Guys, I don’t know why y’all keep telling me to ‘take good care of our E out there’, he’s settling in better than me! It’s turned into a recurring joke, so much so that I had to text my family from the baggage queue and remind them to balance it out with a: ‘You best tell him to look after our Zoya!’
All jokes aside, we’re settling in very well alhamdullilah. Despite this being his first move away from home, my husband has been a great source of support, companionship, and banter.
It is now Day 4 and we’re still making lists of ‘stuff’ we need to buy. We travelled light and were under our 30+7 kg baggage allowance, we simply packed the basics as we weren’t too sure of what we would need. Despite having a cargo allowance, I parted with my 300+ book collection by donating some and giving the rest away to friends. It was painful! Less painful though was parting with the wardrobe full of Asian suits I’ve hardly wore: I’m glad I have no need for them!
It feels amazing to start afresh and travelling light turned out to be a blessing. The apartment we’re staying in is fully furnished AND my lovely employers gifted me with brand new cutlery, dishes, cooking utensils, an iron, a washing machine, a fridge full of food and so much more! The only real investment we have made so far is a microwave and the only panic attack I’ve had was when I couldn’t find a tawa pan to make roti. (I found it the next day at a bigger supermarket – crisis over).
To sum up, our first impressions of Qatar are as follows…
Oh god, the heat!
Usually at airports, the driver waits for you just outside baggage collection. Not here though. The entire airport was empty; the poor drivers have to stand outside the entrance in the sweltering heat. The short walk from the airport to the car park had us DYING! It was like stepping in to a sauna, even at 1 in the morning the humidity was stifling and we were both wearing jeans. Just imagine.
Luckily, there’s air conditioning everywhere and the scare stories my brother-in-law told me are untrue: there is no load shedding here (this isn’t Pakistan, Arfan! I told you but noooo…). It is around 37-40 c and we’re already tanning from our evening shopping trips.
All our hopes of getting fit out here have gone down the pan. Literally.
The food here tastes so good and best of all, everything is halal! On our first night, we ate out and found the portions at McDonalds are the size of our heads. I’d promised myself to cut PG tips out of my life, surely living in a hot country would mean no hot tea but apparently I’m addicted to Lipton.
I’m so glad there’s no Virginias out here. For the first time in the duration of our marriage, my husband is eating three, healthy meals a day at the right times. (What was that again about looking after him?)
I already knew from prior reading that Qatar is an extremely diverse place as most of its workforce consists of foreigners. But it is something else seeing it in person.
People in Qatar come from every corner of the world: the salesman at the phone shop was Somali, the cashier at the supermarket a Filipino, our numerous taxi drivers are Pakistani pathaans, the maintenance man in our building is Nigerian, and I’ve seen people from Nepal, India, Punjab (Sikhs), and China as well as from the West. Both men and women make up the workforce, female drivers are as likely a sight as male drivers, and there are more women in designer shalwar kameez here than in Oldham (and that’s saying something).
It is easy to forget we are in the Middle East, and right next door to Saudi.
Who knew Qatar – an Arabic speaking country – would be the place we’d brush up on our Urdu?
We’re both really keen on learning Arabic. I tried to learn the language several times as an undergraduate, but there were hardly any classes for beginners with non-Arab roots. My GCSE French teacher used to always say the best way to learn a language is to live in the country – the more you are exposed to it, the quicker you learn.
In terms of communication, there was the funny moment when a taxi driver said to hubby ‘I thought you’re a Misri’ (Egyptian) and hubby interpreted it as ‘I thought you’re masali’.
Other than the occasional comedic misunderstandings, it looks like we are going to get by just fine.