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Qatar: Reopening of the Borders

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Welcoming 2021, with the heartwarming news in Qatar, the reopening of the borders. These are land, sea, and air space borders that were shut down in June 2017. You may be wondering why I am celebrating from afar. And what happened? In this article, I will share with you about my second home, Qatar!

What happened?

Looking back the 4th of June 2017, was just an ordinary night for most of us working ex-pats in Qatar. After a long day of work, I go home and relax, just an ordinary workday. The next day, the 5th of June, waking up with this news: Qatar’s Borders Close by KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), UAE (United Arab Emirates), Bahrain, and Egypt. Just that…and everything changed. I think most of us are asking, Is this war? Seriously, the 1990s Gulf War flash instantly.

Why cutting diplomatic ties among these countries? There were allegations regarding supporting terrorist groups and a 13-list of demands that Qatar has to comply with the neighboring countries. Though, I will not dive into that. If this ignites your curiosity, you can find more out about this.

Further Reading: Qatar Crisis 2017

Moving on, I will share with you how this situation impacts me and most of us living in Qatar during that time.

Gulf Cooperation Council

The following countries Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, all situated in the Persian Gulf are members of the GCC. This council was established in 1981 to strengthen and unify economic relations in the Middle East. However, up to the present, the goal of a single currency remains to be for further discussion.

Read more: GCC Council

Then in 2011, Egypt became a member of the council. Other Arab states – Iraq and Yemen their memberships are not approved yet. As for Jordan and Morocco, they remain as strong allies of the GCC countries. And lastly with Iran as per the GCC Summit in 2012, their interference came to an end.

The relations among Arab nations are very complex and discussing it will take a lifetime or more. Therefore, I will leave this part for your own initiative and indulgence. So when you hear about GCC countries, now you know who they are!

Qatar’s Commercial Center, West Bay

Qatar is my Second Home

Simply because having ten years of residency, this country became my focal point in my career, as a traveler, and a catalyst on understanding people from different background and society.

The State of Qatar is in Western Asia, the Middle East Region with Saudi Arabia bordering in the south, and then the waters of the Persian Gulf surrounding it. Doha is the capital city. Qatar’s growth and expansion is like a giant leap. I can compare the beginning of 2008 when I arrived and just after 5 years it became a metropolitan city with high rise buildings of all sorts of shapes!

Consequently, international business enterprises find their way and set up overseas partnerships in this country. Thus the growth of working ex-pats coming from various countries soaring the population count. Indeed, Qatar became a melting pot of cultures.

The Impact of Border Shutdown

Generally, anything related to the movement of goods and people is a direct hit of this situation. Flights to and from the KSA, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt are halted. Vessels coming from Jebel Port in UAE were grounded and no delivery trucks or vehicles can cross to and from the KSA land border.

I. In the Workplace

Without a doubt, this situation has shaken most of the industries operating in Qatar. For the first few days, everyone is in a state of disbelief and with the Ramadan season (a Holy season) coming in a few weeks, well, things might return to normal. But week after week, became months then years…

While my role was in the logistics sector, we have goods coming from the far east and from GCC Countries too; hence all delivery commitments did not happen! Even our partner freight agents are scrambling to find solutions and yes, just waiting game and all at a standstill.

The solution was to divert cargoes and all other shipments to Oman, which is a neutral state. Very costly indeed as we have to prepare another set of documentation and separate clearing and handling fees. It’s like your order undergoing double customs and handling charges. Secondly, delivery time is longer and thirdly, it affects the company’s finances. So, this is just one portion of the story and you can imagine what is happening in other companies as well!

II. To the Residents

If we don’t know what is happening, then fear envelopes us. Some were talking about an imminent war, hoarding of basic commodities starts – items on the supermarket shelves are gone, and I remember a letter circulating around to always prepare for immediate evacuation with a checklist of things on your getaway bag. What?! Is this for real?!

Ok, hold on, no need to panic now. That was just the first few weeks. The dust start to settle and it’s like, we are all facing this now. (Just like how we are doing with the pandemic.) Let’s live one day at a time.

Because so many goods cannot cross the border, especially coming from GCC countries; the items are flown directly via air cargo from other nations. Everything you purchase is becoming expensive. Like a tomato for less than $1.00 a kilo now becomes $5.00 (yeah that tomato is coming from Europe) and so on. Of course, you will find new brands on the shelves. The domino effect, all prices at least doubled, hurting the spending capacity of each resident.

III. Travel Restrictions Around GCC

Since air spaces are blocked by UAE, KSA, Bahrain, and Egypt, one cannot travel directly from/to Qatar. This also affects families, having spouses who are working in these countries and are unable to go home conveniently. Many of us are frequently visiting Dubai, UAE, and of course business people who are flying around GCC. Except for Oman and Kuwait, we can fly anytime. As for the airline carriers ceasing operation in affected routes, many staffs have to be transferred and some have been let go.

The tourism industry is facing its adverse effects. Lesser revenue for airline companies, hotels, restaurants and other similar businesses.

Just imagine, Qatar being isolated from its neighbors. Indeed it was a trying time, but as time passes, the country exhibit resilience.

Further Reading: Qatar’s Economy Thriving Despite the Blockade

Now the Borders are Open

After three and half years, the blockade is finally lifted. I am very much happy to hear about Qatar’s reopening of borders. Travel, and trade now resumes. Flights are back to several cities, with the first flight back to KSA commence last 8th of January.

One of the main challenges during the crisis is the supply of commodities which mostly are coming from importations. This became an opportunity to develop and strengthen local produce. Currently, Qatar is growing fruits and vegetables; breeding poultry, processing food products, and manufacturing various household items. Here is a list of Made In Qatar products.

Cruise Ship in Doha Port: Photo Credits to June

To all travelers, be it known that major cruise lines have an itinerary to the port of Doha during the blockade. Thousands of guests have already been catered showcasing the country’s culture, sightseeing, and must-do activities while in Qatar. Therefore, keep this in mind on your future travels. Feel free to browse this travel website for more information – Qatar International Tours.

I remain hopeful that there will be more opportunities as these nations move forward. Though there are still gray areas in many aspects of diplomatic relations that need more discussion.

At one point, in the middle of my confusion and fear at the onset of the blockade; I asked my boss about what he thinks about this situation. His response:

The Arab Nations (referring to the GCC Countries) are just like siblings. We may fight now, but we will definitely be friends again. Nothing to worry about….

Finally, Gulf states reunite.

Final Thoughts

For every crisis, there is always hope. Being an ex-pat and even now residing in a new country, there will be events bound to happen that will just keep us off guard. And it doesn’t exempt anyone living on his own ground. It may be disaster, health, economic or political issues, we should always face situations objectively. Being human our first reaction may be panic, fear or some will get upset but we need to set aside these negative emotions so as not to impact us badly.

There will always be solutions for every setback. Though the transition phase is always difficult and so many scenarios one has to deal with. In times like this, we look up to leaders, in government and private sectors on how to make things work. At the same time, every individual has to fulfill their obligations too and strive to find some balance or a reasonable status quo.

Finally, as we are still facing this health crisis and it is been going on for a year already, let’s continue to keep holding on. I know and I feel it is tiring in all aspects in our lives. But I know this will end, and I live each day full of hope.

Hello, thanks for reading this article, please feel free to leave your feedback.

For anyone residing in GCC Countries, we love to hear your thoughts and experiences too!

And of course, this is not all, I have a sequel coming soon about my ex-pat life in Qatar!

Articles about Qatar:

There’s More at Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Arts

A Modern Library – Qatar National Library

38 Comments

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This was such an informative post! It’s so good to hear that everything is beginning to be resolved and things are settling again! Stay safe x

Interesting article, great attitude towards trying times. Keep up the good work, hope to read more.

Hi Sharon! Glad you enjoyed this article. I’m happy to see the country and the people stood firm and now moving forward to a new road.

I’m sure you will enjoy a lot of things in Qatar. Now that the trains are operating, it is very convenient to move around. Wish you a wonderful trip soon!

I’m glad to know that the situation is back to normal. It’s a challenge to live in such a situation. Thank you for sharing all this information.

It was really full of uncertainty and kinda look and see what happens next. But as time goes by, we got used to it and just pick up where we left from. Slowly actions are set in motion to continue our lives. And thankfully it is over.

A massive development of technology as well, as Qatar is now growing fruits and vegetables with very warm temperatures most of the year. šŸ˜‰ There is always a way!

Of course, the economy took a downhill, especially with the airline routes affected, and not only the tourism sector but also the companies with reliance or cooperation among these countries.

this is all news to me, although I have been always been fascinated by how Qatar reclaimed the desert and made it look cool pun not intendedglad things have taken a turn to normalcy
~B

Yes, I agree with you! Now it’s a place full of places to see and things to do. Not to mention that the airport connects to many cities all over the world.

I am so glad to see that most of the world is returning to some level of normalcy after this pandemic. Thank you for sharing.

It is indeed a good sign moving forward. And I hope they maintain this relationship and slowly coming to terms with the various issues surrounding the region.

Wow! I did not know about this. But since Qatar was basically “quarantined” from travel to its neighbors, maybe some of the other countries can learn from their experience and make things better for their people. Thank you for writing about this.

I was not aware of all this diplomacy near Qatar borders before this. This was an informative post! I can only imagine how unpredictable it must be and a little scary to be living there amidst all this? I am glad to hear things are now better.

Yes, most of us were shocked and anxious, coz anything can happen! Then it was just an isolation and thankfully nothing untoward happened. But we had a lot of adjustments to make and some companies barely managing. There was a huge impact due to this crisis.

I think your boss’s response is interesting. He sounds like a very practical man! TBH, I’d forgotten about the blockade on Qatar but thank you for explaining the background to all of this. I’m glad things are easier now, especially with the whole COVID situation. Stay safe, Vinn!

Well, my boss knows well about the situations around Gulf. With pandemic, Qatar is also battling just like the rest of the world. This news surely improves the situation around the region. Thanks for dropping by! šŸ˜‰

A very informative and thoughtful post, Vinn. I’ve only flown through Qatar but have never visited. It’s interesting to heard your perspective on it as a former resident.

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