- Nia Alexander Campbell
No Beer, No Bacon
How to legally get alcohol and pork
The assertion that you should not try to sneak it in
How I felt about the lack of booze and pork products
At least you’ve got options when it comes to what flavor of non-alcoholic beer you want to buy at the mini mart.
Alcohol and pork – it’s illegal
The consumption of alcohol and pork in Islam is haraam, which means it’s a big no-no. Having that Qatar is a Muslim country, it makes perfect sense that casual possession of pork bits and booze is generally illegal. I say “generally” because non-Muslims can get these items in Doha at select locations or with the right paperwork.
There are two ways to get bacon & beer:
My birthday mimosa at Belgian Cafe Doha
The Qatar Distribution Center (QDC) and most clubs, bars, & hotels.
Until 2011, pork was 100% illegal—no ifs, ands, or buts—but now people can buy both pork and alcohol at the QDC if you have a liquor permit, which any expatriate making over a certain amount of money can get from their employer. Granted, there’s a monthly limit on how much you can purchase (based on income), and granted, it’s probably going to be more expensive than what you may be used to buying in the U.S., but it’s 100% legal.
Otherwise, the only place you could hit up for a haraam-inspired evening is a bar or club, usually housed within or near hotels. To my knowledge, none of them are licensed to serve pork, and the alcohol on the menu is more expensive than what you may be expecting, but—again—totally legal.
No, don’t try to smuggle it in or secretly sip it
When it comes to alcohol, even if you legally attained it, you should drink it privately (either in your own home or in a bar). I'm not sure if it's illegal illegal or just terribly offensive, but drinking alcohol or being drunk in public is a big no no.
When it comes to the airport, it's is like no man’s land; they sell alcohol and it’s okay to be in possession of alcohol if you are just transferring flights (pork I’m not too sure about). If you are entering the country for a stay, though, you’ve got to leave your illegal goodies at the airport, no exceptions.
Let me tell you a brief story:
While in Doha I took a trip to Greece. There I bought some ouzo—Greece’s national liquor—to send home to my family, forgetting that I wouldn’t be able to bring it to Doha in order to mail it out. I asked the chaperone if Qatar was really strict about the whole “no alcohol” thing? What if the alcohol was triple sealed? What if it was in a miniature bottle? What if it was simply an accessory to two souvenir shot glasses? What if I was going to mail it out of the country immediately? Would TSA really not it slide?
Um, no, they would not have let it slide.
No ifs, ands, buts, maybes, pretty, pretty pleases, or “reasonable” explanations will allow you to bring alcohol into the country.
The last thing I needed as an exchange student was a stamp on my government record, or detainment at the airport, or jail time . . . or flogging or deportation. Yeah, flogging is still legally a thing in Qatar and is typically used for illegal alcohol consumption or drunk driving (as well as illicit sexual activity). And deportation? Yeah that can happen too if you get caught drinking booze.
Oh yeah, so what did I do with the ouzo I bought? I gave it to one of the students on the trip who was going back to America. She said she’d mail it for me, but she never did… pretty sure she drank it.
So, how did I feel about the lack of pork rinds and champagne?
Mood's pineapple flavored non-alcoholic malt drink. Was it good? I mean, if you like mildly bubbly juice you'll probably like this too.
Well, as of 2018 I had been a pescatarian—a vegetarian who still eats seafood—for four years, so the lack of pork didn’t phase me. I also found comfort in the fact I didn't run the risk of smelling chitterlings cooking on anyone's stove. Ah, but you know what I still was able to find on store shelves? Gummy candy. You know, stuff with gelatin in it, like gummy bears. Now, the gelatin in those products could have been derived from cows as opposed to pigs, making them totally halal, but here's the thing: I'm not a huge fan of gummy candy. I never picked up a bag, so I can't tell you the ingredients.
And alcohol? Well, I didn’t turn 21 until I was already in Doha, so I shouldn’t have had an opinion on alcohol until then, but that wasn’t the case. I’d had access to alcohol for many years prior to my legal status, and despite the illegality of it all, it allowed me to form my opinions early. This meant that by age 21 I could say with certainty that I hated every last beer, whiskey, eggnog, Jell-O shot, cider, wine, tequila, hard lemonade, and champagne I had ever had the displeasure of tasting.
That said, the lack of alcohol didn’t phase me either.
I did try a mimosa while at a bar in Doha, though. In fact, I tried it twice—the first time I took two sips then gave it to my friend, and the second time it made me sick (probably because my friend mixed the remainder of her drink with mine, thinking we had the same thing).
That in mind, I’m also not a huge fan of what alcohol does to people. Not only can it make you sick if you don’t drink the right thing, the right amount, or prepare in the right way, but loud drunks, angry drunks, pushy drunks, and sloppy drunks are no fun to be around . . . I’ve experienced them firsthand. Then the dumb decisions people make like driving buzzed (or, better yet, driving buzzed without telling the passengers you’ve been drinking) is objectively un-fun and genuinely life-threatening.
I know alcohol can be fun—I see the merit in it—but, hey, it’s not my thing.
There's also the tax
In 2019, a full year after I arrived country, Qatar introduced what is casually known as the "sin tax". It essentially hiked up the price on things like pork, soda, energy drinks, tobacco, and alcohol, things deemed as unhealthy (from a medical standpoint and/or an Islamic one). The price of alcohol more than doubled, meaning a 6-pack of beer could cost around $25 (and a 12-pack could linger around $80).
I recommend Googling this, you guys. The internet has plenty to say about it.