Qatar: Food                                                      

Important foods include: dates, rice, seafood, and lamb.  

Qataris are excellent hosts. Food and drink are an important part of their welcome.  


Dates (photo) are a very important food and are eaten all day long. A visitor will usually be offered dates. Even today, business is often conducted only after dates have been offered. Dates contain vitamins and are good source of energy. Dates are considered especially important during Ramadan, and will be eaten at the breaking of the fast. Bedouin nomads eat bread that is mixed with dates and cooked in hot sand.  


Rice is considered a staple food and was historically imported by caravan.  


Seafood is plentiful--so much so that at times large quantities of fish were shipped abroad for use as fertilizer. However, it was so cheap and common thatfamilies were often embarrassed to serve it to guests.


Those who live in the desert rely heavily on camels and camel milk. Young camel in particular is considered a delicacy.  


Qataris get up well before the average Westerner both to pray and to start work. Breakfast used to be a large meal that consisted of: milk, coffee or tea, olives, bread, cheese, eggs, or yogurt and dishes such as balaleet, a bed of noodles cooked with sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron and served with an omelet on top. Houmous (photo) is popular nowadays, although traditionally Qataris ate michee – similar to houmous, but made without tahina. Another popular dish is zatar pies – Arabic bread spiced with thyme.  


Lunch is normally taken at 12:30PM or 1PM. Rice is often served with spicy meat or fish.  

Dinner used to be a light meal, although not at times of fasting. A popular dish is matchboush, meat cooked until tender and served with spices and rice. Harrees, made with soaked split wheat and meat, must be cooked for several hours.  


Qataris love sweets and sugar. Some Qataris believe in consuming a spoonful of honey each morning and night. Om Ali (mother of Ali) is a typical desert, resembling a cross between bread and rice pudding, but more delicious than either.


Coffee is not just a drink but is also an important focus of ceremonial and social life.

Dining Etiquette

Many people in Qatar don’t use knives or forks when eating; they use their right hand. Polite Qataris will only use three, or perhaps four, of their fingers to pick up the food. Alternatively, they may use bread to scoop up the food. The left hand should not be used for eating nor for shaking hands. It is reserved for more demeaning tasks. Hands should be clean and the nails cut short.  

When visiting, try to at least taste the food you are offered. If you refuse, you may offend your hosts.  

Pork and Alcohol

Pork is illegal in Qatar, and observant Muslims will not drink alcohol. The meat they eat must be halal. Hallal means the word “God” was uttered at the moment the animal was slaughtered (normally by slitting its throat) and as much blood as possible was drained out of the animal’s body before it died.