Cohabitation laws in Qatar cause confusion for hotel guests

marriage

Jan Smith / Flickr

In Qatar, men outnumber women 3:1, and the population is comprised of people hailing from many different religions, cultures and classes. Meanwhile, the country is governed by conservative Islamic principles. This week, we are exploring how men and women interact with each other in this unique environment in a four-part series, titled “Gender Imbalance.”

Inconsistent rules on whether couples staying at Doha’s hotels are required to produce proof of marriage have apparently been causing embarrassment and inconvenience for some potential guests here.

In Qatar, it is illegal for unmarried men and women to live together or share a hotel room because of the Islamic prohibition of sex outside of marriage. But inquiries at a cross section of Doha’s hotels suggest that this law is unevenly applied.

Of the 10 establishments contacted by Doha News, which include a mix of three, four and five-star hotels, only three – Liberty Suites, Ezdan Hotel and Suites and Century Hotel – said they required proof of marriage for guests of all nationalities.

Staff at the remaining seven – the W Doha, the Four Seasons, The Torch, K108, the Radisson Blu, the Kempinski and the Kingsgate Hotel –  said that they only ask Qataris to prove that they are married before allowing them to share a room with a member of the opposite gender.

When it comes to enforcement, there appears to be a correlation with price and star rating. None of the five-star hotels contacted required proof of marriage from non-Qatari guests, whereas the three that did all had-lower star ratings.

No proof

Inconsistent enforcement recently flummoxed June (not her real name), an American woman who was not permitted to enter her husband’s home in Doha. The woman apparently flew to Doha from the US to visit him at Ezdan Hotel and Suites, unaware that she needed to bring her marriage certificate with her.

In an email to Doha News, she describes the situation, which she said made her feel “disrespected” and “like a prostitute.”

“I got (to Ezdan) after a long flight from New York, and they rejected me at the door. They called their night security manager, and he rudely told me that unless I am family I cannot proceed. I told him my husband and I do not share the same last name because he is Muslim and I am Christian. Nor do we commonly carry around a marriage certificate.”

June called her husband, who was driving home from work. She waited for him outside the hotel, watched by Ezdan security. She said that she met another woman outside who had also been turned away at the door:

“I begin walking around the towers to avoid feeling like a prostitute while waiting. I found a woman also standing on the side of the road. She said she was trying to visit a co-worker of hers to complete a task for work the next day, laptop in hand. She said her co-worker was also unaware of a no-female rule in the hotel.”

June’s husband arrived, picked her up and tried to drive through the parking lot to enter the building, but was also stopped by security and asked to prove his married status. The couple were forced to seek alternative accommodation in the city, at their own cost.

When asked to clarify their policy, an Ezdan spokesman told Doha News that only Qataris and “other Arabs” are required to produce a marriage certificate at the hotel. All other nationalities can simply register their guest on the hotel’s system to gain access, they said.

However, an employee at the hotel’s reception desk said that although the hotel had “stricter rules for Arab guests,” it was advisable for guests of all nationalities to bring their marriage certificate with them if they wished to share a room with a member of the opposite sex.

June said cohabitation policies should be made clear from the beginning:

“In a hotel that has a mixed gym, mixed pool facilities, why are female visitors not allowed? It is nowhere written or told at the hotel. I understand respecting the Islamic rules but the rude treatment and the harassment is too far.”

Ezdan Hotel and Suites has said that its head of security would contact Doha News to explain the hotel’s full policy. We will update the story with any new information when we receive it.

Have you been affected by cohabitation rules? Thoughts?

Please read our Comments Policy before joining the discussion. By commenting, you agree to abide by it.

Some comments may not be automatically published. This is not action taken by us, but instead, depending on whether or not you have verified your email address, or if your post triggers automatic flags.