The Government of Canada has issued travel advice for people heading to Qatar, where the World Cup will begin on Nov. 20. Their advice includes all the customs, laws, and regulations to keep in mind when visiting the country.
According to the notice posted online, public displays of affection, including holding hands and kissing, is “not well socially accepted,” and while female travellers aren’t expected to wear head covers, "revealing clothing" is considered inappropriate.
The advice cautions travellers to “dress conservatively, behave discreetly, respect religious and social traditions, and seek permission from locals before photographing them.”
The notice also warns travellers that photographing government buildings, littering or spitting in public places, and eating pork are deemed illegal activities that could land people with heavy fines or jail time.
For those driving while in Qatar, the notice says drivers in the country are generally considered "extremely aggressive." It adds that people drive on the right and accidents causing fatalities are amongst Qatar’s leading causes of death.
In terms of crime in Qatar, the rate is considered low and violence is rare. However, credit card fraud is listed as something to be vigilant about. For entry requirements, as of Nov. 1, a Qatari travel advisory informs visitors that they are no longer required to bring a PCR or Rapid Antigen test certificate, nor pre-register on the Ehteraz health application prior to arrival.
There are other restrictions travellers should keep in mind, including the country’s policies around consuming alcohol.
In Qatar, it is illegal to drink alcohol in public as alcohol is strictly regulated in the majority-Muslim emirate. For the World Cup, the country has implemented designated public spaces where selling alcohol will be permitted and there will also be designated areas for drunk people to sober up.
Organizers said Monday that Budweiser was ordered to move beer stalls to less visible areas, just days ahead of the first match.
The country agreed to the long-established Budweiser deal with FIFA when it launched its bid to host the World Cup in 2009. However, a beer sales policy was not agreed upon by organizers in Qatar until September, which confirmed that fans would be allowed to purchase alcohol at designated areas within eight stadiums, and not at regular concession stands.
The Associated Press reported in September that while alcohol is more available in Qatar than other Middle Eastern nations, it’s usually only served in hotel bars and restaurants that have licenses.
MATCH Hospitality executive chairman Jaime Byrom told The Associated Press that “the entire bid process of the FIFA World Cup is designed to deliver the kind of World Cup experience that all fans from around the world have a reason to expect and to look forward to.”
Qatar is the first Arab country to host the world’s biggest sporting event.
There has been growing concern over the human rights standards in Qatar and worries over the way migrant workers were treated while constructing the stadiums that are set to host the tournament.
A subsidiary of French construction company Vinci was given preliminary charged Wednesday for forced labour and other rights violations towards migrants workers hired to build the World Cup infrastructure in Qatar.
As well, the country’s attitudes toward the LGBTQ2S+ communities have raised concerns including a boycott from fans hesitant to travel to a region that presents overtly discriminatory views. In Qatar, sexual acts between those of the same sex are criminalized. Khalid Salman, a Qatar World Cup ambassador, set off a firestorm on Nov. 8 when he described homosexuality as a “damage in the mind" during an interview with a TV channel in Germany.
Canada warns travellers in its advisory that visitors could be discriminated against or detained based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Convicted fans around LGBTQ2S+-related charges could face up to 10 years in prison, the Government of Canada notes.
With files from writer Olivia Bowden and The Associated Press.
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