Many hotels in Qatar said they will be serving alcohol to guests this week, in an apparent change from a ban on booze before Eid Al Adha.
At least nine five-star establishments have confirmed to customers that their restaurants will be open and selling liquor, after receiving government approval.
This is a reversal of rules that have been in place for two years that required restaurants, bars and clubs to be dry for the nine days leading up to Eid, as well as the first day of the Muslim holiday itself.
This year, Eid is expected to start on Sept. 1.
Speaking to Doha News, hotel representatives did not explain the reason for the change in policy.
But the decision to relax the rules comes as many local hotels are struggling to attract visitors due to an ongoing Gulf blockade.
While some hotels said they will continue business as normal, others said they will go dry for one day, on Aug. 31, only.
So far, the hotels that told customers they will continue selling liquor at least most days include the Four Seasons Hotel Doha, the W Doha Hotel, the InterContinental Doha The City, the Hilton Hotel and The Sheraton Grand in Dafna/West Bay, as well as the Marsa Malaz Kempinski on the Pearl-Qatar, the Grand Hyatt Hotel by Lagoona mall, the St. Regis Hotel and InterContinental Hotel near Katara.
Some hotels said their bars would be open and serving alcohol throughout, although there would be no live music or entertainment.
However, others said they were still awaiting instructions about whether their bars and clubs would be allowed to open.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s sole off-license, QDC, closed yesterday, and will re-open on Sept. 3.
The warehouse stopped selling alcohol in the run-up to Eid Al Adha for the past two years.
The days prior to Eid-Al Adha are known by Muslims as the first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah. This is the twelfth and last month of the Islamic calendar.
During this time, Muslims from around the world travel to Makkah in Saudi Arabia to undertake Hajj (pilgrimage).
Even for observant Muslims who are not performing Hajj, the first 10 days of this month are believed to be blessed days to undertake good deeds.
This is not the only time of year when Qatar hotels usually are required to go dry.
Alcohol sales are also prohibited during the month of Ramadan, until the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, and on the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, which this year falls around Dec. 1.
In recent years, Qatar hotels have been busy particularly with tourists from Saudi Arabia. They often travel with their large families for the long public holiday.
The dearth of these tourists, as well as those from the UAE and Bahrain, have had a significant impact on Qatar’s tourism and hospitality industry this summer.
In 2016, more than 40 percent of all visitors to Qatar came from other Gulf countries, according the Qatar Tourism Authority’s annual report.
The blockade will also likely hurt revenues during the upcoming Eid Al Adha. This is usually one of the busiest times of the year for visitors.
However, even before the dispute began, hoteliers in Qatar were reporting tough times.
To widen the country’s appeal as a travel destination, authorities said this month that citizens of more than 80 countries would be able to visit visa-free.
This includes nationals of Russia, China and India.