Understanding Ramadan in Qatar: 2024 Visitor’s Guide

One of the main questions that arises for non-Muslim tourists visiting Qatar during Ramadan is how to behave during the Holy Month.

A mosque in Doha with text overlay Ramadan in qatar

While understanding the fundamental cultural behaviours for entering a Muslim country may be straightforward, there are often additional measures that visitors should observe during Ramadan, to ensure they are being respectful.

When is Ramadan in Qatar

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Hijri calendar and is a period of deep religious reflection for Muslims. Ramadan is strictly observed across Qatar, regardless of your religion, and it is good to be aware of the additional measures that you must observe during this period.

In Qatar, the Moon Sighting Committee in the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf) declares the start and end of the holy month.

In 2024 it is estimated that the Holy Month will run from 11 March to the 9 April in Qatar.

Saum, one of the Five Pillars of Worship of Islam, is the act of fasting during this Holy Month. Muslims must abstain from eating and drinking (among other things) between sunrise and sunset. This is done to teach them self-awareness, patience, and tolerance. The soul is said to be purified of evil influence, and a person’s faith in Allah is strengthened.

If you are visiting in future years, this is a good source for finding out when Islamic holidays will fall:

What do non-Muslim tourists & residents need to observe during Ramadan in Qatar?

Although you are not expected to join in with the fasting, non-Muslim expat residents and visitors in Qatar are required to ensure that there is a suitable environment for Muslims to observe Ramadan.

This means that during daylight hours, even though you are not fasting, you are prohibited from eating, drinking, and smoking in public places across Qatar. If you are seen doing so, you could face a fine of 3,000 QAR, three months imprisonment, or both. 

During Ramadan, the sale of alcohol is also prohibited; brunches stop for the month and the Qatar Distribution Centre (QDC) – the only place to purchase alcohol and pork products, provided you have a special licence – also closes throughout the Holy Month.

HOWEVER, there are places available for non-Muslims to eat and drink. Eating establishments must apply for special licences to serve food and drink during daylight hours in Ramadan, and in general, you are screened from public view.

In practice, it is mostly hotels that obtain these licences rather than the food court in the malls. Each hotel will, generally, have a minimum of one restaurant available to eat at during daylight hours.

In the privacy of your own home or hotel rooms, you can do as you please during Ramadan as long as it doesn’t disturb others (i.e. no loud music and blatant partying).

colourfil buildings at katara cultural village and mosque in doha, qatar

What About Children During Ramadan in Qatar?

Younger children, especially those under six years old, are not expected to participate in Ramadan. Pre-pubescent children between seven and 11 may start to observe fasting. On reaching puberty, participation by all Muslims (some exceptions mentioned below) is required. 

Schools in Qatar start later and finish earlier during Ramadan. Individual schools will advise opening hours, which are approved by the Ministry of Education and restricted to five hours a day. Extracurricular school-provided activities are cancelled. Private extracurricular activities and sports will often continue with changed timings.

Nurseries often continue with the same hours, but you should check with your nursery to see what hours they will be working. You should freely feed toddlers or young children when they are hungry and dress them appropriately for the weather.

Exceptions to Fasting

Various situations exist in which a Muslim may be excused from fasting, such as pregnancy, diabetes, breastfeeding, menstruation, illness, or old age. The rule of thumb is that you should not participate if it’s detrimental to your health. Generally, if you are exempt from menstruation or illness, Muslims will make up a fasting day later in the year before the next Ramadan.

Throughout Qatar, regardless if you are exempted from fasting, you should not eat or drink in public in keeping with the laws of Qatar. Likewise, for children between six and 11.

If you are travelling through Hamad International Airport, once airside, you will see that all food outlets are operating as normal. This is because travellers are exempt from fasting. Again, Muslim travellers will make up the fasting day before the next Ramadan.

Breaking of the Fast – Iftar in Qatar

The fast is broken at maghrib, the sunset prayer time, by the firing of the cannon, followed by the sound of Azan echoing from the loudspeakers of the mosques.

In Qatar, two cannons are fired at Souq Waqif and, more recently, at Lusail Boulevard. These are both fantastic experiences for the whole family, with many people handing out water and food boxes to the children to break the fast. It is extremely joyful, but beware, the cannons are loud, and ear defenders are recommended for younger children.

Iftar is literally the breaking of the fast, immediately taken after sunset. This is a time for families to come together to eat the meal. Traditionally started with water, fruit juice and dates, before prayers, followed by a larger meal of traditional foods.

Iftar food

Many hotels will put together large Iftar buffets and traditional tents over the course of the Holy Month, with many restaurants also offering set Iftar menus for those who would rather not have a buffet.

It is an incredible unique experience to participate in an Iftar celebration – and one we recommend you to try if you are visiting during Ramadan.

When is Iftar in Qatar

Iftar timing varies across the world as it occurs at sunset in that precise location, as a result it also varies daily. While the cannon is the official time you are able to estimate the likely time based on when Maghrib is.

Suhoor in Qatar

As fasting begins again at sunrise, Muslims will have a pre-dawn meal known as suhoor, to provide sustenance until they are able to break their fast again with ifar. Again, many hotels offer suhoor extravaganzas starting once their iftars have been cleared and running until the early hours of the morning.

Garangao in Qatar

Garangao is celebrated on the 14th day of Ramadan, and is particularly special within Qatar, having believed to have its roots in the pearl-diving traditions of the country.

During Garanago, children dress in traditional clothing and visit other houses in their neighbourhood, which are ready to receive them with sweets and nuts.

Other Things to Be Mindful of during Ramadan in Qatar

Ramadan is not only about the act of fasting; for Muslims, it is also about abstention – including tobacco, sex, music – and tolerance.

  • Appropriate dress standards are much more strictly enforced than usual and should be observed in public areas. All adults (including teens) should be dressed conservatively and look to have shoulders and knees covered in public – and avoid cleavage and tight clothing.
  • Refrain from public displays of affection between adults. Kissing and even hand-holding (with your child is fine) are prohibited.
  • As it gets closer to Iftar, the patience of many is strongly tested, and you may experience more erratic driving on the roads. It is advised to steer clear of the roads during this time. If heading to an Iftar or evening meal, just be mindful of letting others go before you.
  • It is a time of peace, so avoid shouting, anger, and rude or swear words.
  • The majority of workplaces will also have modified hours; services may be limited to the mornings or after Iftar.
  • For the first two weeks of Ramadan, shops within the malls are closed during daylight hours and only open after Iftar. The second two weeks of Ramadan, shops are open throughout the day (excluding Fridays)
  • Supermarkets will have modified hours, but most will remain open throughout the day, even during those first two weeks when other shops are closed. 
  • Many tourist attractions will also modify their opening hours – best to check before you go!

Ramadan Timings in Qatar

Most attractions, shops and transport will change their opening hours during the Holy Month, though as Ramadan is moving into spring, more child-friendly attractions are able to be open through the afternoon.

Qatar Metro During Ramadan in Qatar (TBC 2024)

Qatar Metro will run Saturday to Thursday from 6:30 am to 1:00 am; Friday service starts from 2:00 pm to 1:00 am.

Eid in Qatar Explained

There are two Eid celebrations that you find marked by Muslim countries worldwide: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Fitr in Qatar

Eid al-Fitr is the festival immediately following the breaking of the final fast in Ramadan. It is a time of celebration, festivities and daytime feasts for Muslim families. People will dress in their new Eid clothes, ladies will have their hair and henna done, and gift-giving will occur.

a ladies hand being decorated with henna for eid celebrations

It is a very busy time in Qatar, and a national holiday, usually lasting three to four days,  but is often longer for government entities and schools. Expect the airport to be busier than usual as people tend to travel over this period to visit family and friends for the celebrations.

Eid al-Fitr is announced towards the end of Ramadan, dependent on the sighting of the crescent moon; holiday dates are expected to fall between 9 to 12 April 2024

The public holidays are usually declared towards the end of Ramadan, though this year, many schools have incorporated the public holiday within their Spring Break; Eid is not declared until the initial sighting of the crescent moon marking 1 Shawwal.

Charity or Zakat – another of the Five Pillars of Islam – is considered very important during Eid celebrations, giving and thoughtfulness to those less fortunate. This is a great way to get your children involved, either via monetary donations or by giving food boxes to those less fortunate. Most supermarkets offer an Iftar box to be purchased that you can then distribute.

Eid al-Adha in Qatar

The festival of the sacrifice” occurs 70 days after the end of Ramadan, and once Eid al-Fitr has been called then you will know when the Eid al-Adha holiday will begin. Arafat Day falls first, on the second day of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca –  the 9th Day of Dhu Al Hijja on the Hijri calendar.

Eid al-Adha immediately follows this. Animals such as sheep or goats are sacrificed, and tradition dictates a third is eaten by the family, a third is given to relatives and friends, and a third is given to the needy.

This is another three to four-day public holiday, though it can be extended to a week also for Government departments (always announced very last minute). This year many schools across Qatar are finishing for their summer break before Eid al-Adha due to the timing.

Arafat Day in Qatar is due to occur on 15 June 2024 and Eid al-Adha 16 to 20 June 2024, subject to moonsighting at Eid al-Fitr.

Should I Visit Qatar during Ramadan?

Unfamiliarity with Islamic culture means that many visitors are understandably nervous when they work out that they will be visiting Qatar during Ramadan. But is there anything you really should worry about?

We’ll take you through some of the questions we have received over the years to put your mind at ease:

Can I eat as a non-Muslim during Ramadan in Qatar?

Yes – you are able to eat in certain situations!

While some outlets will be open for eating during Ramadan, these tend to be screened so you are out of the public eye. There is no daytime eating or drinking while walking on the street or in a car, and there is the potential to be fined if you do.

Can I not even drink water during Ramadan in Qatar?

Yes – you are able to drink water during Ramadan!

It is true that Muslims refrain from even drinking water; however, as a tourist, you can do so discreetly. As with eating, you are able to drink in the designated restaurants, or out of the public eye, But when in public as with eating you should refrain.

What should I wear in Qatar during Ramadan?

There is a higher standard of dress expected of tourists during Ramadan, extra effort to cover shoulders and knees should be made.

If you are staying at a Qatar resort, you will have no issue wearing your swimwear in the appropriate parts of the hotel as you would year-round.

Is it even worth coming if tourist attractions will be closed?

The majority of attractions in Qatar WILL remain open throughout Ramadan, albeit often with different timings. Expect to make more plans in the evenings.

What is the appropriate greeting to use during Ramadan?

“Ramadan Kareem” is the polite greeting to use, and during Eid, “Eid Mubarak”.

Is Ramzan in Qatar the same as Ramadan?

Yes, Ramzan and Ramadan are the same thing, just written differently depending on what part of the world you come from; many from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan still use Ramzan in written format, but you’d be perfectly understood if asking about Ramzan that you are referring to Ramadan.

Are there any other great reasons to visit Qatar during Ramadan?

During Ramadan, there may be cheaper flight and accommodation packages, especially via Qatar Holidays as Qatar continues to improve their tourism offerings.

Ramadan is an incredibly joyful time of year, the country is bustling in the evenings and it is truly a time of happiness and celebration for Muslims.

What about Easter falling during Ramadan in Qatar this year?

The two important religious occasions will overlap in dates over the next few days. This will not prevent Christians from observing the occasion, and the churches across the region will still be celebrating.

Final Thoughts on Qatr Ramadan 2024

Whether you are a visitor or an expatriate resident, you are a guest in an Islamic country, please keep any opinions you may have about whether it is “right”, “healthy” or any other beliefs contrary to the Pillars of Islam to yourself. These are the rules and local customs that must be observed, and as long as you are respectful, you will have an enjoyable experience within Qatar.

Learn More About Visiting Qatar

Whatever time of year you’re looking to visit Qatar, you may also find helpful:

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images of a mosque and an iftar in qatar with text overlay visiting Qatar During Ramadan

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Family Travel Middle East
Family Travel Middle East

The Family Travel in the Middle East team of travel writers are all parents based in the Middle East, sharing first hand experiences and reviews from across the region to help you plan your next family adventure.

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