Living now in an Islamic country means we have an entire new culture to respect. One being their laws about alcohol. When comparing to where we have lived, the ability to purchase and drink alcohol has ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.
The least restrictive country where we have lived in has been Denmark. Alcohol was available to purchase almost everywhere and anywhere. Once purchased, you can pretty much drink it wherever your heart desired, whether it be in a public park or just on the train commute. Drink samples were even given at grocery stores! This is why I think the Danes are known to be so happy, but no scientific proof yet!
In the United States, it varies from state to state. For an example, as an adult in California, I could easily walk into any grocery store and purchase wine, beer or hard liquor any time of the day. In Ohio, wine and beer were sold in grocery stores as well, but hard liquor was sold in specialty stores. Drinking in public is illegal in the U.S., unless at a sports game. Though this can also very from state to state, known as open container laws.
In Norway, only beer and cider were sold in grocery stores. Wine and hard liquor were in a specialty store. Drinking in public is technically illegal, but rarely would police intervene.
So, here we are in Qatar, where alcohol isn’t illegal but very strict laws are enforced. You are not allowed to import your own alcohol, and any alcohol which is purchased from the distribution center must be taken home immediately. However, a license is required in order to buy from the distribution center.
To obtain the license, my husband had to request for a letter from his employer which states his position, salary and benefits. One needs to earn a minimum salary of QAR 4,000 or about $1,100. With that letter in hand and with our residence permit cards, we were able to go the distribution center and apply for our liquor license. Based off of my husband’s salary, they determine how much we can spend per month on purchases. Basically an allowance! A refundable deposit of QAR 1,000 (about $270) is also required and then the license is immediately issued.
The government here in Qatar also issues licenses to certain hotel restaurants and bars. Drinking in public is considered an offence, as is being drunk in public. The restaurants that don’t have licenses have a decent mocktail menu though!
The bonus of having the liquor license in Qatar for us is the opportunity to purchase pork! Consuming pork is against the Islamic religion, so pork is sold only inside the distribution center. Whatever we spend on pork is not deducted from our alcohol allowance though! Again, one door leads to another one! Cheers!