Living in Qatar

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Qatar is one of the most rapidly changing and exciting countries in the world. The country centered in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, is a melting pot of old and new.

Topping the Forbes list of World’s richest countries Qatar as a result of it enormous oil and natural gas reserves. The country has one of the highest standards of living and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

The population of Qatar is approximately 2.5 million people, the majority of which are expatriates. Approximately 300,000 of the population are Qatari Nationals.

Culture

Qataris are well known for their generosity and friendliness. Qatar has a rich Arab culture, which is reflected in the wealth of its customs and traditions. Whilst Arabic is the official language, the most commonly spoken is English.

Islam is the official religion, traditional Islamic festivals are an integral part of the culture of Qatar and there are numerous religious holidays to reflect this. Islamic influence can be seen throughout Qatari society and is evident in clothing, eating and drinking practices.

Health

In Qatar, a high quality of free or highly subsidized healthcare is provided to all nationals and expatriates. Average life expectancy is currently 78 years and Qatar enjoys the regions lowest maternal mortality rate. The most prevalent diseases include cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and cancer.

Qatar is investing heavily in improving the quality of its healthcare provision.  Central to these efforts is the commitment to provide international standards of care within a comprehensive and integrated healthcare system.  To realize the vision, Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health has undertaken a five year program of reforms, which builds the foundation of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.

Safety

Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world and is ranked 30th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index, the highest in the Region. Incidents of violence are rare in Qatar and crime rates and generally low. The Qatar police force is highly visible and capable, providing a high standard of security. Confidence in Qatar’s security and political environment was highlighted by the state receiving the rights to host the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup.

Education

Education has been a major focus of the Qatar government in recent years, with particular focus on women’s education. Every child has free education from kindergarten through high school and there are a large number of private and international schools. In addition, Qatar Foundation’s Education City, created as center of educational excellence, houses international universities from the U.S., UK and France.

Qatar follows the policy of compulsory education until the end of the elementary stage. The Supreme Education Council, created by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the Ministry of Education, directs and manages education at all levels, from pre-school to university.

Research

Qatar has invested heavily in research. In 2006, Qatar established the Qatar National Research Find (QNRF) to support the development of a research culture in Qatar. In 2017 Qatar dedicated over $1,250M to funding and promoting research and development, with funding awarded to both local and international researchers through QNRF.

Currency

Qatar’s currency (QAR or QR) is the Riyal and occurs in denominations of 1, 10, 50, 100 and 500 Notes. The Qatari Riyal is equivalent to approximately $0.27 USD or £0.19.

Economy

Qatar has one of the strongest economies in the world, in 2017 Qatar had a GDP growth rate of 1.90 and a GDP per capita of $66,415, the 6th largest in the world during at the time. The country is the second largest exporter of natural gas in the world - export of Oil and Gas accounts for approximately 50% of Qatar’s GDP. In addition to this the country is investing thoughtfully in other industries, particularly the financial and tourism sectors, as well as infrastructure, aviation and utilities. The country is becoming a major international center for sports and energy events. The successful bid to host the football World Cup 2022 has raised Qatar’s profile globally, and will attract a large number of tourist to the country.

Geography and Weather

Qatar is a peninsula, surrounded by the Arabian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. The land is primarily flat and desert-like; however, there are beaches and large sand dunes in the southeast along the Inland Sea

Doha is the capital of Qatar and the seat of government. Doha is also home to the counties main sea port and international airport. Other major cities in Qatar include Al Wakra, famous for its ancient Islamic architecture, Mesaieed, known for its fine sand beaches; and Dukhan, the center of onshore oil production.

The climate in characterized by a mild winter and a hot summer. The country has a low annual rainfall, which occurs during the winter months. Autumn and spring are warm with maximum temperatures between 25 -35°C, and the summer (June to September) is hot with temperatures reaching 40°C and above.

Travel and Transport

Doha International Airport is Qatar’s commercial air link and receives all international flights. There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Qatar and visitors 80 countries, including most European and American countries, can apply for a tourist visa upon arrival.

There is no currently no rail network, although the Doha Metro project is underway, with 37 stations due to be opened in 2020 with an additional 60 by 2026. The public bus services covers 48 routes and charges minimal fares. Private cars remain the most popular form of transportation, followed by taxi, limousine services and car booking apps.

Food and Drink

Hospitality is ingrained in Qatari culture, and food and drink play an important role. Commonly, dates and Arabic coffee are presented to guests as part of local hospitality. Import of pork products is illegal in Qatar and Muslims must consume meat slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law, which is referred to as ‘Halaal’. Alcohol is available for expatriates and can be purchased in Western establishments throughout the country, principally in hotels. Alcohol to be consumed at home may be purchased with a permit.

Dress

In accordance with Islamic law, Qatari women typically cover their heads with a scarf known as a ‘hijab’. In public they may also wear the ‘abaya’ a long black robe work over the woman’s clothes; and in some case women choose to wear a think black veil, which leaves only the eyes showing. Most Qatari men wear the ‘dishdasha’ or ‘throbe’, a white, tunic-like garment reaching to the ankles, with a headdress called a ‘ghutra’.

Western dress is widely accepted and is in fact the norm in Qatar for the majority of people. However, it is recommended to dress in a way that reflects local culture, which emphasizes modesty.

Living in Qatar for Women

Initiatives driven by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Father Emir and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser have ensured that women are granted full rights, including voting, driving and working rights. Qatar Labor Law states that women should have equal pay, training and promotion opportunities for similar duties.

Many Muslim women choose to wear traditional Islamic clothing, while Western women normally wear Western clothing. Out of respect for the culture it is recommended that women cover their shoulders and do not wear short shorts or dresses or wear see –through fabrics. However, there is no law or code. Qatar is an Islamic society and many women choose to live in this tradition. Overall, there is widespread respect and appreciation for ethnic, religious and cultural differences.

Entertainment and Leisure

There is a widespread variety of entertainment options in Qatar, for adults and children alike. The mild climate makes outdoor leisure activities very popular – from day trips to the mangrove swamps on Qatar’s north shore to enjoying one of Qatar’s many white sand beaches. For those interested in indoor activities there are entertainment parks, shopping centers and cinema complexes. Qatar also caters for those interested in nightlife with numerous bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Many international brands are available in the malls, creating a home away from home for the large expatriate community.

The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Katara Cultural Village, The Pearl and the annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival are just a few of Qatar’s cultural attractions.

Sport is consider an important national and social activity in Qatar, which facilities for virtually all types of sport available, including tennis, golf, water sports, horse racing, camel racing and falconry.

International Sporting Events

Qatar hosts many high profile sporting events throughout the year including the ATP tennis tour and the Qatar Marathon, it has previously hosted the Asian Olympic Games and Asian Football Confederations’ Asian Cup. The country is now gearing up for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 and the IAAF World Athletics Championship in 2019.

Art and Architecture

Qatar features a dynamic and active art scene. Local and International artists work is displayed throughout the country in art galleries and public spaces. Qatar’s world famous Museum of Islamic Art, designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, opened in 2008 and houses an impressive collection of Islamic Artifacts and Arabic Art.

Working and Business

Approximately 12% of the population are estimated to be Qatari nationals, suggesting that as much as 88% of the population are expatriates. English is the language most commonly used in business. The standard working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, working hours vary depending on the organization, but core hours are 7:30 – 15:30. The business culture of Qatar emphasizes personal relationships between business associates.