According to Qatari tradition, each household is
part of a clan, which is a group of related families. Clans are parts
of much larger tribes. Tribes are, in effect, large extended families.
Although tribes were once distinguished by differences of speech, dress
and customs, in modern Qatar these differences have largely been erased.
Nevertheless, ties among members of a tribe remain strong.
In the past, some tribes were nomadic, living in
tents that could easily be packed up and moved. Today, a few people
still live semi-nomadic lives in the desert, but most people have settled
in cities and towns and have jobs in industry or with government. Most
families live in individual houses. The government provides housing for
all citizens who need it. Private companies or government agencies that
hire foreign workers also provide them with housing.
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The separation of men and women in Qatari society
extends to places of prayer, government offices, shops and even elevators.
People tend to marry within the tribe. Marriage
is a family and business matter. Virtually all marriages are arranged,
sometimes even when the concerned parties are quite young. Girls are deemed
of marriageable age at about 14 or 15 years old. In the past, girls as
young as 12 could be married, but the trend in recent years is to wait
until the girl has completed her education. The groom's family traditionally
pays a bride-price to the bride's family before the wedding. Qatari weddings
are elaborate affairs, lasting several days. There are separate ceremonies
and celebrations for women and men.
Hospitality is an important feature of Qatari life.
Most Qataris receive male guests at home in a majlis (reception area).
Traditionally, according to Bedouin custom, guests were seated on the floor
on large cushions. Nowadays, however, the majlis usually has sofas
and chairs. Men and women rarely socialize together. Women receive their
friends in a separate part of the house.
Most Qatari women, especially older ones, wear the
thoub, a long black coat, which covers the entire body, and a
hejab, a black headcovering through which only the eyes, nose
and mouth are visible. Underneath the thoub, women often wear
Western-style clothes. Despite these restrictions, Qatari women are
permitted to drive cars. They are also eager to become more educated
and compete with men in different professions. There are considerably
more female than male students attending Qatar University.
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Although the Qatar government provides extensive social
services and would provide for any elderly citizen in need, most Qatari children
would consider it shameful not to care for elderly parents within the family.