Every week I get an email or two from people thinking of moving to Doha, Should we move? What are the advantages and disadvantages? What is it like to live in?
My usual reply contains the following, It will feel like the hardest transition ever, but ironically Doha is considered an easy expat destination, in that, there are loads of expats on the same camel ride. There is a varying standard of education available in private British schools, but you must choose wisely, there is also a waiting list. The temperatures during winter are good and unbearable in summer, this is when you must go home for a 10 week respite, a break from the sunshine, swimming pools, gorgy brunches and coffee mornings in Starbucks and Shakespeare’s. The downside is it can be boring/frustrating/lonely while you try to ‘find yourself’, so make sure to plan plenty of activities to punctuate your year, from September to June. That’s my Doha.
However, a recent email requesting advice, spurred me to think differently, it was worded, what will Doha be like for each of us? Husband, Civil Engineer, Mum, Domestic Engineer, two children aged, 16 and 6. Eager to advise accurately, I thought about it,
For Husband, Civil Engineer, will leave the house at about 5.30 am and return around 7.p.m, at best he will work 6 days every second week, at worst 6 days every weeks. He will drive on a much trafficked highway away from Starbucks and Shakespeare’s Café and into the wilds of the desert to his office, a site office, which may move on any given weekend. He will deal regularly with inadequacy and egotism in equal measures and prove proficient at managing to work efficient with same. His evenings will be spent eating a fish finger sandwich and watching a boxset before passing out on sofa at 8.30. Doha is hard-nosed work destination, where you’re only as good as your last battle.
The fifteen year old will be dropped and collected from school just like the five year old. Hell is mom being home ALL the time. Social life will be a rare concert, such as Ed Sheeran, parents will be going too so, all in the car together…..again. She will dream of getting a bus to…..somewhere, Limerick, anywhere but to do something alone. She will dream of freedom of expression, a part-time job, sneaking cans to the park after dark and discos. Doha is an oppressed country with rules and restrictions for like……everything.
Between school, activities and playdates, the six year old is in heaven. Mom is home all the time so life is rosy. School has an indoor and outdoor play-area, a swimming pool, a massive gym and a list of after school activities longer than his arm. Playdates are in state of the art playgrounds, swimming pools, indoor soft play and in Doha you’re never more than 900m away from a McDonalds. For the six year old, Doha is heaven.
Then I got to thinking about everyone else, for single men from Sri Lankan, Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers, Doha is a hell hole, where you work outdoors, doing manual work in severe heat. Your accommodation is a room which you share with 8 others. You travel to work on non-air conditioned bus. You have one day off, where can go to the money exchange to send money back home and to the market to buy food with the remainder of your meagre salary. You are not allowed in shopping malls or public parks as these are for westerners and families. Doha is a first world country which specialises in exploitation of third world problems.
For Qataris, Doha is growing all the time, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Carolina Herrera are all here now and they no longer have to travel to Dubai for same. They have maids, houseboys, nannies and cleaners. The influx of western expats has improved the standard of Education, their children can now attend proper British school in Doha. The absence of a minimum wage scheme, they can have as many servants as they desire. They drive Maserati’s and Range Rovers and expats both western and eastern are everyday building the empire which is and will always be 100% Qatari. Doha is Home.