Doha: A prominent Qatari woman was recently refused entry to a five-star hotel's restaurant because she was dressed in her abaya.
The Qatari woman, who is a well-known public figure, and her accompanying friend were surprised to know that new ministerial directives forced the hotel management to turn away nationals in their traditional dress, since the popular restaurant serving alcoholic drinks was recently labelled by visiting inspectors as a bar.
"While entering a favourite café for lunch with a very prominent Qatari, we were told by the facility's management that the Ministry of Tourism has issued a new policy prohibiting them from allowing entry to anyone in traditional attire because alcohol is served on the premises," said Elan Fabbri, an American resident, who accompanied the Qatari woman, in a letter to the editor of the Qatari daily, Gulf Times.
"Aside from the humiliation to my guest and embarrassment to me, this is an utterly hypocritical policy. People who wear "traditional" attire are equal beings with equal rights, yet discriminated against by this policy in violation of the Qatari Constitution. If the intent of this policy is to prohibit Qataris from consuming alcohol, anyone who wants to drink can simply don Western clothes."
Speaking to Gulf News, the general manager of the hotel, who asked not to be named, said the National Tourism Authority has lately issued two new directives reinforcing a ban already in place that prohibits Qataris in their local attire, the abaya for women and the kandoura for men, from entering pubs or bars that serve alcohol.
"The directives reinforce a ban already in place. The incident occurred because our outlet, previously considered as a pool restaurant, has now been labelled by visiting inspectors as a bar. So we cannot allow nationals in their local dress."
The reason why the ban was reinforced and interpreted in a more stringent way is unknown, as officials at the National Tourism Authority were not immediately available for comment.
Asked to comment on the measures, some Qataris shunned remarks on an issue that entangles governmental rules with religious beliefs and tradition.
A national, who asked not to be named, said it is necessary "not to offend" the feelings of the people. "Some people do not want the traditional dress, which represents our culture, to be associated with practices such as drinking alcohol that go against our religion. It is hypocritical, but we have to respect these views," he said.
A Qatari woman said, "If a Qatari wants to drink, you cannot stop him by banning his attire."