I only know three things about Qatar before I set forth on my first ever international flight. Firstly is a country that starts with the letter Q. Secondly is a country in the middle east, close to Saudi Arabia. And lastly an Arab country. The truth is I really don’t know what’s in store for me and I probably be returning home the soonest time. Oh well, that was years ago and now I just want to tell the story about my incredible expat life in Qatar.
Join me in my midst of nostalgia which prompted me to write this article. This is a collection of memories, sights, things, and random experiences that gave life to this incredible journey. Furthermore, this is a story of mixed cultures blending together in a day’s life here in the middle east. There will be AHA or funny moments, and just a caution I don’t mean to ridicule anyone or have any brush of racism here. Nothing personal, just a story I wish to impart.
By the way, this the second part of my article about Qatar. The first one was published last January after the reopening of its borders due to diplomatic blockade. So, here is the article, to find out more.
Part I : Qatar, The Reopening of Borders
Why did I move here?
Looking for better opportunities. At that time, the year 2008 was the right timing to be in the Middle East. In Qatar, it was known to be the booming period, the rise of the construction sector. According to the Oxford Business Group Report, the growth of Qatar during this year is due to the contribution by the energy sector. They are the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). With market demands, they have to expand their production capacity and bringing new gas fields. Indeed this is a lot of work thus, attracting business opportunities.
Qatar is evolving at a fast pace, some of these things may be a thing of the past. Ten years may seem a few years ago, but residing in Qatar, there are huge developments happening every year. Hence, the country is changing magnanimously.
I. A Typical Day
Anything that happens on a daily life in Qatar…
Hello, My Friend?!
Every day you are surrounded by multi-cultural people. You may be working in a company with 15 staff, and in most cases, having a minimum of five nationalities. Everywhere you go, is a mix of cultures. Hello, my friend is our way of addressing or a conversation starter to your fellow expat.
When you greet, when you need anything, or if you want to ask a question. That’s why I have two exclamation points there.
But, introducing someone of the opposite gender as “my friend” may have a a different meaning. You know what I mean!
Arabic Language 101
I wished I learned more in speaking Arabic. However, I really didn’t see the need since everyone speaks English, though you may hear their own “versions” of the language. The challenge is learning to decipher what they are trying to say. Until such time, I get used to these communication barriers. It becomes a skill! You can always ask “my friend” to explain one more time.
Importantly, these are a few of Arabic words that really come in handy every day. So here they are!
|Greeting: Peace Be Unto You||As-salaam ‘alaykum|
|Response: And Peace Be to You Too||Wa ‘alaykum salaam|
|Good Morning||Sa-bah el khayr|
|How Are you?||kayf halik|
|Fine, Praise Be God||Zayn, Al Hamdu Lillah|
“Inshallah is most of the time used at work. I requested my colleague to send the report not later than 5:00 PM. And he replied “Inshallah” / God willing. I often wonder what could happen in between work hours?”
In addition, brace yourself for more foreign words that you can learn from your colleagues!
With regards to Arabic writing, this is nearly impossible for me to learn, except for the numbers which are easily found in computer keyboards.
May I have the address please?
Looking for directions? Yes, I need an address. With street names in Arabic, how can you easily locate your destination? Here it goes.
You know the Ramada signal right? Where the Ramada hotel is (now ir is Radisson Blu). You are coming from Al Sadd Street so just go straight and after two signals, turn right. The third building on your right. Just call me if you are lost. (P.S. this is just an example.)
Do you still need an address? No matter what happens, don’t forget to get the phone number of the other party. Hello, my friend, I cannot find your office…
But now, the trouble is over with the social apps like google maps or whatsapp pin location!
It’s Tea Time!
Coffee or tea? May I offer you a Karak tea? This is a spiced tea with milk, a staple of Qatar’s. Brought by Indian and Pakistani workers in the 1950s. It has cardamon spice and some may sprinkle with cinnamon, saffron, and ginger. Tea shops are always busy with cars queuing for tea. You can drink this in the morning till night. Tea break anyone?
While cooking, you realized you ran out of tomato sauce, and onion! Maybe you will add some sodas, chips and biscuits too. Well, call for a delivery, even your grocer is just on the ground floor of your apartment. Aren’t we spoiled a bit? But of course, during peak hours delivery may take time. Anyway just dial the grocer/bakala and place your delivery. Hello, my friend… can you please deliver…
Connecting Expats and Locals
Wondering how I made friends? Before the era of social apps and a little bit fast forward to online social sites, we have QatarLiving.Com. This is a community online portal for all residents. Through this site, you can connect with various groups as per your nationality, or sports, hobbies like the photography club, and other social groups.
In my case I found a group of women who loves food, like me! The MMM Group – Monthly Monday Munch! Once a month, on a Monday we meet and dine. The group is a mix of women coming from different nations, and ethnic backgrounds. We are just happy to connect and share our stories!
And the second group is the Filipino expatriate group, we meet regularly. I remember having activities almost every weekend such as sports fest, bowling, crab fest (or seafood fest), and one of the fun moments were Halloween Costume Party and kris kringle (each week we select a description of an item as a gift, example something soft and sweet) during Christmas!
Driving around with Roundabouts
After four attempts of road tests, I finally receive my driver’s license! What’s it like driving around Qatar? Aside from having luxury cars side by side, don’t worry most of the roads have three lanes. You bet, I always stay in the slow lane. The only thing that it took me a while to overcome is the roundabout or the circular road. It’s the timing and instinct when to step on the gas to enter the lanes and be sure to safely exit! During the early years, there are more roundabouts than traffic signals. Now most of them have been removed and replaced with huge intersections.
When you get the hang of it, cruising into roundabouts seems easier and faster than waiting for the green light!
Yay its TGI-TH!
Thank God its Thursday! Because weekends in Islamic country is every Friday which is their day of prayer. Those who have 2-day weekends have Friday and Saturday. Do you ever think of waking early on a Sunday morning to go to work?! Oh we do, it’s our norm anyway.
II. Favorite places in Qatar
Corniche, At the heart of Doha
The seven-kilometer waterfront promenade at the heart of the capital city is the Corniche. Here you will enjoy a stroll, jog, relaxing and gazing at the views, people watching, picnics, and ride a dhow cruise. Furthermore, events are happening in this area such as food festivals. Frequented by locals and expats especially on weekends or at night time.
Related Article: Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Arts
To the Beach at Exit 79
Is there a good beach in Qatar? Surprisingly there is! Driving north of Qatar towards Shamal Road, on the expressway, exiting in 79. That is 44 km from the city. You will find Fuwairit beach, an off-the-beaten-path and some part is an off-road which you need a 4-wheel drive. But now the area is already flattened so can easily drive. Fine desert sand, and crystal clear waters. Though there are no sunshades, you have to bring a tent, chairs or beach mats and food. And yes you can camp overnight too!
Other beaches have facilities such as sunshades, restaurants and cafes, toilets and showers like sealine beach. This is about 45 minutes drives from Doha City.
Girls Night Out
What about nightlife especially with girls? You’ve got so many options from Monday to Sunday with ladies nights, free drinks and sometimes free entry to clubs. Almost all hotel chains are already in Qatar with pubs and bars. It is the only place you can drink liquor since buying one may require a license at Qatar Distribution Company. And you have to pay the price of buying contraband in a “legal” way. It’s quite pricey. Bars usually close at 12 MN and during weekends at 2 AM. Happy hours with half a price drinks are perfect to unwind after a long day. And please ride an UBER or taxi, NEVER drink and drive!
Shop till you drop!
Gold souqs. Looking for jewelry or even gold bars?! (Yes, i know some friends investing in gold bars!) It is easy to ask for a discount at the souq too. My friend will take care of that!
Villagio Mall. A Venice-styled supermall, with gondolas inside. Brands from American, British, and Luxury goods as well. Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo shoes, Louis Vitton, Christian Dior, Prada, and more! And by the way, it is tax-free! One more thing, electronics and other gadgets have better prices in the middle east.
Souq Waqif. Looking for something traditional from this region? Spices, pashmina, abaya fashion, shisha, handicrafts, and a lot more. This is the local marketplace!
The Pearl, A Different World
A man-made island that simply takes you to another world whilst in Qatar. This luxury-themed island is named pearl because Qatar used to be major trader of pearls in Asia before the Japanese introduced affordable pearls.
Architectural styles at the Pearl will impress you. Divided by sections, there are high-end apartments, beachfront villas, commercial spaces or towers, luxury hotels such as Kempinski and Grand Hyatt, entertainment and dining areas, and shopping areas.
Where to, with the Entertainment Book
This comes very, very handy for your social activities around Qatar. A book with vouchers for dine, stays, activities, health and wellness. Generally helps you with savings, but then again you are going out more!
You can get a freebie of dessert after an order of main course, or a free service after availing one paid service. Going out with groups or having a third wheel also entitles some freebies or discounts. Also applies to high-end restaurants and hotel reservations. I’m sure you love staycations.
III. Let’s Eat
The food culture is very diverse in Qatar. Apart from the local cuisines, you can find almost every kind of international cuisine. The Arabic cuisine alone comes from so many influences and each has its own flavor. For example, the kebab a grilled meat, it has versions in Turkey, Lebanese and Iranian cuisines.
In Qatar, you will never run out of options of what or where to eat. If you say Asian cuisines, from Korean, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Japanese, Singaporean, and more. One time we booked for Argentinian lunch and it was all meat, meat, and lots of meat. If you crave tajine, a Moroccan cuisine, no problem! Moreover, international food chains are here like Shake shack burgers, PF Changs, I-Hop, Desert Factory, and still many more to mention. If you really love to eat, be sure you have the Entertainer Book/App or maybe one of your friends!
What about Qatar’s local dishes? Of course, they are delectable too. My favorite is Machboos. A rice cooked with spices and meat such as lamb, chicken. The best way to taste Qatari food is to be invited to their homes. Or during the Ramadan period, at night in Iftar dinners, you can find this too.
Lastly, I can’t help to mention one of my favorite restaurants, the revolving sushi buffet – Sushi Yen at La Cigale Hotel. Just one of the best sushi experiences!
FAQs Living in Qatar
Several years ago during my holiday, I met a couple of tourists and they were bewildered when I said I am a resident in Qatar. I understand that not many people know about this country. This may answer some presumptions and shed some light on this part of the world.
- Is it safe living in Qatar? Yes.
- How is it living in an Arab Region? No matter where we are, it is a matter of respecting cultures, traditions and laws. With that being said, it’s gonna be OK and I chose to make the most of it.
- Is Qatar a strict Muslim country? Qatar’s rules are a bit lenient compared to its neighboring countries. Women are not required to cover their heads, but dressing decency is a must. A matter of respecting the country’s culture. As the years go by many rules have flex as they have opened the country to many visitors and expatriates.
- Are the Qataris friendly? Yes, from experience Qataris are very down to earth and very hospitable.
Looking back, I am glad that I gave myself a go settling in Qatar. For sure my life will be on a different path, but I don’t have regrets!
Living in Qatar
The realities in settling in the middle east do require adjustments and understanding the culture. I did my fair share of difficulties at the start considering that I only know three things about this country. Knowing history and culture paves the way for a better interaction among peers in a multi cultural setting. So instead of sweating the not so good experiences, it is better to start learning, come out from your shell and meet people.
My expat life has unlocked several viewpoints in my life. Now I possess a greater degree of tolerance with people. Living abroad also encouraged me to see the world more. While in Qatar, I was bitten by a travel bug! Thanks to that bug and now I have so many memories and stories to tell!
Closing this article, it was indeed an incredible journey being an expat in Qatar!
Next Chapter of My Life: Settling In Cyprus
Thanks for reading up to the end, don’t hesitate to fill in the comment section with your feedback.
Have you been to the Qatar? How was your experience?
Are you an expat too? How did it change your life?
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