Dispelling some rumors…

When leaving for Doha, I heard a lot of crazy things from people that I wondered if they would turn out to be true or not.  Certainly, we have all heard rumors about Muslim countries (or any country) and just believed it to be true. Here are a few of the ones I heard:

  • Driving is crazy in Doha and there numerous car accidents every day. (This turned out to be absolutely true!)
  • People will stop while driving to get out of their cars and pray. (False – Muslims have a window of time to pray so if they are in a car, they will not stop and drop everything they are doing. Can you imagine if they did?)
  • The women wear abayas because their husbands/family force them to, and they feel opressed. (False – at least in Qatar, women have many rights that they don’t have in other countries, such as driving, being out on their own, etc. Also, from my understanding, the abaya is a part of their religion, and actually protects their modesty. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have unwanted glances from men?)
  • It’s the desert – it’s going to be hot!! (This is true – at least from May until September. The rest of the year, its really a pleasant temperature during the day and in the evening. Besides, I get to wear flip flops every day, what more could I ask for?)
  • Not a rumor, but I was really worried about the grocery stores here. What kind of food would they have?! (Luckily, there are stores with a really great selection of American items. Thank goodness for global brands!)
  • I would probably have to learn Arabic to survive in the country. (False – luckily, English and Arabic are both spoken here.  There are still communication problems – don’t get me wrong! But for the most part, English has served me well, but I would like to attempt to learn Arabic at some point).

These are just a few of the things I had heard before arriving in Doha. Now that I have been here almost half a year, I finding out what is true and false.

Are there any rumors/myths/questions you have about Doha, muslim culture, ex-pat life, etc. that you would like me to dispel? Post in the comments and I will answer, or even do a new blog post – depending on the question 🙂

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Banning the Burqua

It was a difficult decision for me to decide whether or not to write this blog post.  I don’t want this blog to be political in nature, but I do think I am in a unique position to share some current events with you in an objective, bias free way.

Most recently, France’s prez Nicolas Sarkozy has decided he wants to ban the burqua in his country, for safety reasons. There are about 2000 Muslim women living in France who would be affected by this decision.  Is this fair to them? I want to let you decide. Here are some articles with different point of views.

First, a general article from The Peninsula, which talks about the basics of the possible ban.

Next, Al-Jazeera’s article with two very different points of view.

And lastly, a Yahoo news article with more about the forthcoming decision.

Again, I just post these so you can know the story and decide for yourself! It’s relevant to us here in a Middle Eastern, Muslim country, so I wanted to share the debate.

Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Safety in Doha

Hooray! This is my first blog topic that was suggested by a reader – a good friend of mine.  As I mentioned, I am totally open to suggestions and want to write about whatever it is you are curious about my life here in Doha! (Jenny M – I will do yours next, a typical day at work for me).

My friend writes…

I was reading the news this morning about the bombings in Baghdad, and while I realize you are pretty far away from there,  I was just wondering how safe you felt, overall, about being an American living in a foreign country? Or is it so westernized it doesn’t even phase you? Or what about crime – is there much over there? Do you feel safe in your apartment?

My answer….

Before arriving in Doha, I had very similar thoughts! To give you a better idea of where Qatar is in location to the rest of the Middle East, here is a map showing that we are very close to some areas where the war is happening, or other countries where terrorists are allegedly being harbored.

As you can see,  Qatar is a peninsula off of Saudi Arabia, and Iraq and Iran are just across the gulf from us.  You’ll also notice Yemen is not far away either.  So looking at the map certainly makes you think that Qatar may not be a very safe place to live.  However, its not true at all!

I feel very safe as a American living here in Doha.  It is a very Westernized city (five story malls, fast food restaurants everywhere, and Starbucks abound everywhere), so in that sense sometimes I rarely feel like I am living in a different country.  Honestly, the thing we worry about the most here is getting into a car accident,  due to a few crazy drivers who follow their own rules.

To answer the crime question, I am posting a link to this article about Qatar having one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  This is certainly a good overview of how safe Doha really is.  The crime rate is low, at least as far as what we hear.  I don’t necessarily believe this means that no crime occurs, but just that it is less likely here than in other Middle Eastern countries.

However, things certainly do happen that we might not know about. There is no local news, and if there are, they are most likely in Arabic.  So we get the majority of our news from Al-Jazeera (who broadcast from Doha a majority of the time) or BBC.  So we try to take that for what its worth when we think about our safety.

I feel very safe in my apartment! We live in a 21 story apartment building, right in the West Bay, which is a busy part of the city. We have doormen at the entry door, and the driveway to our parking garage is gated, and opened for residents and  their guests. (However, people sometimes slip through because they want to park in our building lot and walk across the street to the mall).

I feel safe walking across the street to the mall by myself, and walking around the mall on my own.  (Of course, I am always well covered when out in public – usually long sleeves and jeans, to be respective to the Muslim culture).  I certainly still keep my eyes open and am alert and proactive, but for the most part, I feel like I can relax when I am out, knowing that I am safe.

We registered with the American Embassy before we moved, so if anything ever did happen, or was threatened to, I have a good feeling that we would be notified by our employer and the US Embassy to evacuate the country.

I hope this answered your question, feel free to comment and suggest your own blog topic for me to write about! 🙂

Thunderstorm in Doha! :-)

Waking up this moning, it seemed like a typical morning with the sun shining, and weather in the mid-70’s.  However, as we started to drive to Education City, we quickly realized that it was quite windy and dusty, which made our drive into work difficult, with low visibility in a few areas.

We drove home in similar weather, and noticed that everything had gotten very dusty from it being blown all over the place.  As we were relaxing at home this evening, all the sudden, we saw huge strikes of lightning outside our window! It was crazy! I have never seen lightning like this – it was three or four flashes in a row! I wish I could have gotten it on film.

Accompanying the lightning was thunder, and a downpour of rain! It was kind of a relief to have some rain to clean all that dust out of the air.  We rarely get rain in Doha, so I am always excited when we get a little glimpse of it.  (Although it seems we have had more than I was ever expecting – I heard we would get about 1 day a year, so far there have been at least 5 days with rain this year so far!)

Good luck to all of you who are expecting a big snowstorm this weekend –  I would love to be snowed in 🙂 But I will take the rain for now! I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – you won’t know how much you miss rain, snow, other precipitation until you no longer have it!