Everyone is curious about my experience, my new life, and the culture I have immersed myself in. I have decided to compose a little note on my experience of moving to Qatar.
After moving here, the very first contrast that I noticed was that life and people are very (i.e. extremely) laid back – in a good way. It’s kind of a “stop and smell the roses” way of life. Life moves slowly here.
Moving along, as I explored my neighborhood, I noticed these distinct living rooms that are not attached to the rest of the homes. These are called the “majlis”. It suits Qatari society, as when male visitors come over, they don’t need to come through the main home – which would require the females in the home to wear their traditional/religious cover. Now, for the exceptionally interesting aspect of the many majlises throughout the city is that they seem to offer a kind of “open-door” policy, almost as if they are inviting anyone walking on the street to come and join them. It’s certainly a sight to behold, but they way some of these majlises are built are almost to announce to all those passing by “welcome”. The windows are large and brightly lit and thus you can see all those sitting inside. The one close to my home always has one Arab gentlemen sitting in there – almost waiting to welcome those who enter. Everyday the man is in his living room, with company or not, ready to welcome those who wish to come in.
Qatar is a country of immense wealth; yet, many of the population are deeply religious and practice the Islamic religion. A few steps down the road there is a massive mansion to behold – the majlis alone is bigger than most mansions in Canada! Now, that, in of itself, was not the sight to behold… it was the fact that the owner built a mosque/masjid on his estate with doors that open to the road. Thus, for all those who wish to pray one of their five daily prayers – they are welcomed to this convenient beautifully built masjid. Strangers off the street, neighbors, laborers, etcetra, all come, everyday, five times a day to pray freely on this millionaire’s estate. Incredible. Where people of similar wealth are building pools, tennis courts, and the like the world over, this family built a place of worship for all of those to enjoy around them.
Another distinct feature on many of the homes here are water taps built on the outside of the walls of the estates. Here, anyone who likes can come get their fill of the water as they pass by.
Finally, one of the most touching sites I have seen, was walking through the nearby shopping mall one day. I saw a mentally disabled teenager with his mother walking past a café. The teenager saw two boys eating some sweets, the boy gestured that he would like their desserts. As his mother apologized to the boys eating and tried to guide her son away, they two young men eating both stood up and gave the disabled boy what he had asked for and comforted the mother that it was okay and nothing to feel awkward about.
I have countless stories of generosity that are too extensive to even tap on. My children are welcome - screaming/fighting/and all – everywhere we go – no displeased looks from the other patrons. The “quiet the kids down or leave” culture most certainly does not exist here.
I have had people – complete strangers – bother themselves to accommodate me, guide me, and help me as I navigate this country.
Qatar has proven itself as a genuine window to the fundamentals of Islamic and Arab behavior, manners, and generosity. It's unfortunate the world could not see this aspect of the Arab world, as they would certainly not generalize them by a few rogue members within a community of 1.6 billion people.
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