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Life of an expat in Qatar

  • © Zarina Rajah
Interview
Published 4 months ago

Zarina is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, although has she also lived in Mozambique and Portugal for quite a few years. Currently, Zarina lives in Qatar, and she tells Expat.com about her expat life in the Middle-east.

Hi Zarina, please introduce yourself. Where are you from and what were you doing before you arrived?

I am originally from South Africa, and I am a mother of 3 children. I moved to Qatar 8 years ago as a marketing specialist. I had my own consultancy company in Johannesburg, however, an opportunity arose and the time seemed right, so I decided to move to Qatar, a country I was familiar with due to previous business engagements.

What is your favourite thing about Qatar, and what is your least favourite thing?

I love the culture, the people, the lifestyle, the food, and the calm amidst the construction chaos, if that makes any sense. What I love least is the bureaucracy, like anywhere else.

What has surprised you the most about Qatar?

The rapid growth and transformation of its capital, Doha, over a short time-span.

Doha
© Zarina Rajah

How is today’s expat job market in Qatar?

At this point in time, it is rather challenging especially after the recent blockade by neighbouring countries.

What are the biggest holidays in Qatar?

The Islamic holidays of Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr last approximately a week each. It therefore allows working expats to take a quick trip home or visit nearby countries without having to use up their annual leave.

What is some essential etiquette in Qatar?

Dress code, asking permission before taking photos of women and children, no shaking hands with local women.

Qatar women
© Zarina Rajah

How do you find the lifestyle in Qatar?

I love the lifestyle. The working hours, usually 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., allows for work-life balance as there is enough daylight hours after office to still enjoy the outdoors, especially during the winter months.

How is the transportation system in Qatar? How do you move around?

There is public transportation system in the form of buses, taxis, Uber and its equivalent, Careem. Cars are relatively inexpensive and it is not uncommon for expat-working couples to have their own individual car.

How is everyday life for you in Qatar?

During the work week, my days are spent at the office while weekends are spent meeting up with friends, grocery shopping, exploring Qatar, or simply relaxing at home.

Do you feel that you have adapted to your new life?

Absolutely.

What do you do in your free time?

As I love photography, I try to practice a bit. However, during winter, there are more events happening, so much to see and do and explore.

Are there activities for people who enjoy nightlife?

Most hotels have lounges and nightclubs.

What new habits have you developed in Qatar?

Drinking karak (local milk tea) and eating Legaimat (a sweet fried dumpling) and Kubz Rgag (a pancake drizzled with honey) has become a regular ritual.

Tea in Qatar
© Zarina Rajah

And what old habits have you quit in Qatar?

Getting overly agitated.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Qatar? For instance, how much does a bus ticket, a beer, and a loaf of bread cost?

Cost of living is relative and a matter of choice. One can get simple loaf of bread which costs about QAR5 ($1.40) or choose a gourmet loaf for QAR20 ($5.50). Expats need a license to purchase beer for home consumption but it is readily available. Essential foodstuff are price-controlled especially during the holy month of Ramadan.

What is something that you would like to do in Qatar but haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

Scuba diving and parachuting.

Share your most memorable experience in Qatar.

It would not be fair to single out one particular moment, as I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to meet so many locals, learning and experiencing their culture first-hand.

Qatar culture
© Zarina Rajah

If you could do the move to Qatar all over, what would you do differently?

Having all my papers for processing my Resident Permit in good order and insisting on a multi-exit permit from my sponsor.

What do you think of the local cuisine? What are your favourite dishes?

I totally enjoy Qatari cuisine, from Majboos to Margooka to their version of Biryani, balalit being my favourite part of the traditional breakfast.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

My children and my extended family, the blue skies, a heavy downpour, and the greenery.

Have you had a moment where you almost felt like leaving Qatar? How did you overcome that? What kept you there?

Yes, when I lost my sister and I was unable to attend her funeral due to my documents being “under process” in the immigration system. I was only able to travel a week after her funeral, however I had to learn to be practical as my children are still dependent on me.

Can you give some useful tips that soon-to-be expatriates in Qatar might benefit from.

Read your terms and conditions of employment very carefully, join your local community forums and ask as many questions as you can, form a support group.

Qatar
© Zarina Rajah

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them to Qatar, what would they be?

Definitely not the big furniture, but perhaps your favourite personal items to incorporate into your personal space.

What are your plans for the future?

I just take one day at a time and adjust accordingly.

What is one thing that you will take with you from Qatar?

New friendships and lessons learned.

 

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Thank you!

The Expat.com Editorial Team