Holidays and Vacation in Qatar

The second Tuesday of February has officially been declared a public holiday, ‘Sports Day’ in Qatar.  Activities are planned around the entire country and I’ve got the day off.  Sports day was a last minute announcement by the Emir in what can be seen as an initiative to get people moving and thinking about keeping fit, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss some of the other (somewhat reliable) holidays in Qatar.

I’ve talked about Ramadan before, it’s significance and the impact it has on life in Qatar and the whole region.  Because Ramadan is based on the Islamic calendar, a lunar calendar, the date is not set and it shifts approximately 10 to12 days each year.  Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and it officially begins when the first crescent of the new moon is sighted.  This crescent must physically be seen in order to announce the start of Ramadan and so it can be a little bit tricky if you want to plan around it.

There are 2 Eid holidays each year and, although both are public holidays, the days that a person gets off from work may vary from three to five.  As with Ramadan, both Eid holidays are based on the Islamic calendar so the dates change from year to year.  Immediately following Ramadan is Eid al Fitr which begins on the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar (Shawwal) and celebrates the end of fasting.  Eid al Adha begins on the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic calendar (Dhu al Hijjah) and it is approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan.  Both holidays are marked by family gatherings and celebratory meals with people decorating their houses and exchanging gifts with relatives and friends.

The 18th December is National Day or Founder’s Day and marks the day, in 1878, that Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed al Thani succeeded his father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani.  Sheikh Jassim worked towards bringing together the many tribes of the region into one unified nation. On National Day you can expect many special events, including parades and fireworks along the Corniche, lots of cars decorated with emblems and stickers, plenty of Qatari flags waving, and an enormous sense of national pride.

My mother finds it very surprising that I don’t receive any days off over the Christmas and New Year period but I keep having to remind her that Qatar is a Muslim country, so it’s very rare for expats to get traditional, Christian holidays off (Christmas, New Year, Easter).  You’ll still be able to find someplace to celebrate (brunch/lunch/dinner at larger hotels and restaurants) but most employers will not allot any time off so you’ll have to use your vacation days if you want to travel abroad, go back home, or just enjoy the holiday in Doha.

Smaller holidays and country-specific celebrations like Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Bastille Day, Australia Day and the 4th July can also be found in Qatar but you’ll have to search a bit harder.  Sometimes events are hosted by a country’s embassy or various sports clubs dotted around Doha and it’s worth making the extra effort to find these as they are a great way to meet people and experience a little taste of home.

And I think I’ve mentioned before that the weekend in Qatar is Friday and Saturday, with Friday being the main day of religious observance. Some businesses may only work a half day on Thursday and then shut for all of Friday.  Smaller shops will either be shut all of Friday or only open after the afternoon prayer, while the larger shops and malls will only be closed for Friday morning.


About Alexandria Lipka

Alexandria is the Lab Manager of a small biotechnology company based in Doha, Qatar. She was born and raised in the United States, where she received her undergraduate degree, before moving to the United Kingdom to work and further her studies. After 10 years in a rainy, grey London, she decided she might like living in the desert.

5 Responses to Holidays and Vacation in Qatar

  1. Ahmed says:

    Thanks for your insightful articles, Alexandria! I’ve been thinking about making the move, but one concern I have is how comfortable my wife and daughter will be there. I’m mainly concerned about harassment and safety. I heard stories about expat women having men chase them in the UAE (which is liberal by Gulf standards!) and I was wondering what the cultural norms are in Qatar vis-a-vis women in public. I’m not talking here about revealing clothing that catches attention; I have a relative that was followed even though she wore a head scarf, was pregnant, and had another child walking with her!!

    I apologize that this is irrelevant to this specific article, but I couldn’t find another avenue for contacting you.

    • Alexandria Lipka says:

      I am wondering from who/where you heard the stories about woman being chased(!), are they firsthand knowledge or rumours? I have lived, worked and traveled alone in many major cities so I do consider myself to be street smart (which may influence my opinion of Doha) but as a female on my own, I can honestly say that I have never had any trouble with unwanted attention which made me feel uncomfortable or fear for my safety here. I can also honestly say that Qatar is one of the safest places that I have ever lived/worked….but that’s not to say things can’t happen. Women have the freedom to go out in public unaccompanied here, it is not a problem. Personally, when I am out alone, I am always in a public place and I feel fairly confident that if I ever got into an uncomfortable situation, I would not be far from help. Yes, the female:male ratio here is a bit skewed because most of the migrant workers are men, and you do see groups of men hanging out together, but I have never felt intimidated by this.
      All of my friends with children say that Qatar is a great place for families and, as far as you wife and daughter are concerned, I really don’t think they would have a problem. I think it would be almost impossible for them to be put in compromising positions in Qatar (dark alley alone at night, etc) as situations like this just don’t really exist.
      As for your female relative being followed, I can only comment that it must have been one of those cases of unwanted attention, which I hope was harmless.
      Many thanks for the questions,

      • Ahmed says:

        The stories are from a relative and a friend, though I think the former happened in Kuwait which I think is a quite different environment. The latter is of a friend who currently lives in UAE; not exactly Qatar, though my impression is that Doha is somewhere between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (if such an analogy can be made at all!)

        I have to say that even with these stories, I wasn’t really alluding to New York-style dark alley incidents; I was mostly thinking of any sort of unwanted attention via gazing, harassing comments, following (ostensibly for the sake of getting a “phone number”!) and the likes. I found your comments quite reassuring, so thanks for answering my question and putting me at ease :)

  2. harman says:

    dear .Alexandria Lipka
    a big thanks. for the information that you are giving to the people.we are proud of you as a good leader.

    i have a brief question . if i wanted to com to qatar for live and work what should i do. and how can i link myself with the companies in qatar . pleas explain little bit about my question.

    thanks just the same

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