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Submitted by an expat woman living in Doha, Qatar

City: Doha
Country: Qatar
Submitter's Name: Robin
Nationality: American
Arrival Date: January 2007
Date Submitted: February 21, 2009
Expand/ContractCity Description
Qatar is a peninsula that borders Qatar to the south but extends mostly into the Persian Gulf, or as referred to by many, the Arabian Gulf.  When you read about this small nation you will find a country that is extremely wealthy and whose population has gone from twenty-something thousand in the early 1900's to over 1.5 million in 2008.  Qatar is an oil-rich country, which explains why most of the population is just like me: an expat.

The main city, Doha, is located along a Corniche, which is very pretty.  You can usually find some type of activities in the area and it is very popular for walkers, joggers or Qatari family picnics.  Once you leave the city of Doha, the green disappears and it is SAND followed by more SAND.
Expand/ContractPros and Cons
The climate is what I consider severe between May and October.  There is no misunderstanding once summer sets in - it rules any type of outdoor activities.  I would say the temperature averages between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit.  Also when the wind shifts and carries the moisture in off the gulf, it is almost unbearable to be outside. There is also the occasional sandstorm.  On a positive note, between October and May there are only a few days of rain.  Days are usually sunny and mild and very enjoyable.

I will never claim to be an expert on World Government but the country is currently ruled by an Emir.  This Emir is Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and is a gentleman that has the respect of all who live in Qatar.  I was watching CNN a while back and saw a story title that featured the Emir and New Orleans.  Certainly when you mention the Middle East most would not imagine any association with New Orleans, well, I did not.  After watching the story I was amazed to learn that after Katrina, the Emir was so touched by the devastation, he personally went to New Orleans and gave the city a whopping US$100 million check.  Yes, there are a lot of oil-rich countries in this world but what is not publicized nearly as much, are those oil-rich countries that step up, and offer financial support simply due to personal kindness.

Qatar also has a very low crime rate.  Qatar does not appear to spend days, weeks or months with cases tied up in the Judicial System.  If you commit a crime you are usually immediately deported or you just go to jail.  If you plan on relocating to this country, plan on abiding by their laws.

The most dangerous part of living in Qatar is the driving.  It is the most aggressive, fast and unyielding driving I have ever experienced.  I believe the number one cause of death in Qatar is from car accidents.  The best advice I could give someone new to driving here is swallowing your pride, move over and let them pass.  Usually it is a Land Cruiser or Range Rover wanting to pass.  Some locals, and others, believe they literally own the road.

I think Qatar has to be an award-winning country when it comes to light flashing and horn honking. Now I am able to drown out the horns since I like loud music but cannot get past the lights.  I think the local vehicles are equipped with 10 million candlepower headlights, used simply for intimidation.

Also, they have roundabouts in lieu of traffic signals, which make the chaos even worse.  Qatar is continuously working to improve the system but the population has well surpassed a sufficient highway system.  My understanding though, compared to just a few short years ago, is that it has made substantial and amazing improvements.

If you thrive on a wild night life or live to be part of a fast-paced social scene, Qatar is not for you.  There is no alcohol being served anywhere other than hotels.  But the good news is you can eventually purchase a liquor permit and consume beverages at your home.  One word of caution in regards to drinking: there is zero tolerance. Drink, drive and get caught = get deported. It is that simple. 

Out of respect, it is best to dress modestly in public: shorts below the knees and nothing sleeveless. The local women wear the black Abaya, which is an outer garment that covers head to toe and includes the face.  At first it is very disturbing.  My way of thinking is it is all derived from women being oppressed in this area of the world.  Actually, to most local Qatari women I think it is a tradition they take great pride in.  Besides, most have designer clothing underneath.  On those really bad hair days I wish it was an option for me.

Here are a couple of interesting 'best not to do' things in Qatar.  Do not display anything beyond holding hands in public; even kissing has landed people in jail.  Do not give anyone a middle finger for any reason.  This is one of the most offensive things a person can do and will probably land you in jail right before they deport you.  If you are Gay, please research everything regarding the subject of how to best live your life in an Islamic country.
Expand/ContractImmigration / Visas / Work Permits
Of course there are several things required if you want to be a resident and hold a work visa.  There are government agencies in Qatar that will assist you with those questions and usually your employer will guide you through the process.
Flats and Villas are expensive, in my book.  It is such a thriving country that housing is not cheap.  They are constantly building new housing compounds.
Expand/ContractHousehold Help
Labor is cheap.  You can find people to do so many things you might not be able to afford in other parts of the world.  A lot of people have a live-in nanny/housekeeper.  Some have just a live-in housekeeper.  A lot of people have personal drivers.  Honestly, you have a lot of options to make the ritual of everyday life easier here in the Middle East.  I have been thinking about hiring someone to live in and take care of my English bulldog, Kopper.  She has not been formally diagnosed but I believe she suffers from separation anxiety, which is evident by the amount of damage she produces in a daytime!
I recommend you use Skype or Vonage. For phone and internet there is only one local provider.
Expand/ContractLocal Language
Expand/ContractUtilities for the Home
My company pays these bills so I am not sure. I do not drink the water mostly because it is stored outside your home in a holding tank.  I purchase drinking water.
Expand/ContractLocal Employment
The area is definitely growing and I believe if you want to work here in the desert you can with very few problems.
Expand/ContractMoney and Banks
The currency used is Riyals.  3.65 Riyals currently equals 1 US Dollar.  The expansion of the city and new construction in the entire country is amazing.  They do have a stock market, and since there is such impressive growth in every direction, looking into investing may not be a bad idea.
I am holding judgment on healthcare.  I can definitely say it is not like what is available in the US, but so far I have been able to locate a doctor to handle what issues I have had.  I think if I had a serious medical problem, I would most likely return home for treatment.  When you arrive you are tested for Aids and given a chest x-ray.  If you have Aids, you are deported.
There are several universities.  I was amazed to find out there is a Texas A&M University Qatar branch here, among many others.  Being from Texas, I have to say I did not have a clue we had branched out to the Middle East.  Now for younger children, I can just tell you that everyone I know here seems happy with the education their children are receiving.
Buses, Taxi and personal vehicles.
Expand/ContractShopping & Beauty Care

Some people enjoy spending time in what is called the Souks.  It is several shops that offer just about anything you can imagine but most are located outdoors. There is a lot of familiar fast food and larger sit-down restaurants in Qatar. Be aware though, not everything tastes exactly like you remember at the same restaurant back home.

Expand/ContractSports and Entertainment
There are some very nice malls, movie theaters, a zoo, a bowling alley and usually a BBQ or card game going at a fellow expat's home.  You will most likely spend your off time with fellow expats and not intermingling with the nationals.
Not a popular place for pets.  I have a dog but I keep her locked up and I am in a gated compound.  You cannot just walk a dog in public areas.
Expand/ContractUseful Resources
No information supplied.
There are Mosques everywhere and Friday is considered their Holy Day.  That being said, the work week is usually Sunday through Thursday. They have a publicly-announced prayer session in Arabic, five times per day. If you are not Muslim, they also have a very large Catholic church and some other non-denominational churches you can attend. 

Since Qatar is a Muslim country they do observe Ramadan (a month of fasting) which affects the opening and closing of local restaurants and stores.  It is disrespectful to eat or drink in front of Muslims during the day while they are fasting.  It really is not that big of sacrifice one month out of the year for us expats.

Here is a big plus for most; there are no taxes in Qatar. I pay Federal Income Tax on part of what I make but it is because I work for a US-based company.  No fuel, property or sales tax of any kind, woo-hoo!  Now, housing is very high and since most foods are imported that is not cheap either.  Gas is definitely a bargain and it comes with guys that wash your windshield while they pump your gas.  How many of you remember full service gas stations?

See too:
Our Expat Women Living in Qatar page

City Experience - Doha, Qatar - September 01, 2007

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