By Sally Bruce
After many years living in so-called ‘sleepy’ Doha, I was excited when, in 2014, my husband came home and told me we were moving to Dubai. He’d been living and working full-time in Qatar since 2010, and I’d been making the trek from the U.K. to Qatar about twice a month to visit him, before moving here full-time in 2013. I felt I had a handle on the place…that I’d experienced everything it had to offer.
Everyone told me how much I'd like Dubai when we made the move, how much more there was to do and, simply, how much better the change of locale would be. It occurred to me fairly early on that, while Dubai was and is amazing – not all of this proved to be true…at least in our experience.
Now, four years on, while we’re both settled here in the U.A.E – and while we do love Dubai, we still find ourselves regularly coming back to Qatar for many reasons, but mostly to get our Doha fix – as there’s something really special about this city and its people.
In a nutshell, here’s my unofficial list:
1. Sense of community and a tighter-knit expat community
Expats are always after that home-away-from-home feeling – and there’s no doubt that Doha's expat community (to some extent) provides that. This comes in many forms, such as a friendly nod or wave by a fellow expat while you’re walking with your groceries, giving you the feeling of 'I don't know you, but I'm there with you.’
There’s also the fact that, when you’re out, you can almost guarantee to bump into somebody you know. But mostly it’s the general openness and warmth of Doha's community to approach, talk, have laughs with and, most importantly, not judge who we are and where we’ve come from. There really is something special and ‘village-like’ about this community – and once you leave Doha, a little piece of you always wants to return.
2. General cost of living
If you’re currently living in Doha, you might have a hard time believing this one…however, in comparison to Dubai, the everyday cost of living in Doha is cheaper. While you all pick your chins up off the floor from shock, I’ll explain why:
Municipality fees: 5% of your annual rent is divided by 12 and charged monthly as part of your water and electricity bill in Dubai.
Maintenance: Light-bulb changes, water leaks…anything 500 Emirati dirhams and under is your responsibility when it comes to home maintenance and repairs. Everything else is covered by the landlord – however, in most instances you’ll need to pay first and chase up the landlord for reimbursement later.
White goods: When you walk into your newly-rented place to see the kitchen completely bare, you'll want to get on the first flight back to Doha – especially when you see how much these things cost. [Ex: refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer etc.]
Estate agent fees: When renting in Dubai, you’re required to give the estate agent a 5% fee of your annual rent. This is the case even if you go directly to the building, and the estate agent did nothing more than tell you the apartment or villa number.
Salik: If you drive you’ll pay salik, or road tolls, and there’s no way around them – it's just a part of life over here -- and it adds up.
While Dubai is home to the largest malls, we still remain spoiled for choice in Qatar. Doha has many stores that you can't find in the U.A.E., while existing stores can also at times provide a better range of selection. With prices also being slightly lower in Doha, and the malls being far less crowded, shopping is very appealing – especially with the opening of such recent landmarks as the Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City. So, it's no wonder when asked 'Where did you get that from?' the response, mostly, is 'Doha.’
4. A friendly, laid-back atmosphere
Doha still has the big-city feel, and a lot of traffic (nobody can ever forget the traffic!), but it also has a more relaxed, friendly vibe and a slower pace to life. Saying hello to neighbours isn't a thing of the past, it's still very much part of the everyday. The friendly atmosphere of Doha is something that hits you even after a very short time in Qatar – people are friendly, you see people taking walks along the Corniche or picnicking together – and asking for directions or help doesn't fall on deaf ears.
5. A sense of the genuine
It's very easy to get caught up in the flashy cities that are the jewels of the Middle East; but strip away all the materialism and your left with its soul. Doha has a soul like no other city in the region…a certain realness where both the old and new meet, where you’re left without any doubt of your Middle Eastern locale – yet you still don’t feel too far away from your own home comforts. Take a walk along the Corniche, or sit and drink in the view at the MIA Park café, and it won't take long for you to feel the soul of this beautiful city you call home.
Are you an expat who has recently made the move from Doha? Do you feel the items on this list reflect your experience? Tell us what you miss the most about your time in Qatar in the comments below and don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!
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