As this post goes live, I will be on a plane leaving Qatar for good probably crying a little. I have lived in Qatar for almost four years and have grown to love the land, the people and the culture. Despite it being a sometimes difficult place to live for a single person, I will miss it terribly. Here are some of the things I will miss the most about Qatar.
Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
Living in a foreign country is nothing like visiting a country on a trip. My patience was tested on a daily basis. On any given day, I would also complain about something that had irritated the American in me. However, I have learned more patience and understanding from this. Not only this, but I have learned about new things this way. I have tried new foods and traditions because of this.
I will miss my friends and coworkers. In Qatar, being an expat means that your first friends are likely to be your coworkers. We get together outside of work and celebrate holidays together. I have made some great friends here as well that are planning on meeting up with me on the road, and I can’t wait. My students are also a part of this. I work in a school with less than 500 students, so I know many of them personally. I will miss seeing them grow and graduate.
But it isn’t just people I am close with that I will miss. I will miss meeting new people from new places. Many times I go to dinner with people, and there are five or more nationalities at the table. At my going away party there were people from eight different countries! Learning about other people’s cultures while being here has been the best thing about living here.
Qatari culture is traditional and modern at the same time. They still participate in cultural traditions, such as falconry, souqs and shisha. However, they also love malls, cars and five-star restaurants. This has been the best of both worlds. I have learned about their traditions and their values. The family is huge here, and I appreciate that. Everyone will ask after your family even though they have never met them.
I haven’t just learned about Qatari culture, but all the expats I have met have shared with me their culture and traditions. I have learned about Indian festivals, Aussie footy, Thai food, and I can now understand an Irish person speaking English!
Ah, the food. Food plays a central role of social activity here. This is due in some part to the restrictions on alcohol as people don’t gather at their neighborhood bars but at their favorite brunch places or holes in the wall.
You can also try food from all over the world with ease. The world is truly represented in food in Qatar. Not only that, but people bring food from their home countries for you to try. My last week of work, my Indian coworker brought me some of the food she had made for her family the night before. Homemade Indian food is so much better than restaurant Indian food. Last night, I went to a party, and there was Turkish food, and I will miss homemade hummus!
Living in a country without much green has been a bit hard, but it has made me love the desert. I have driven all over the desert here to explore the country. I have loved off-roading in my Jeep. The desert holds secrets that would have never have revealed themselves to me if I had gotten out and explored. I have seen camels on the beach and desert flowers. The desert also gets green when it rains! Who knew!
Ramadan and Eid
Yes, I know Ramadan will continue no matter where I am, but experiencing it in a Muslim-majority country has been something I have enjoyed. By nature, I enjoy learning. Learning about the Qatari Ramadan traditions, the meanings behind things and the spirit of giving has been one of the highlights of living here. I truly believe this has made me a more accepting person.
I will miss the Eid holiday as it always signified a vacation for me. Yes, less of a meaning than Ramadan and definitely not what they celebrate during this time. Although many Muslims go on vacation during this time as well to be with family. Best of all there were two of these a year I was given vacation time around! Double the fun.
I loved my Jeep, and it got lots of use driving around the country from the desert to the beach. The fact that it was red meant people noticed me coming down the road and I hope it helped me avoid accidents. In a sea of white cars, it was easy to find in the car parking lots. I actually cried when I sold it. Now a nice Lebanese guy owns it and is taking his new dog on adventures in it.
Now that I am going to be traveling full-time, I won’t have a permanent place of my own. While the apartment had its weird quirks, I have enjoyed it. It is the largest place I have lived in by myself, and I slowly grew into being able to stand on the balcony without fear. It took awhile, but it became home.
There are probably things about Qatar that I will miss that I have failed to mention here, but something somewhere will remind me of it, and I will think of Qatar. As we say here, I love Qatar!