All You Want to Know About Life in Qatar
Contributing Author: Mackenzie Ramirez
One of the trickiest things about moving abroad can be the language barrier. When people think of the Middle East, they might think that language barrier would be a huge problem. We did a lot of research before we moved to Qatar, so we figured communication would not be a problem for us.
The native language in Qatar is Arabic (which you probably expected). What you might not know, is that there are many different dialects of Arabic. There is a dialect called Gulf Arabic, but most families speak with regional Qatari words as well. Most Arabic speakers understand each other, even if their dialect is different. students learn amore standard version of Arabic in school as well.
You may assume that only Arabic is spoken inQatar. However, about 85% of the population are expats that means many different languages are spoken in Qatar. English is spoken throughout the country. We still have not been in a situation where we could not communicate with someone. Most signs are in English and Arabic. The only sign that areArabic are some traffic signs.
Even though we are not actively studying it, we have been able to pick up on some Arabic words that we would like to share with you!
By far, our most used phrase in day to day life is a hearty "yalla!". "Yalla" essentially means"hurry up" and can be used in a wide range of situations. Someone is lagging behind while walking the Souq? Yalla! Husband taking too long to pick something on netflix? Yalla! Students wasting time getting to class? Yalla! It is a truly wonderful word.
Also popular with us is "habibi",which means "my dear". It is common to hear men refer to friends ashabibi in friendly conversation, or if you are us, in a demeaning tone (oh,hababi....)
**Did you know Arabic is read right to left? You probably did, but now you know for sure! **
Before actually moving to Qatar, one of the biggest worries we had was the food. Neither one of us are necessarily picky eaters (no tomatoes for me, add onions onto that list for MacKenzie), though we had never become well versed in Middle Eastern cuisine. We knew that Indian food would most likely be available there (butter chicken please), but even then, the question always crept into our minds “What if we aren’t used to the way it is there”, This is something that most other expats we have spoken with also went through during their first move out of their home county, and with that it seems that it would be a good topic to discuss!
All of our worries about food were completely unwarranted. Food here is as diverse as the population, and although not all of it tingles our Western taste buds, those that consider themselves food lovers will not be disappointed by Qatar’s offerings.
The first relief we found in regards to food came to our very first morning in Qatar. Having woken up early, MacKenzie and I decided to take a stroll around our new home, and within several minutes we found very familiar golden arches. We never thought we would be so happy to see a McDonalds. Finding out that here, on the other side of the planet, we could have a sausage McMuffin within walking distance was somehow very comforting. In addition to McDonalds, several other popular American fast food chains have a presence here. KFC, Subway, Chili’s, and even Shake Shack are all very easily found in Qatar’s numerous malls. However, just because these restaurants share a name with their American counterparts, the menus aren’t always a 1-1comparison. The most noticeable change on most menus is the lack of pork, as restaurants must remain Halal within the country. Instead, you’ll find beef in various forms (bacon, sausage) as a common replacement. This means your sausageMcMuffin is made of beef, as is your bacon cheese burger from Chili’s.
As I mentioned earlier, Indian is a staple cuisine here. From high end restaurants on the top floor of towers, to near single room side of the road places, it seems you are never too far from a goodIndian food spot. Butter chicken, naan, and a bowl of (insert spice here)masala are always only several minutes away. One can also find a good variety of Asian foods here, with Korean and sushi being two very popular choices.
As for what we’re enjoying on a local level, one restaurant has become a weeknight staple for us: Zaatar w Zeit. Zaatar is amazing. Zaatar is life. This chain of restaurants has a mix of Middle Eastern and Western foods, in the most perfect way. The beef bacon w/ halloumi cheese wrap will restore your weathered soul, it will nourish your tired bones, it will satisfy. Though it isn’t purely Middle Eastern, Zaatar offers really good food, at a really affordable price. Together these form the perfect easy weeknight meal, consider it the Chipotle of the gulf.
And with that, I have run out of things to say about food in Qatar. Despite a chilling lack of Mexican food, we haven’t noticed much of a difference in choices between the US and here. Keep your mind at rest, there is great food here, and you don’t even have to search hard to find it.
Qatar is a relatively small country. It’s about the size of Connecticut. Doha is the capital city, which most people live in and around. You can drive an hour north, south and west and see most of the country.
Although Qatar is a small country, it is not the most walkable. There will not be rental bikes around Doha anytime soon.This means that residents need to rely on other modes of transportation.
Most people get around by car- whether it is their car or an Uber. Most of the roads in Qatar are highways, so this is the transportation method we would recommend to anyone moving to or living inQatar. The nice thing is most companies also provide a bus for their employees to get to and from work.
We do not have a car yet. We will each need to get Qatari driver’s license before we can rent or buy a car. This means we are living the #uberlife. While this might sound expensive, Ubers are much cheaper here. To get to the center of Doha from where we live (~30 minutes), it cost sabout 40-50 Riyal. That’s about $10-15. Not too bad. We hope to get our Qatari driver’s licenses and a car eventually, but the cost of Ubers is almost the same as a car payment.
The Metro is also opening soon, inshallah (IfAllah will it). The metro will connect most of the country and will also be driverless! This will make getting around much easier.
Would you like living without a car? Let us know bel