On Nightlife and Imbibing in Doha

Midnight on New Year’s Eve

This past week was finals week for the Fall 2017 semester at Qatar University, and I found my work duties lighten somewhat because there wasn’t the need for me to prep and teach every day. Additionally, it was the cusp of 2017 and 2018 with New Year’s Eve falling on a Sunday and New Year’s Day on a Monday. Somehow, I invited my way into the New Year’s plans of several younger colleagues (thirtysomethings), so I ended up ringing in 2018 at the La Cigale Skyview Bar. As a fortysomething, I thought I would feel more out of place, but there was a fiftysomething in the group, and I ended up having more fun on New Year’s than I have had in recent memory.
View from the Skyview Bar

Later this past week, I finished grading all my final exams and submitted the scores to Blackboard. Hoping to escape an onslaught of unhappy student emails, I stepped out of my apartment planning on driving over to the Pearl and taking a walk. Before I left, I stopped by a neighbor/colleague’s apartment first, just to say hi. I intended to just be neighborly and exchange pleasantries, but instead I was immediately invited in to join a small group for wine, lasagna, and dessert. The food was delicious, and the company was lively. I never made it to the Pearl for my walk, and thankfully, my phone didn’t blow up from students messaging me to reconsider their grades.

Home-cooked lasagna made with chicken because one of the dinner guest was Hindu
I was grateful for these two impromptu experiences, and they served as good examples of how one can go about gaining access to alcohol in Doha.

First, in Doha, the only establishments that can serve alcohol are hotels. Hotel bars are plentiful around Doha, but they can be pricey. A bottle of beer might cost 45 QAR (12 USD) and a mixed drink might cost 60-70 QAR (16-19 USD), so going out in Doha can be expensive if you are planning on binge drinking Wisconsin-style. However, if you simply want to go out to have a social drink with friends and listen to music, then the hotel bars aren’t bad. The ones that I have visited have really nice décor with some amazing outside seating, which can be quite lovely now during the cool winter weather. Just make sure you “dress smart” and be prepared for your clothes and hair to stink the next day because smoking inside the hotel bars is allowed. Boo.

Note: besides the hotel bars, I have learned that the Doha Rugby Club and the Doha Golf Club are also able to serve alcohol to its patrons. I don’t know why these two establishments were given an exemption.

The Toro Toro Bar

If a hotel bar is not your scene, or you prefer to buy your alcohol in bulk, then you have another option. Foreigner may apply for a license at the Qatar Distribution Center (QDC) in order to buy alcohol for private consumption. To get your QDC card, your employer has to provide their written consent, and you have to attest that you are not Muslim. Additionally, I read that you cannot spend more than 10% of your monthly income on alcohol from the QDC, but I am not sure if this is still the policy or not. Besides alcohol, the QDC also sells pork products, so if you need your bacon fix while in Doha, a QDC card is quite important.

Recently, I have requested the paperwork for a QDC card, but I haven’t yet made the run to the store to apply for my card—maybe in the next week or so.

Bottoms up!

There is one more option for imbibing in Doha that I know of: and that is to make your own alcohol. How does one do this? The procedure that I have heard about comes from my colleagues who used to live and work in Saudi Arabia where things are considerably stricter than Qatar. They said that you bring champagne yeast with you into the country and mix it with grape juice and sugar to brew your own “prison” wine. You are able to buy bread yeast here in Doha, but it doesn’t work as well as champagne yeast. I have yet to be offered any homebrewed wine from anyone here. Still, I have 2 ½ years left in my contract, so there’s plenty of time.

What about bringing alcohol into the country in your luggage? Qatar’s Customs discourages foreigners from bringing alcohol, pork products, and pornography into the country, and though customs might seem lax to some as they enter Hamad Airport for the first time, I have been told that all luggage is automatically scanned after it leaves the plane. So, if you think you are being clever by concealing a bottle of Jack Daniels in your check-in bag, upon landing in Qatar, you might be given a receipt at the baggage claim so that you can retrieve your bottle of alcohol when you depart from the country. Also, I have driven by Qatar’s prison out in the middle of the desert and would encourage anyone visiting Qatar to play it safe and leave the booze, bacon, and hard drive of bukkake videos back in your home country.

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