Food in Qatar
Qatar has a seemingly unlimited choice of food, many of which are excellent. If you want to try European cuisine in a refined setting, go to a hotel like the Ramada or Marriott, both of which offer excellent sushi and the option of alcoholic drinks with your meal (the only restaurants in the city that can do this are the big hotels), but at a high price. Authentic and delicious Indian and Pakistani food can be found all over the city, from family-friendly places to very basic restaurants that cater to Indian and Pakistani workers. You may get a few curious looks in the workers’ restaurants, but the management will almost always be extremely hospitable and the food is very cheap.
Middle Eastern cuisine is also everywhere and in many forms – kebabs, bread, hummus, etc. You can get it cheaply at a take-out restaurant (many of which don’t look very impressive but serve great food) or at a fancier place like the wonderful Layali (near Chili’s in the “Cholesterol Corner” neighbourhood), which serves gourmet Lebanese dishes and hookahs with flavoured tobacco. Refined Persian cuisine is available at reasonable prices at Ras Al-Nasa`a restaurant on the Corniche (don’t miss the cathedral-like lounges).
Don’t be afraid to venture into the souks in search of a meal; it will be a unique experience in an authentic setting, and although some of the places you’ll see may look run-down, it’s just the area in general, and the food is likely to be pretty good. Note that many of the restaurants in the souks (as well as the shops) close in the afternoon. If you’re in a bad mood, you can try a Middle Eastern McArabia McDonald’s sandwich, which is only available in this area.
Drinks in Qatar
There is a liquor shop, the Qatar Distribution Centre, in Doha. To shop there, you need a licence, which you can only get with written permission from your employer. You can only get a licence once you have obtained your residence permit and you must get a letter from your employer confirming your salary, in addition to paying a deposit of QR 1000. The selection is good and similar to that of a large supermarket in the West. Prices are reasonable but not cheap. Alcoholic drinks are available in the restaurants and bars of the larger hotels, but they are expensive. Beware, driving under the influence and drunkenness in public are punishable by heavy fines, up to and including expulsion, so be responsible. As for soft drinks, be sure to visit some restaurants and juice bars in India and the Middle East. They make delicious and exotic juice combinations that really hit the spot.
It is forbidden to bring alcohol into the country as a tourist; at Doha airport, customs screen bags and confiscate all bottles of alcoholic beverages. They issue a receipt that is valid for a fortnight to retrieve the alcohol when leaving the country.