Employees of Qatar Foundation (QF) have received a reminder that they are required to dress in a way that presents a “consistent, professional and respectful image.”
The memo, which QF said is not connected to the recently revived grassroots modesty campaign Reflect Your Respect, nevertheless comes at a time of heightened sensitivity in Qatar around what is considered appropriate dress in public places.
Last week, QF’s executive director of Human Resources Hassan Mohd Al Hammadi sent an email to members of staff clarifying the organization’s HR policy on attire.
In the email, Al Hammadi said:
“In order to maintain a professional image, Qatar Foundation has a Dress Code Policy, which outlines dress and personal presentation guidelines to ensure that business attire is professional and reflects respect for local culture and customs.”
The detailed dress code advises QF employees to “dress conservatively in professionally appropriate attire,” adding that casual and sports clothes are not suitable.
Male staff not in national dress should wear trousers and a shirt and are required to wear a suit and tie for public or government meetings or dinners.
For women, dresses, trousers and skirts below the knee are acceptable. Blouses with a “modest neckline and no less than half a sleeve” are required.
Female staff members were also advised: “the more frequent an employee interacts with the public, the more conservative she should dress.”
Tight, revealing and transparent clothing, denim, or clothing potentially offensive logos, slogans or pictures are all considered inappropriate. Those whose clothing does not meet the required standards could be subject to disciplinary action, staff were advised.
Speaking to Doha News about the policy, a QF spokesman would not confirm if the dress code had been updated recently. He said:
“We have always had policies and procedures like this in place. The organization has grown and we are reinforcing the message.”
The memo does not appear to have come as a surprise to QF staff, some of whom told Doha News that dressing in keeping with Qatari tradition and culture is expected within the organization.
The policy is believed to apply to all QF staff and contractors, and not staff at specific universities, although many individual institutions within Education City also issue advice to their employees to dress conservatively.
Weill Cornell Medical College Qatar’s website includes a page on Qatar culture, and advises its community:
“Foreign visitors are expected to dress in a style that is sensitive to the Islamic culture. Conservative clothing is recommended. Men generally wear long trousers and a shirt in public. Women’s attire in public – as opposed to hotels or private clubs – should cover the shoulders, upper arms and knees.”
Outside of QF, Qatar University issued a dress policy reminder to students some two years ago. That policy has been met with mixed reactions, with some students and staff welcoming the initiative – which ruled against tight, revealing or provocative clothing and casual wear – while others felt this impinged on their right to express their identity.
Reflect Your Respect is slated to be relaunched next month, ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
That campaign, organized by a group of individuals, will begin on June 20 with a weekend of leafleting in malls and parks, and is focused on raising awareness among expats on what is considered by many nationals to be appropriate standards of dress in public places.
As the modesty campaign relaunches, and with Ramadan approaching, some expats told Doha News that they have become more conscious of their clothing, and are trying to err on the side of caution in terms of their choice of dress.
On Twitter, meanwhile, other residents have asked their colleagues to put Qatar’s dress code in perspective:
@WeAreQatar Another way is to compare your situation to Saudi, and be happy with the Qatar dress code.
— vani saraswathi (@vanish_forever) May 25, 2014
What to wear
While there is no official code detailing appropriate dress in Qatar, the general rule-of-thumb has been that for women, shoulders and knees should be covered in public and they should avoid plunging necklines.
Sleeveless t-shirts and shorts have been considered inappropriate for men in public places.
However, many government and semi-government organizations have more conservative dress codes, and there are anecdotes of people being turned away from ministries and other government buildings due to their level of dress.
What are your thoughts?