expect to be kept waiting!


Don’t lose it! (Roads seem to be an acceptable alternative to this rule.) Do not get excited in meetings. Composure is respected.


Time is not as exact as in the UK. Five minutes may become ten minutes, half an hour an hour, tomorrow may become next week. Get used to it – you are not going to change the way things happen.

The opposite is also true – it is rude to appear rushed. Try to avoid glancing at your watch, take your time to answer personal questions in full – and appear interested when your personal questions are being answered.

Saying No

No is rarely said directly. That doesn’t mean the answer is yes!


You may well do business with a woman. However, do not offer to shake hands with her, although you can feel  free to reciprocate if she offers to shake hands with you.

(With men, on the other hand, a hand shake is normal – kissing and touching noses are also acceptable, but this unlikely to be required of you!)

Avoid being in a closed room with a women if you can, and be understanding if she requires a man to be with her when meeting you.

Women rarely encounter problems when doing business with Qataris, who are often very polite to the opposite sex.

Links and Resources


Qatar: A Business Traveler’s Handbook (by David Chaddock) has an excellent section on Business Etiquette.

Arabs Islam and the Middle East: (by William Baker) Excellent book examining the differences between Arab and Western culture.


Culture of Qatar: Carnegie Mellon Resource

Qatar Cultural Pointers and Etiquette

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