What is a Majlis?

You’ll have seen them dotted across town as you pass through Qatar’s  neighbourhoods The majlis is an integral part of Qatari culture, dating back to the Bedouin civilization.

What is the Majlis?

The word Majlis originates from the Arabic word ‘jalasa’, meaning “to sit – Sitting”. Therefore, Majlis means a place of seating, where the leader of the tribe gathers with male family members to discuss serious matters such as marriages, travelling, financial status, political situations and future challenges.

Not only that, Men can gather in the Majlis for entertainment purposes too. Many celebrate by inviting people for feasts, usually to welcome a new baby, hosting guests or celebrating an achievement.

Gahwa (Arabic coffee) is served to everyone with dates followed by tea.

Majlis Etiquette

There are several things you have to remember when you are invited to a majlis:

  • Take off your shoes before you enter.
  • You have to greet everyone one by one starting from the right side of the Majlis. If there is an elder, you would greet them first.
  • The majlis furniture might me modern or traditional floor seating. In the traditional majlis, you have to remember to not extend your feet while there is someone sitting in front of you.
  • When you’re served Gahwa, don’t place the cup on the table or floor before you take a sip. Also, shake the cup before you return it as a sign that you’ve had enough.
  • Bringing children below the age of six isn’t advised – Think of the Majlis as a council, not a place for the little ones.

Majlis History

In Bedouin society, the Majlis takes the majority of the tent space. Bedouin women are responsible for making the tent. They weave everything by hand using camel and goat hair. The colour of the tent is a direct representation of the family’s wealth – the more white the tent is, the richer the family is.

Bedouin majlis have been a symbol of hospitality in the harsh terrain of the Arabic deserts for centuries. The Bedouin people believed that every traveller should be given shelter and protection from the relentless elements for at least three days.

The Majlis is distinctly decorated with the Sadu traditional pattern.

Modern Majlis

  • You can typically find ‘modern’ Majlis within buildings with air condition. When the weather is cooler, many Qataris will set up Majlis tents in the desert.
  • The female Majlis is separated from one for men. The male Majlis is typically attached in front of the house, while the women’s Majlis is found by going through a side gate of the house (to avoid men seeing).
  • The younger generation considers the Majlis as a place of gathering, relaxing, catching up with friends, watching TV and playing cards.

The Majlis highlights Qatari culture and hospitality, serving as a place for comfortable social gatherings. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit a majlis, keep up with our social media for our upcoming cultural sessions.

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