Tourists can only drink inside five-star hotels, where the creative bars range from local Irish pubs to swanky lounges, rooftop settings and nightclubs. It's illegal to be visibly drunk in public in Qatar, and offenders may be arrested. Alcohol-free 'mocktails' are extremely popular among Qatar's Muslim population and are offered in most venues. Coffee is woven into the culture; many cafes now serve single-origin brews as well as Arabic coffee.
Alcohol vs Coffee
Around the country, locals in national dress can be seen drinking Arabic coffee at various atmospheric coffeehouses and restaurants, while playing aldama (a board game with similarities to both draughts and backgammon) and smoking shisha. It's a fascinating (if almost entirely male) scene and visitors wanting to experience local culture should take part during any trip to Qatar.
In direct contrast, and a controversial subculture among Qatar's hardline Muslim population, are the expats who head to five-star hotels with themed bars, pubs, swanky lounges and lively DJ nights, where revellers drink and party into the wee hours. When the clubs kick out, problems can occur. Qatar has a zero-tolerance policy towards people being visibly drunk in public, and those who break the rules could face jail time.
For now, Qatar's coffee drinkers and boozers remain in two separate worlds that exist in parallel. However, tensions may rise during the 2022 World Cup, a tournament known for its big drinking culture. Qatar officials have said they will take a more lenient approach to those drinking alcohol during the tournament, although what this means remains to be seen.
While a cup of coffee or a shisha costs a few riyals, alcohol is imported and isn't cheap. However, deals can be found most nights of the week at the hotels' many bars, including ladies' nights, happy hours and themed nights.