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Posted On: 25 July 2020 11:01 pm
Updated On: 25 July 2020 11:02 pm

Indian expat who lived in Qatar more than half a century passes away in India

Nabeela
Nabeela
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One of Qatar's earliest expats Karandoth Moosa Haji who came to Qatar over 65 years has passed away in his home state of Kerala in South India yesterday (Friday 24 July 2020). Moosa Haji was the owner of a restaurant in Doha called 'Al Zarka Restaurant' and a hotel called 'Neelima Hotel', and was known by Qataris and expats alike, as reported by Qatar Tribune.


Moosa Haji and his journey from a small village in South India to Doha

Moosa Haji who was 83 when he passed away, embarked on his journey from India to Qatar when he was 18 years old. It was a tough journey - the kind of journey that you see only in the movies - and yet it was true. It took him 20 months to Qatar from Villiapally, a small hamlet on the
outskirts of Kozhikode in Kerala.

From Villiapally to Chennai to Mumbai

From Villiapally, he travelled by train to Chennai (known as Madras at the time) by train. He stayed in Chenna for a few days and helped at a restaurant to earn some money, and then travelled on to Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh before he arrived in Mumbai (known as Bombay at that time). Mumbai was the place people who wanted to migrated to the Middle East for work flocked to.

From Mumbai to Karachi

Moosa Haji spent a few months in Mumbai where he worked in restaurants and markets. This is what he once said about his dream to travel to the Middle East:

"The stories that I heard about the Arab countries got me pumped up. I met many Indians who were dreaming about going to the Gulf."

At that time, there were no flights to Qatar; the only mode of travel was by commercial shows. Six of Haji Moosa's friends who were travelling with him gave him all their money for safekeeping to make the journey from Mumbai to Qatar, but unfortunately, the money was stolen from him at the Mumbai railway station just before they were to embark on his dhow journey.

Since they had no money left, they took a train to Karachi in Pakistan illegally, but were caught by the Jodhpur police for travelling without tickets. Somehow, though with the help of some Muslims, Moosa Haji and his friends made it to Karachi.

Indian expat who lived in Qatar more than half a century passes away in India
Image credit: Qatar Tribune

From Karachi to Khawr Fakan to Dubai

While in Karachi, Moosa Haji and his friends offered traders whatever money they had, and urged them them to

“take us to someplace in the Gulf region”.

Finally, Haji Moosa and 14 others were able to reach Gwadar, a city near the Pakistan-Iran border, by foot and began their journey towards north-west through the desert of Iran. The journey was challenging and they lost their way many a time.

Moosa Haji braved many hardships on the way; he braved through the heat of the Arabian desert, lost some of his friends who were travelling with him along the way (at the end, there were just six of them), and even avoided being arrested by Iranian forces before he was able to set foot on Qatari soil, which at the time was a struggling nation, and not the gas-rich state it is today.

After 17 days that were filled with many challenges and hardships, Mossa Haji and his companions reached a small port on the south-east coast (Kuhmobarak) of Iran and crossed the Gulf of Oman by a commercial dhow to reach Khawr Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates. Soon after, they moved on to Dubai.

From Dubai to Mesaieed to Doha

From Dubai, Moosa haji and his companions they took a dhow to Qatar and anchored at Mesiaeed. Finally, Moosa Haji was in Qatar.

Stay in Qatar

At the time, Qatar was still under British rule, and Doha was a small market town without proper water or power supply.

Moosa Haji landed a job as an assistant manager and cook at a restaurant called 'Zama', in Doha which was situated where the current Doha Petrol Station is located. At that time, there was no Qatari Riyal and the currency used was mostly Indian Rupees. His first salary was Indian Rupees 150.

Nine years after he landed in Qatar, he decided he wanted to visit India, but he didn't have a passport and there was no Indian Embassy or Consulate in Qatar. His friend helped him apply for a passport at the Indian Consular Centre in Muscat, Oman which he received in 1963. For the first time since he left his village in India, he was able to visit it again in 1964. During his stay in India, he got married to Fatima. He stayed in India for six months before returning to Qatar via Mumbai by sea. In 1966, Moosa Haji was able to fly to India for the first time from Doha.

As time went by, Moosa Haji became more and more successful and opened up a restaurant in Doha called 'Al Zarka Restaurant in 1973. He and his wife had two sons Nasar and Ismail, who continued to live in Doha, and three daughters, who live in Kerala.

He was also the owner of Neelima Hotel and lived a happy fulfilled life in Qatar before he had to leave and return to India due to his old age where he passed away amongst family.

Cover image credit: Lowrence of Qatar