Before the FIFA World Cup, few people knew anything about Qatar. It wasn’t a country that starts wars or is known for very much, but that’s changed now. It’s an Arab country in the Gulf states in the Middle East. It is very wealthy because of the abundance of oil and gas, and many teachers are becoming familiar with the excellent lifestyle and work opportunities it offers.
I’m going to run down what it’s like to live in Qatar, what it offers and the drawbacks.
The State of Qatar
The country is a small country bordering the giant Saudi Arabia. It is mostly desert, and the main city is Doha. It’s an absolute monarchy and a hereditary monarchy (it has a King, and he makes all the rules). Another thing you’ll notice is it’s spotlessly clean, and it’s family orientated.
It takes about 7 hours to fly direct from the UK. Qatar Airways are excellent, and many other airlines will get you there.
People often live in compounds which are gated communities where expats live. There are usually no Arabs living there. A good compound is Al Rayyan Village, and check out The Pearl apartment blocks.
Due to the heat, virtually all shopping is done inside a mall. There are many all over the city. The best ones are Festival City, Mall of Qatar and Villaggio.
There are many fabulous restaurants with every cuisine in the world.
A lovely restaurant to check out in Doha is Nobu.
A nice French restaurant chain often found in malls is Pauls.
The malls have food courts, and they have the usual fast food restaurants and takeaways – McDonald’s, KFC etc., plus healthy options.
Food & Drink
Pork: it’s forbidden to eat any form of pork in Islamic law. It’s possible for expats to buy it, but it’s heavily taxed.
Alcohol – it’s possible to legitimately buy alcohol from an official seller in Doha, and it’s expensive. There are bars in hotels, but alcohol is never sold in the malls or anywhere outside the official seller.
For inexpensive food shopping, visit Lulu or Carrefour. Expect to see most of the same kinds of foods you see at home, and many supermarkets have a ‘World Food’ section where you’ll find some of those familiar brands you’re looking for.
Official taxis are available to pick up anywhere.
There is now the Metro, an excellent underground train network in Doha.
The road network is also excellent.
Possibly the best school is Doha College, an excellent school with high standards accepting primary and secondary-aged children. Another is Doha English Speaking School.
The official religion is Islam. Other religions can be practised privately but never publicly.
Arabic is the official language but English is widely spoken. You will learn the local greeting very quickly ‘As salamu alaykum’ meaning ‘Peace be upon you’. You don’t need Arabic to live there as most of the service providers such as workers in shops and restaurants are from the Philippines and other countries, they all speak English.
Stuff to do
There is a running track at Aspire Park by Villaggio mall.
Katara Cultural Village is a lovely place to visit.
There are walking trails in Al Bidda Park.
Visit Souq Waqif for a cultural shopping experience which is surrounded by many restaurants.
The Corniche is a waterside promenade overlooking Doha Bay with excellent views across to the spectacular skyline. Two museums situated here are the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar.
For golf enthusiasts, there’s the Education City Golf Club, it’s green, and there’s a nice restaurant there.
Driving in a 4WD isn’t recommended on your own, and it’s much safer to go on a dune-bashing tour. These tours usually have other cultural fun things such as henna, falconry, belly dancing, camel riding, quad biking and local food. Trip Advisor recommends https://www.falcontours-qatar.com
To summarise – yes! Definitely consider it as a teaching destination, it’s very liveable and has a lot to offer expats including families. Great connections to other countries for holidays and the country has improved leaps and bounds leading up to the World Cup tournament.
Want to learn more?
Visit our Middle East forum to ask questions or read others’ experiences of what it is like to live in Qatar.