Doha: Qatar's residents and visitors said here on Sunday they were surprised to discover that belly dancing has been banned at hotels across the country.

Hotel managers confirmed that guidelines regarding that was issued by the Qatar Tourism Authority a few months ago.

Residents say they came to know about the ban when they realised that belly dancers had been replaced by singers and musicians.

"Hotels say belly dancing has been banned. It is a pity, Qatar already offered very little entertainment for visitors and I used to take my guests to such shows to get a flavour of the Middle Eastern culture," a German resident told Gulf News.

Martin Van Kan, the general manager of the Intercontinental Hotel in Doha, said the guideline was issued few months ago.

"We ignore the reason for the guideline. I believe the recommendation has to do with the fact that belly dancing is an art entrenched in the Arab cultural and historic heritage and, maybe, presenting it in a restaurant where food and alcohol are served gives it a negative connotation," he said.

All hotels confirmed they had stopped belly dance performances.

Officials at the Qatar Tourism Authority were not available for comment.

However, the authority is not the only source of such guidelines, but often forwards to hotels directives issued by ministries and higher authorities.

Residents have commented the decision in different ways.

"I learnt some conservative people complained about the dancers being too provocative and this is why it was banned," said a Qatar-born Lebanese resident, who asked no to be named.

A Qatari resident welcomed the ban.

"I attended a belly dancing show and I was disappointed. The dancer was non-Arab and extremely vulgar. The show was neither artistic nor amusing. Belly dancing is an art and should not be presented in such a way."

However, the ban has not reached the desert boundaries. Tour agents organise belly dance shows for private parties in the desert, if they manage to find a dancer.