Which Doha are you in?

IMG_3858.JPGEvery 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.


12 thoughts on “Which Doha are you in?

  1. Great post!
    I also get a lot of enquiries from people thinking of moving to Dubai. I get so annoyed, though, that some people are so rude! Recently, a woman sent me a load of questions – things like ‘Do you have to cover?’ ‘Can you practice christianity?’. I mean seriously. Surely she could just type Dubai into Google and find out very basic things like this (and she was a teacher!)..Anyway, I always try really hard to provide a thoughtful response (as some of the people are super nice and even end up becoming friends), but this particularly person didn’t even reply to say thank you! I mean do I look like a relocation service?

  2. Truer words were never spoken … all Middle Eastern countries are a melting pot … all are different and ‘same same’ in their own way. I have lived in Qatar (Doha), Bahrain, Dubai and now Kuwait … there are adventures to be had and sights to behold in each

  3. Great article as always, thought provoking to those of us who have been here for a few years and have taken for granted the comfort of working/living in relative luxury. Still, going home for the summer has become an absolute must for survival, thank God for the salary that allows for it. We are so lucky! Thanks again for the great posts.

  4. I am an Irish Architect & Project Director living in Riyadh with my Canadian Education Director wife 5 years now.
    I always love reading your blog as it brings back a Wee bit of Irish banter to me. I miss the rain and fresh air and the craic.
    My wife was a Director in Doha for 7 years up to 2010 and from friends there now and occasional visits to Doha, I can say that it is a walk in the park compared to Saudi Arabia.
    But as an architect, the biggest & best building project opportunities exist for me in “The Saudi Sand Box”. As a people, Saudi’s are generally easier to work with than their Qatari cousins. They have less pampered expectations and the younger generation and graduates know that have to study and work hard to achieve.
    Through connections, I find that Dubai & Doha are becoming a very similar deal for western expats. Cost of living is relatively high and salaries lower than Saudi but the living conditions in KSA are more harsh, less family friendly and the social and human rights issues are more significant particularly for women. Change is happening now with Vision 2030 but it is very much a trade-off between career and job advancement, work opportunities and a greater ability to save money to pay off debts, mortgage or to facilitate additional property investment and retirement plans.
    No where in the Middle East is a bowl of cherries but for a soft landing for families, I would recommend Doha or more expensive Dubai.

  5. One of your best posts Denise. A lot of thought went in to this truly accurate description of life in the Middle East in general. I wonder did the enquirer stay put or go for it?

  6. Hi such a great post, so glad come across the site. Have a potential role offered to me and now need to way up moving myself and family including 3 young children to Doha. The main reason to go over apart from the role, is to try and save some money, but I believe cost of living is very high, and would like to ask your views on this? As no point moving over if can’t save the money each month 

    Could you tell me , location wise would be best for a young family to live, close to schools for children who are ( 6, 4 and 10 months) , and rough cost of living for rent in that area? I will be getting roughly QA 45,000 a month salary and education allowance of QA 30,000 year for each child, ideally want to be able to save minimum of QA 20,000 a month, do you think this would be possible once you factor in cost of living?

    Sorry if these questions have been asked before

    Kind Regards

    • Marcus,
      There has been a marked slow-down In the mega Public Works projects in Doga and in Saudi where my wife & I live. A good example is the good availability of International School places that were previously very difficult to come by. Many expats have been reported in the press to have recently left Doha & Dubai due to slow-down in work for expat companies and due to high cost of living in Dubai in particular (Doha is following suit).
      Saudi is by far the best place for Architect /Engineering projects and affords the best opportunity to save in the Middle East. By comparison Doha (where my wife lived for 7 years) is a more family friendly existence ….. but more expensive to live of course. It is becoming more difficult to live the luxury expat life and to save the tax free money as the oil/gas price falls hit the local economy hard and goods & services rise in price as a result ( particularly property rent).

      In my opinion, Doha is the most family friendly place in the entire Middle East apart from maybe Muscat ( Fubai is full of excess in everything and prices are sky high).
      You will have to balance property rent & car lease costs with income levels and factor in your savings plans accordingly.
      Good luck and enjoy your experience in Doha …. they say that once you have passed 3 years you will stay a lifetime !!

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