A New Stage in My Life: Qatar
A New Stage in My Life: Qatar
Hello from Qatar! If you are subscribed to my blog you already know, since two weeks, or so, about this trip I was planning enthusiastically. And again, if any of you wants me to keep you updated before anyone else, you can subscribe to this blog here so you can receive an email whenever I have posted something new here. In average is about one or two times a month.
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In case you don’t know much about Qatar, I can tell you briefly that Qatar is a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf just on the East side of Saudi Arabia. On the other side of the gulf is Iran. Qatar is also near the United Arab Emirates, better known for its cities Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Qatar’s capital is Doha.
This is the flag of Qatar:
And you can see Qatar in this interactive map below.
Qatar is an Arab country, although most of its population are foreigners . English is widely spoken. The weather? It’s a dessert. It’s humid and hot most of the year. January and December are the only months you can say are cold .
Qatar is a very safe country. There isn’t much of crime or violence and if whenever that happens, it’s usually in the industrial camp areas where labor force from low paid countries reside. Wars and terrorist attacks in countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the like, are very rare in Qatar . Besides, Doha, the capital, is a very modern city that wishes to rival Dubai. Qatar will also host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar is also the richest country in the world per capita .
Qatar has modern shopping malls with local and international brands including luxury products of all kinds, such as jewelry, perfumes, and clothing. More than one shopping mall has its ice-skating ring and another one is designed with Venetian architecture features where you can also have gondola tours. Their hotels are usually marketed to the affluent tourist.
Even though Qatar is a very conservative country and Islam is the religion that predominates in the social life and governmental life of the country, Qatar is not as rigid and strict as its neighbor, Saudi Arabia. Women don’t have to cover their face nor their hair if they don’t want to, for example. However, short skirts, top tanks and sleeveless clothes are not recommended. Men should not wear shorts unless it is on the beach or when practicing certain sports.
In Qatar pork is not consumed. And for those who drink, alcohol is only sold with a special permit in certain hotels and cannot be consumed other than at home or a few designated places . The resting days are Friday and Saturday (I’ll be attending Church on Fridays, which is the day Church services are scheduled here).
Ok, first the technical and boring part. You can erase my phone number in Mexico, I don’t have it anymore. But if we ever had contact through WhatsApp, I believe we would continue being connected, although you may have to update my contact because if not, you would only see my new number without my name, and depending on your settings, I may not be able to see your picture to link your contact info and when I receive a message from you, I may not be able to know who that is.
WeChat, Viber y Snapchat should be the same. I remind you that I don’t use Facebook messenger, I don’t even have it installed. I’m not very active on Facebook, I use it occasionally.
Because of the time zone,to those who live in the Western hemisphere, I may be sleeping when you send me a message and vice versa, so now I would take longer to reply those messages (unless you want me to wake you up at one or two in the morning).
What am I doing in Qatar?
Well, I’m in Qatar. I’ll be working as a fourth grade teacher for an undefined period of time in al Wakra, a small town really close to Doha, the capital.
I decided to pause some of my own projects and go back to full-time teaching for a couple of reasons that I would share another time. I had a couple of other very attractive offers in China teaching English to middle school. It was hard to choose between three packages I was presented. At the end I decided for Qatar.
The positive points are interesting: Travel again in an Arab country I hadn’t been before; I hope I’ll be able to remember and practice some Arabic, which I studied while in university. Qatar is relatively in a good location to do traveling to many countries; I have two or three countries in mind that I want to visit early in 2017. The salary, contract benefits and lifestyle are okay for my current needs (single and no children). The Cabridge program I’ll be teaching is one of the most respected and recognized in the world. Just as in many cases in China, the school pays the flight, housing, utilities and a medical card. Teaching contracts offer some of the longest vacations, which let me continue traveling 🙂 And besides other benefits I’ll share later, it isn’t easy to get a job in Qatar.
My first day in Qatar
On August 25, having a flu turning into a cough, I traveled from Mexico City to Doha with a layover in Miami. It was a trip of more than 17 hours, but 14 of those were on a Boeing 777-300ER from Qatar Airways, one of the best airlines in the world. I had enough leg room and very good meals. The flight attendants were very helpful without trying to get too much attention to themselves. The video with the safety directions was pretty clever and entertaining. They did it with the Barcelona football (soccer) team starring Messi, Suárez, Neymar, Piqué, Rakitic and Mascherano. And believe me, I don’t like football, but I enjoyed this video. You can watch it here below.
Our air route from Miami was going towards the northeast flying over the east coast of the US and Canada. We then flew over a few European countries, Turkey and Iran. At a certain point we were closer than 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Mosul, an Iraqi city controlled by a terrorist organization that is about to face a direct battle against Iraqi troops assisted by the US. Luckily they didn’t throw any rockets at us or anything like that.
I arrived in Doha just before 6 PM. From my window, everything was sand until the first road trials began to emerge. Not so much later artificial forms of land on the ocean and a few yachts appeared, then some buildings, and finally the skyline of modern buildings in Doha with a red sunset in the background.
I landed at the Hamad International Airport, which is also one of the best in the world. And it is definitely big. Inside were small trains on elevated platforms. These trains seemed to be made of more glass than metal. They would go from arrival gate to the arrival gate. Sorry I owe you the picture.
The halls were wide and on each door a bathroom and drinking fountain. Everything was clean and spacious with moving walkways and signs in English and Arabic. As I approached the migration area, I noticed a great variety of nationalities. I heard English, French, Spanish, Chinese and other languages. The outfit attire were diverse and people skin colors ranged from dark black up to light white with all different tones in between.
I wanted to take many pictures, but my weariness, cough, and luggage didn’t give me much motivation. Besides, I was told some school’s staff would be waiting for me. So I hurried up having in mind that I would eventually come back to the airport someday again.
At the passport section, I saw so many people. Despite that, everything was under control in very clean and modern facilities with several officers around. There were a few sections, one for the first class, which was almost empty, the GCC or gulf countries section, another for families and one more for all nationalities. I was asked to go with the families, even though I’m single and I was by myself. The line seemed to be the slowest one of all.
It was interesting to see all these people. I saw clothing I had time without seeing such as women’s hijab (type of scarf to cover the hair) in classic and conservative designs or other more modern, trendy and fashion-like styles. I also saw men with their impeccable white robes.
Once my turn came, I was before an immigration officer who didn’t ask much, he just got my documents and took a picture of me with a computer controlled camera on a mirror that would be leveled to the proper height. After stamping my passport, I was officially admitted in Qatar. I picked up my luggage and, oh! It was so good being able to see airport luggage carts (relatively few airports have them). Once ready, a man led me to a desk, probably to check the luggage, but they just scanned the luggage label on one of my cases and that was it.
Once I crossed a big gate, I noticed a large glass curtain and many people behind waiting for their passengers. Next to that, on an open area with no dividers, I saw a man and a woman holding a sign with my name. Both introduced themselves with a big smile. I felt bad I didn’t extend my hand to shake hands with them because I was sick, but they seemed to understand. They took me to buy a new SIM card for my phone and while the process was being done, she had disappeared coming back with a cup of orange juice for me. She was so nice! Then we separated. She had been there just to receive me and he would take me to my apartment.
A small bus from the school came to pick us up and took us through an avenue that links Doha with al Wakra. Being night, the streets were lit with lights everywhere. On one avenue, even the lamp posts were lamp themselves illuminating pink or light purple.
They asked me if I wanted dinner, but with my cough I only wanted a shower and sleep, but I yielded and said a salad. So we went to Papa Johns (which I like and didn’t know they had it here). I asked for a salad, but they told me to also get a pizza and, besides that, they added a small box with hot chicken pieces.
We then arrived at my apartment. Similarly to the ones I got in China, the apartment is just for me, but apparently the entire floor is full of teacher colleagues from my school. On the table, there were some basic items they had bought for me. So far they have been wonderful.
I tried to sleep that night, the following day I didn’t get out. I wrote some emails and updated some things on my phone. I unpacked my luggage and partially organized my room and tried to sleep as much as I could.
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha
A few days later we were taken to a quick tour in Doha. We went to the Museum of Islamic Art and some other places in the city, even a shopping mall. It was quick, we didn’t even see the exhibits in the museum, we just got into the lobby and left. Either way, I share a couple pictures with you below.
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See you next time!
If you want to keep reading and see pictures of my trips, you may be interested in checking out these past posts: