The sight that caught my attention, and probably that of others who first arrive to Qatar, is the tents that are built outside of fancy villas. It is a tradition that many locals still hang on to tightly. It might look to us, outsiders, as nothing more than a tent, but for them it’s a whole different story. These tents are infused with traditions, norms and values that are strictly related to this culture.
The tent or what they call “majlis” is a separate and valuable part of the house. In the majlis people follow tens of norms, which have been embedded in their brains and bodies without even thinking. Generally, the males in the family and their male friends gather in the majlis. The reason they meet there is because it’s strictly forbidden that other male “outsiders” walk into the house, where there is the mother, daughter or daughter-in-law, unless they are closely related to the family (son, father, or nephew).
The majlis combines both the material and non-material culture, which have their norms stitched into them as well. For the material culture, you can see many traditional items that are commonly found in almost every Qatari house like the colored red and grey couches, the big silver or gold coffee pots, and the incents. Again for each of these items there are other norms connected to them.
For instance, when they are gathered in the majlis, they pass around a pot of incents and try to allow the incents’ aroma catch onto their traditional clothes, which is the thob. Another example could be that of the coffee, where the youngest of the members in the gathering caters coffee to the people in the majlis. Now, there is a specific ritual done. The caterer should stand waiting for the person drinking the coffee to finish it. If the person is still not done, he gives back the coffee cup, and the caterer puts coffee in it. But if the person is done, he has to shake the cup and then give it back.