Rice importers in Qatar like women

Women in Qatar. Living & working with the abaya. An experience report

Life in Qatar? Working in Qatar? How are Muslim women doing under their abaya?

Just what life is like under an abaya can probably never be answered by western women. I travel a lot and I like to travel to Arab countries. Discussions about the role of women arise again and again. Especially with girlfriends who are seeing this for the first time. There are questions like:

  • Can you travel to Qatar alone as a woman?
  • Do you have to veil yourself as a vacationer?
  • Are women allowed to drive in Qatar?
  • Working in Qatar - can women also work?
  • How do expats live in Qatar?

THE veiled woman does not exist

Personally, I am very critical of the veiling of women. Above all, I noticed that THE veiled woman does not exist. The differences from country to country are serious.

The life, the position in society and family, everyday life, the rights of women living in material prosperity in the Arab Emirates differ enormously from the poor Muslim woman from Afghanistan. But that's another topic.

This is about Qatar, because that's where I was last. In the emirate, which is considered particularly conservative, 90% of all local women are fully veiled.

Here is the personal report of a German friend who lived with her (German) family for 5 years in Doha, the capital of Qatar. A classic expat family.

Confident women in Qatar often come from the upper class

In the beginning it was strange to see women completely veiled everywhere and at all times. And as “Westerners” one wonders why women allow this or allow it to be done with them. In the course of time you learn to deal with it, to accept it and to respect it.

I think for most women it is part of culture and tradition. They don't know any other way because that's how they grew up and brought up. Which doesn't necessarily mean that the women are subservient and worthless / are treated. I have also seen self-confident and emancipated women - but they mostly come from wealthier families. And yes, the women also work in Qatar.

Abaya as a status symbol?

I would say most women feel comfortable and protected under their abaya. A protective cover against unwanted looks, especially from strange men (which is actually the point of this disguise). And for many, the abaya is part of their prestige, as is fur for Russian women. Most of them are definitely not gray mice, they are also very fashionable - but nobody gets to see it in public. I was always particularly surprised to see men and their women in lingerie shops.

Outside the country, the covers fall

In most cases, the "disguise" is only valued within the country / Arab region. As soon as they are out of town while traveling, many of them lose their covers, are dressed discreetly, but perhaps with a headscarf / turban - as was often the case with the former First Lady, Sheika Moza. I have often seen Abayas get on - but not get off - a plane and vice versa.

Once I was invited to a girls' evening at a friend's place, an Egyptian who I only knew with a headscarf. When she greeted us, I hardly recognized her. I had to stare at her again and again and couldn't understand why she had to hide her beautiful hair, all her beauty, under a headscarf.

The Qataris - proud or arrogant?

It struck me that the women, despite their “disguise”, are very proud and vain, like all Qataris in general are a very proud (perhaps a little arrogant) people. You can see that in their posture, their walk.

I also think that it is important, especially for Qataris, to stand out from the crowd. Qatar has approx. 2 million inhabitants, of which only a fraction (approx. 300,000) are indigenous. With their traditional clothing they show the others “Hello, I'm Qatari, this is MY country”. It will be similar in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Are the rules only made by men?

Nevertheless, I struggle with the fact that this culture / tradition was made law by men at some point and is still strictly enforced today, mainly by men, like many other laws against women. As far as I know, nowhere in the Koran does it say that women have to veil themselves - and even that is written by men, so law! The head of the family (a man) still makes the rules.

And yes, women are allowed to drive in Qatar. But most of the time they don't because the majority have a driver. And if they do, they sit in darkened limousines and take off their veils for the journey.

Divorces in Qatar

The divorce rate in Qatar is very high. In most cases, the divorce proceeds from the women. Perhaps this is also because men don't necessarily have to get a divorce if things don't go so well anymore. You can be married to up to four women at the same time. And practical for women, expensive for men: After the divorce, men must continue to provide for the secure livelihood of all ex-wives. This also means that they have to provide all ex-wives with their own house.

You can find a differentiated article about the amazing development of women in the Middle East and their clothing here: How did that happen?

What do you think about it? I would be very happy to hear your opinion in the comment field. I have written other interesting articles on the subject of Asia, feel free to drop by.

My book recommendation

The author answers many questions that inevitably arise when traveling in Arab countries - also in private.