By Isabel Ovalle
The number of Western expats in Doha has grown rapidly in the past few years. European and American nationals arrive in Qatar and discover that the entertainment available at night does not differ much from that of the countries of the West, where men and women gather regularly in local pubs and clubs.
“It’s like being in Europe, but it depends on what you like. There are a variety of things to do, you can either chill out or go clubbing, or even meet other professionals at numerous networking events that also take place at night,” said Sarah, an expat from the UK who has been in Doha for over a year.
This marketing professional moved here with her husband and found making friends very easy. She got in touch with several professional and social networking groups that help expats make friends or meet people from their field of work.
“These groups also hold events at night at hotels, pubs or at the beach, aiming for people to interact and make contacts,” she added. Only last month, a group held a very successful beach party at a five-star hotel. In addition, business councils host dinners and informal get-togethers for professionals to meet in a more relaxed ambience outside the workplace.
There are both events tailored for ladies, like the monthly dinners organized by Qatar Professional Women’s Network, and mixed ones put together by numerous other networking and social platforms which have flourished in the past few years, with the number of expats rising exponentially.
However, some say that Doha’s nightlife is nothing compared to Dubai’s. Also, it’s not affordable for many. “It’s very expensive, if you want to keep up, you must have a great disposable income to spend on drinks and entrance fees,” said a British national.
Linda, a teacher from Sweden, was also surprised with the vibrant nightlife here, since Qatar is known as a conservative Muslim country. “I think it’s also contradictory, just like the fact that, at nightclubs, the recommendation to dress modestly is ignored by most women, who wear provocative clothes with no worries,” she said. In conclusion, said Linda, “you can do whatever you want, just like in Europe.”
The teacher doesn’t comprehend the entrance policy in Qatar. “I don’t understand why in some establishments you must show your ID or passport, while others allow entrance without showing any documents. When I first moved here, I was not allowed entry into a pub because I had no ID with me,” she said.
For Pedro, a Spaniard who has lived here for a year, “the local nightlife is somewhat similar to that of Europe except there are more restrictions and the offer is a bit more limited and pricy. There are only two discos and they charge QR200 for a membership card that lasts only six months and, if you go on weekends, it’s very likely that they won’t let you in if you don’t go with a woman.”
This Spanish bachelor also adds that these places can be dangerous, because men often become aggressive if they drink. “I have seen at least four very violent fights with up to ten men taking part. They even threw glasses at each other and it was very difficult for the security personnel to control the situation,” he added.
Doha’s wide spectrum of nightclubs, pubs and bars is mainly located in five-star hotels and features offers for every taste. The establishments often hold theme parties, including Arabic and Indian, and also host ladies and couples nights in most major venues, a strategy which is very popular in the West.
However, prices at these establishments are affordable only for those well-heeled. Most nightclubs here require the payment of a membership fee which costs between QR50 and QR200. The membership card generally guarantees entrance to an establishment for a limited period -- from six months to one or two years, depending on the hotel’s policy.
The membership card always includes a photo and allows entrance, but not in all cases, given that frequently large groups of men, or a man that is alone, can be denied entrance if the person at the door says so.