Doha, Qatar Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Doha, Qatar

Doha, Qatar 05/07/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was my first expatriate experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home is Washington, D.C. Direct flights to D.C. on Qatar Airways from Dulles take 13 hours or so.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Just wrapping up a two-year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Department of State.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing is comfortable, and typically quite spacious. Our furnished apartment was great, though it lacked outdoor space. Where you run into trouble is the build quality standards. There aren't any. Even though a lot of the properties in Doha might look fantastic, they constantly have serious issues like bursting and/or leaking pipes, mold, craftsmanship, etc. As one Facilities Manager put it to me "it's a city of finely polished turds."

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability hasn't been a problem, other than the lack of pork and alcohol (though both are available at QDC). Prices are higher to be sure, I'd say 1.5 times standard D.C. prices on most products. Having said that, if you're willing to pay for it, you can get it in Doha. See the $9 USD bag of Doritos I splurge on here and there.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

For the ladies, I highly recommend you stock up on tampons. Because they don't sell them here. Vanilla extract isn't available, as it contains something like .04% alcohol. Neither are red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar and the like. Everything else that we can't get locally, we just order from Amazon.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Literally everything. There's a reason the Middle East is the fattest region in the world. It's because they eat a ton of junk and fast food. McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, KFC, FatBurger, Shake Shack, Elevation Burger, Which Wich, TGI Fridays, Applebees, Chilis, Cheesecake Factory, Texas Roadhouse, Uno's, Pizza Hut, Dominoes, Papa Johns, Buffalos, CA Tortilla, Red Lobster, PF Changs, Nandos....and that's just off the top of my head. And almost all of them deliver. Seriously.



Having said that, there is also a ton of really, really good food here. Places like Turkey Central, Thai Snack, MRA, Cavaran Bukhara, Al Adhamiyah, Shiraz Garden, Bandar Aden, Al Sultan, Yellow Cab and more are fantastic. If anyone tells you they don't like the food here, it's because they didn't try hard enough.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None, other than the bout of fruit flies my apartment building dealt with last summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The Embassy has an APO, and it's great. Packages from Amazon take no more than seven days or so to arrive. I've never used the local Qatari postal services, so I can't comment.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

If you're looking for a live-in, the market is extremely tough. Everyone is always looking for good quality help, which is typically Filipino. Be prepared to put on the gloves, as it can be a fight to secure the live-in you really want. Expect to pay for the "13th month" of salary, plus a plane ticket to their home country once a year, as this is local law.



If you're looking simply for a live-out person to clean, the pricing is pretty great. I think four hours runs us like $60, including tip. Really good value.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

All of the compounds and apartment towers have gyms. Quality can vary greatly. All of the hotels have impressive and extremely expensive gyms as well. Monthly memberships are available. Classes are an additional (and also expensive) cost.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are widely accepted, widely used and extremely safe. ATMs are easy to find and safe to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a religious complex somewhere in the city that the Qatari government has allowed and is fully legal. They have a swath of Christian services, as well as a mix of other religions. I've heard it gets extremely crowded and parking can be tough. I know there are some "under the table" services at private residences that are not legally condoned.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Zero. Like literally none. Zip. My wife was mandated a 2/1 in Modern Standard Arabic, and has used 0.00% since our arrival. English is ubiquitous.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I would think they would have a hard time getting around with all of the current construction and total lack of sidewalks or sidewalk-like areas. But once you got to where you were going, you'd probably be all right.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There are buses and taxis. Both reasonably affordable, though safety is questionable, as a lot of drivers here are extremely reckless. They are currently working on a metro line, but it won't be completed for a few years. Uber is the most popular means of getting around town without your own vehicle.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If you have the money, you do as the Qataris do and buy a Lotus or a Ferrari. Otherwise, bring or buy an SUV, though a standard sedan is fine for Doha commuting. And you're going to want a V6, as the smaller V4 engines have a tough time with the sweltering heat. The roads are pretty close what you'd find in the U.S., though they use an oil-based blacktop, so when it rains they get extremely slick.



Understand that it is essential to have a car here. You can't get around without one. Period.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Our internet has been pretty close to flawless. I'm not sure we've always gotten the speeds which we're paying for, but it's always worked, and well. We're constantly streaming HD movies, videos, sports, YouTube and more, and typically multiple devices at the same time. (Plus we've never lost power or had an electrical surge.)

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked smartphone and get a local plan with Ooredoo, Qatar's mobile service company. I think my mobile plan runs around $60 a month or so for 7gb of data and more phone time than I can use.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are many good and qualified vets in Doha. No quarantine required. Be mindful of the heat when bringing pets, as outdoor animals will find it difficult and dangerous to be outside for more than a couple minutes during the seven-month-long summer.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There is no bilateral work agreement with the U.S. and Qatar. A small handful of our EFMs work on the local market, and it takes some time and patience to find something. Having said that, the local market is booming with high-paying investment and oil jobs.



Most EFMs who want to work are employed at the U.S. mission. Our front office has been extremely proactive about employing any and all EFMs who want a job.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I'm sure you could volunteer at a school or something, but this isn't sub-Saharan Africa. I'd wager to guess you'll have a hard time finding many fulfilling volunteer opportunities in Qatar.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's an Islamic country, therefore modest female dress is expected pretty much at all times. Women need to cover their shoulders, knees and cleavage in public. Otherwise you'll get the occasional sneer or hiss from the older Qatari women. Though, my wife always covered appropriately and she got hissed at anyway, so what do I know.



Men can wear pretty much anything within reason. Shorts are acceptable at malls and such, but be sure they cover your knees. When going to a hotel bar, restaurant or brunch, you must wear long pants and close-toed shoes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Qatar was ranked as the #2 safest country in 2016, just behind Singapore. Even with all that Qatar is lacking, it's certainly a safe place to be. Keep in mind though that this is the Middle East, and we're right in the heart of the lion's den. Don't allow the safety here to lull you into not paying attention to your surroundings.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The air quality here is some of the worst in the world. It has negatively effected any and everyone who has spent some quality time in Doha. Having never had any medical or dental care here, I can't directly comment. It is worth noting that a couple of folks who have had dental work and minor surgery/PT here have had some serious issues post-op that forced them to medically evacuate to London and the U.S. for follow-up care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Terrible. The PM 2.5 levels in Qatar are some of the worst in the world. Really - look it up and do the research for yourself. There are little to no construction codes here, and all of the ongoing construction is dumping some pretty hazardous materials into the air. There are days when you can't even see out the window it's so bad. The air filters the Embassy has given us help, but in no way mitigate the effects of the airborne toxins. On top of that, it's the desert, so there is always a tan hue to the air because of all the sand you're inhaling.



Everyone, at some point during their tour, will get nosebleeds, a miserable cough, sick at least three to four times a year and generally feel nauseous from the air pollution. (And if you're a drinker, you can expect the air pollution to cause some of the worst hangovers of your life.)



You've been warned.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There is dusty sand everywhere all the time. If this is an issue, stay away. There isn't much plant life here, so my spring hay fever allergies are nil, which has been a plus. As for food allergens, most restaurants will happily work with you to eliminate whatever might trigger you in their dishes.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Oh yes. With the absolute lack of things to do here and need for a car to go anywhere, Doha can be extremely isolating and lonely. A lot of people, especially EFMs, will experience situational depression, from what I've seen. It's quite common, unfortunately.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Seven months of the year are brutal, repressive heat like you've never experienced. Most of this is dry heat, though August and September are shockingly humid, making it difficult to be outside for more than 90 seconds or so.



Come October-November, everything changes and the weather is just spectacular. It's like someone made a best-of San Diego mixtape and hit the play button in Doha. Splendid, dry gorgeous days and evenings that last through the end of March.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School of Doha (ASD) is considered one of the top-five best American Schools in the world. They are top shelf, though their one knock is they aren't always the best with learning disabilities.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Pre-schools are available and expensive. And Qatar has a law which mandates all children must attend pre-K, which the DOS doesn't cover. Meaning that those with pre-K kids are going out of pocket and shelling out big bucks.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. The Aspire Zone has loads of classes for kids and adults alike.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

90% of the population are expats, and for a country of 2.67 million people, that's a lot of expats.



I can say that for the diplomatic bubble, the morale typically ranges from mediocre to poor. A lot of this hinges on the work environment, which has certainly improved in our time here. But even now, the general morale of the community is fair at best.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Drinking. I mean it - I've never seen the kind of aggressive, heavy drinking that happens here every weekend. It's been a fundamental part of every social gathering we've been to. And we've been to a lot.



Weekend brunches are without question the go-to for western expat socializing. Doha Moms is a large, mafia-like group that's extremely popular with mothers. There are lots of Facebook meet-up groups, or so I've heard. With that said, there are still a lot of people here who lack real friendships and human connection.



If you're looking to socialize with the Qataris, good luck. Please let me know if you find a way, as we certainly haven't.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

If you're a single western man, you'll probably do just fine, granted that you're into Southeast Asian women. I've heard that single Western women can do alright, but again you're probably looking at dating a lot of non-Westerners.



We are married without kids and found Doha to be extremely boring about 95% of the time, as there is a shocking lack of things to do in a city of this size.



Families have it best, as Doha is geared to those with kids. Almost every event in town is catered to families with little ones. Even then, I'm told many families spend their weekends like the rest of us: in front of the TV wishing there was more to do.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

On the surface, no. But having worked with and befriended a few within the LGBT community, I can say that there is certainly a healthy and vibrant LGBT scene in Doha. But it's "don't ask, don't tell," and it's all kept very hush-hush.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes and yes. This is a very strict Islamic country. Many folks call Qatar "Saudi Lite" when in fact, in a lot of ways, it's far stricter than Saudi Arabia. Sure they sell booze here, but there is a very conservative undercurrent in Qatar, where in Saudi it's trending in the other direction. It's really been surprising to see how things have grown more conservative in the time we've been here.



As for gender prejudice/equality, again it's an Islamic country. You can expect all of the local Qatari women to be fully covered - full facial veils, gloves, abayas, etc. It can take a while to get accustomed to.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Honestly, the highlights have been all of the vacations we've taken outside of Qatar. It's a great location to travel. You can get a lot of great places within six hours or so.



Locally within Qatar, the vacation we've most enjoyed is a long weekend to Banana Island. It's just lovely.



It's also worth noting that most everyone get island fever. Because Qatar is the size of Rhode Island and is attached only to Saudi Arabia (which you don't just get to visit on the spur of the moment), people here get cooped up and must get out at least once every couple of months.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

I hate to say it, but all of the following "things to do" can be completed in one long weekend. You're then stuck with another 720+ days to figure out what else to do with your time:



Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, East-West West-East, Cinema City, Al Zubarah Fort, dune bashing, camel rides, catch a camel race, dhow cruise, Katara, walk around the Pearl, kayaking the mangroves, Inland Sea, desert camping/glamping, stroll the Corniche, Sheikh Faisal museum (be sure to ask to see the Saddam Hussein room), Festival City, Mall of Qatar and the 45+ other malls in Doha.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Most of the handicrafts that you'll see for sale here were made in Turkey, UAE, Oman, Saudi, etc. So yes you can buy some regional items, most all of them aren't from Qatar.



The three things that have been the biggest hit with friends and family back home around the holidays have been the high-quality Saudi dates, Iranian saffron, and oudh.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

As mentioned earlier, you can get to a lot of desirable places with a six-hour plane ride. Greece, Italy, Egypt, Oman, UAE, Germany, France...in fact most all of Europe, Sri Lanka, India, parts of SE Asia - all are reasonable, direct flights with Qatar Airways (a code share with American Airlines BTW).



Other than that, I guess I'd say the food. I've put on a few pounds (as has everyone here), but the restaurant scene, though somewhat limited, is really solid. It's safe here, we've never worried about being mugged or anything like that. And most all of the desired creature comforts are available here - for a price.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I came to Qatar with fantasies of eating shawarma and smoking shisha poolside with my new Qatari friends. How funny reality is, as I have literally done none of that poolside. Sure I've eaten all the shawarma, and smoked a few shishas. But I've made zero Qatari friends. In fact the best friends I've made here are Canadian, Lebanese and Indian. Go figure.



What I really wish I had known a few years back is how isolating and cold Qatar can be. I wish I had known how little there is to do here most every weekend and weeknight. I wish someone had whispered us the old adage that "Doha's is what you make of it. It's a make-your-own-fun kinda post."



Like the Qatari women, this is a veiled and very private tribal society that isn't welcoming to outsiders.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Meh.



The first six months me would say "absolutely not. No way, no how. It's miserable here."

Six to eighteen months me would say "I don't like it here. But I can handle it, I suppose."

The eighteen to twenty-four months me is now saying "Meh, it's ok. I neither like it nor hate it."



I would say that if you're single or married without kids, look elsewhere. If you've got a family, you'll probably do just fine in Doha.



To take my own advice, and seeing as I'm married without kids, I think in retrospect we should've looked elsewhere.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Pork, booze, porno, mini-skirts, halter-tops and general understanding of what fun is.

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4. But don't forget your:

Apple TV, One World Alliance membership number, your tank-like SUV and pants with elastic waists.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Doha Film Institute (DFI) has funded many great films like "Timbuktu," "The Salesman," "The Idol" and many more.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The #1 phrase I've lived by in Doha has been "if it's working, you're not doing it right."



In the end, Doha lacks a tangible heart and soul. It lacks character, there isn't a vibe or a scene you can attach yourself to. I'm a pretty passionate person, and this city has zero passion that appeals to me and my lifestyle. If you come to Doha expecting a miniature Dubai, you are in for a world of hurt. When taking this post under consideration, remember that Qatar is closer in line with Saudi Arabia than the UAE. It's not all bad, but then it really ain't that good, either.

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Doha, Qatar 05/04/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C. 12.5 hour direct flight on Qatar Airways.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is very nice in general. The rapid growth of the city means that there's a lot of construction, however, and that has encroached on some employees' housing, resulting in noise disturbances at all hours. The housing committee does their very best to make sure that employees are placed in homes that are least effected by this, but it's a difficult nuisance to avoid.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Slightly more expensive, but not terribly so.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. You can get everything here, except alcohol-based products (like vanilla extract).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything. Pizza, burgers, Mexican, Indian, Thai, you name it, you can get it here. The only exception is good greasy-spoon Chinese. Why, oh why, has that still eluded Qatar?!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Super fast and reliable APO at post. Amazon packages show up in about a week. Very happy with the mail facilities here.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

All types of household help are available and affordable. Many homes employ live-in nannies and housekeepers. If you don't need a live-in, a rent-a-maid will clean your house for four hours for about $35 USD.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Housing compounds all have gyms that are adequate and free to use for residents. Hotels have nicer gyms, but those are costly. There's also a CrossFit gym and several yoga studios here, but those are costly.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes, yes, yes. I use credit cards for everything here. There are a few hole-in-the-wall restaurants that will only take cash, but that's extremely rare. ATMs are safe to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I've heard that there are some churches somewhere, in an area designated by the Qatari government as a place that expats can worship, but I haven't sought it out. This is an Islamic country, so all you'll see in your daily life are mosques--and their services are in Arabic.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

0.00% Arabic needed. English is the common language here.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are really no sidewalks, so no one is walking anywhere, no matter their ability. Malls are equipped for people with disabilities, so if you have the appropriate vehicle/a driver, you should be fine.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, all safe and approved for use. I use Uber all the time.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Whatever you want. SUVs rule the road here, but that's just because they're huge and it makes the drivers feel powerful, not because the roads are bad. There are plenty of sedans and sports cars zooming around too.



No problems with burglary and carjackings. (In fact, crime is so rare in Qatar that you often see unlocked running cars sitting idle in parking lots because the owner would like to keep the car cabin cool while they run into a store or restaurant. I've never seen anything like it.)

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Fiber is more and more available in Doha. My internet has been just as fast here as it was in the States, for about $100/month. Totally suitable for streaming video, etc. The ubiquitous local company, Ooredoo, was quick to set it up and we haven't had any issues during our two years, except for VPN/DNS woes, but that's not Ooredoo's fault.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Again, Ooredoo rules the market here. A plan with 7GB of data costs (and enough minutes and texts to keep you covered) costs about $60/month.



Qataris love their smartphones and everyone's got the latest. Bring an unlocked smartphone and Ooredoo will have you set up and ready to go immediately.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there are some really great vets here--in particular Qatar Vet Center and the Canadian Veterinary Clinic. Both are good. I take my cat to QVC and have been very happy with the experience.



Animals do not need to be quarantined when they arrive.



Bringing an animal to Qatar, even in the summer, was much easier than I expected. Because you can't bring animals in cabin on Qatar Airways (except for service animals and falcons), all animals must be checked into cargo. Traveling here in the summer, I was worried that a summer heat embargo would apply, but Qatar Airways keeps their animals in air conditioned holding rooms on the U.S. and Qatar side, so they don't impose any summertime restrictions. U.S. airlines could take note of their good service on this front.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most US Embassy spouses work at the US Embassy, but some have jobs on the local market as professors or financial specialists. Salaries are generally similar to the U.S. from what I understand.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress is conservative, but not uncomfortably so. For ladies, as long as your knees, shoulders, and cleavage is covered, and your outfit is not skin-tight, that's usually good enough. Best to err on the side of more coverage if you have any doubts. For men, you can dress as you would in the States. (Unless your normal style of dress includes cutoff shorts and mesh tops.)



Formal dress will be required at some point. Qatari women go ALL OUT at weddings, and any events labeled "formal." For men, a nice suit will suffice.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Always best to be alert, vary your routes, etc., but I feel very safe here. Burglaries, muggings, and violent crimes are basically nonexistent.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Dust and 2.5 PMI air pollution. People here have respiratory issues here pretty frequently.



Medical care is okay to good, but depends on the doctor that you get. Most people choose to medically evacuate for big issues, like surgeries, delivering babies, or having dental work done.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate to bad because of the dust and air pollution mentioned above.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

You can avoid nuts/dairy/meat/gluten if you need to. People here are understanding of dietary restrictions.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Doha has so many modern comforts--like food delivery of all kinds, paved roads, potable water, fast internet--but this can be an isolating place, and I've seen it take a toll on many expats psychologically. Qatari culture is not easy to break in to, and Qataris by and large are very private people. They are mostly polite in person, but will not likely welcome you into their homes. Not to mention the fact that they make up only 10% of the population. Moving here is not going to be a culturally immersive experience where you really get to bite in to the Middle East in the "Lawrence of Arabia"-type way. Instead what you'll find is a huge and diverse expat community and a ton of malls. Nice malls, but if you've seen one mall...



As a result the expat social scene is extremely alcohol-centric. Many people here develop drinking problems, because hanging out and drinking is one of the only things to do on the weekends. You could go to the museum or dune bashing or paddleboarding... if you haven't already done those things a million times. Or you could hang out with your friends and drink. Most times people choose the latter.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The most beautiful weather you've ever experienced from November-March... and then the heat comes. It's bearable April-May and October-November, but June-August is hot as Hades and humid as all get out. You'll be inside all summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Plentiful international schools and many good quality ones are available. The American School of Doha is excellent, and has the waiting list to prove it.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. Expats make up 90% of the population here, though most of those are the South Asian labor force. The Western expat scene is still huge, and if you pop in to any weekend brunch at one of the upscale hotels (an expat favorite pastime here), you will see nothing but Westerners.



Morale can vary greatly. The lack of things to do and the sometimes-stifling nature of Qatar can grind on people.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

The aforementioned Friday brunches are hugely popular. I avoided them for a long time because they're so expensive (~$120 for all you can eat and drink), but eventually gave in and chalked it up to the price of socializing. Overall, I'm happier for it.

There are groups and clubs for expats, but you have to be proactive here about making friends. These groups are easily found online.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

If you are single and want to mingle... you will find plenty of opportunities. Tinder is huge here, but, as with any dating scene, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.



For couples, it's fine. Again, not a ton to do, but at least you have an evening Netflix buddy.



For families, this post is great. There are tons of families here, so their opportunities to socialize around kid-based activities are plentiful.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

On the surface, no, for obvious reasons. But there is a gay scene in Doha that is discreet but very active.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. The divisions between the "classes" are very apparent. You will see laborers being shuttled back and forth from their camps on huge buses, looking like they just had a very hard day's work. On their one day off a week, some of the malls and markets have declared those "family days," which means that single guys--i.e. the laborers--cannot enter. It's a pretty callous practice. Still, Qatar is making strides to improve conditions for and treatment of laborers in the country, due in no small part to the fact that they have a spotlight on them at the moment.



As far as gender equality goes, women are just as educated--often times more so--here than men are, and there are many women in high-powered positions. On a day to day basis, there is very little street harassment here.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Qatar is home to Qatar Airways (duh), which has been the biggest perk of all. I travel like crazy, on average once every month, and have visited about 20 countries during my two years here--and only one of those required a layover.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are a few things worth doing once: Zubarah Fort, Zikreet, East-West West-East (Richard Serra desert art installment), Sealine beach, dune bashing, desert camping, camel racing at Shahaniyah, the mangroves, Sheikh Faisal Museum, and Banana Island. Once you do all of those things, it's back to Netflix, malls, and hotel brunches. Or head over to Dubai for the weekend. That's always a fun time, too.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing here that you couldn't find elsewhere in the countries where they're actually produced. For instance, at Souq Waqif, there's a guy that makes beautiful punched brass lamps. (He's from Egypt and this is a common handicraft there.)

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Safety! And the physical comforts that you can enjoy here. Also Qatar Airways.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How little there is to discover.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

If I had never lived here before, yes. It's comfortable and pleasant enough. Having already lived here, no. There's not enough to occupy your free time for one month, let alone several years.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Cutoff shorts and mesh tank tops. Expectations of weight maintenance/loss.

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4. But don't forget your:

Love of burgers.

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Doha, Qatar 05/12/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

previously lived in several cities in Africa, Asia, and Europe

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC - 13 hours and 59 minutes direct

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

work

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

full range from apartments to villas, from an hour commute to walk to work

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

groceries are readily available but expensive. Everything is imported.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

larger car, yeast.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

all types of fast food. prices are high. comparable to London.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

none

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

expensive.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

gyms readily available if you live in a good housing compound - but the air is not filtered so combine that with a high pollution index .....

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs everywhere.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

most; just limited location.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

depends on what you do - if you're doing business with locals, you'll need Arabic; for everything else English is okay.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

taxis are okay.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

any auto will work. major roads are good standard. but locals drive the largest vehicle they can find as fast as they can. so look for something safe.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

yes. It varies with location.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

get one. you'll look out of place if you don't hold one to your ear constantly when out in public.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

if you can get a visa and sponsor. There is no job changing without sponsor permission.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

formal

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

regionally it's not a nice neighborhood. In country, you're more likely to be injured in traffic

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

several hospitals in nice buildings but there's a lack of qualified doctors and lack of equipment.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

the WHO ranks ambient air pollution as unhealthy

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

hot with occasional sand storms and then there's a two-week period of surprisingly cold in December

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

many schools, all full.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

huge. Out of 2 million people in country, locals are only 250k. Most expats are ready to leave after two years.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

leave for a short break

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

maybe families. no public display of affection. unmarried couples risk arrest if caught alone.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

prejudice based on class or ethnic origin is so prevalent that it's mentioned casually.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

every flight out

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

none

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

air tickets away

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Absolutely none. It's an expensive (US$15/beer), isolated, hot (130F), barren piece of land with polluted air.

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9. Can you save money?

not a chance

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

nope

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

desire to improve your Arabic, driving etiquette, and winter clothes

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4. But don't forget your:

sense of humor

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Doha, Qatar 02/08/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, fourth.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC - when I came, the city-pair was on United through Dubai, but now the last leg of that is cancelled so I think it's a direct flight on Qatar Airways, about 14 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are a huge variety of types and locations of housing here, from apartments to townhouses to "villas." They're spread out across the city, commute times vary from 2 to 45 minutes. Most housing is fairly large, but with very little storage space (and iiittty bitty "closets"). Other than the apartments, the housing is all on compounds.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Very expensive, availability varies. Dairy products are often out of stock and always go bad very fast due to being left out in the heat for too long. There is a pretty wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but for some reason they all go bad exceptionally fast here so it's impossible to get more than a day or two worth. There are random products that are very hard (if not impossible) to find here, such as feminine hygiene products and dryer sheets. It's hard to find sensitive-skin and non-scented cleaning products, too. There is pretty good availability of dry-goods, decent cereal selection, lots of pastas and rices, most canned items, etc., but it's all quite expensive (about US$10 for a box of cereal, for example). And of course there is no alcohol or pork here. Alcohol includes vanilla extract, by the way. So that precludes most baking.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Cereal (it's super expensive here), real coffee (they mostly do that instant stuff here), vacuum cleaner (it's supposedly provided in the furniture pool, but it's really not, and local ones are pathetic and ridiculously expensive), rugs (also not provided in the furniture pool, and floors are all tile; though you can also buy nice rugs locally), slippers (the tile floor thing...), lots of extra clothes (hard to find inexpensive clothes here, mostly they just have designer stores; and your clothes will all wear out super quick because of the hard water and the heat).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food is pretty mediocre here, there are only a handful of really good restaurants. All food is very expensive. There are the usual fast food chains, plus some European and Arab chains as well.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really any. Some very tiny cockroaches. There are scorpions in the desert, but I've never seen any.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO. There's not really local mail here. At least not reliable mail. Partly because there are no real addresses. Pretty much everything is hand-delivered/couriered.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Pretty available and pretty cheap, but generally hard to find good ones. We don't have kids so we just have someone else's maid come once a week to clean, and she's great, but most other people seem to only have complaints about their maids.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

All the compounds have gyms, but many are very poor quality.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Fine to use and available everywhere. Only problem with credit cards is that you need a Qatari credit card for many online or quick-machine services, like Ooredoo (phone/cable company), so you'll have to go in person to do a lot of that stuff, which is a huge hassle and massively time-consuming.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a little church-enclave with churches of several denominations (I think Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, and some orthodox varieties). No Mormon church or synagogue.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, most people you'll encounter for daily living aren't Qatari or even Arab.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, almost nothing is handicapped-friendly. Disabilities still have a huge stigma in Qatari society, and most Qataris with disabilities are hidden away at home and never spoken of.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There aren't really any. There are a couple buses but they have strange and impractical routes, and I don't know anyone who has figured out how to use them. There are also taxis, but they're nearly impossible to flag down or call for one. Previously, everyone just had a private car service guy that they would use as a taxi service. We recently got Uber though and that has been a huge help for transportation. Both of the latter two options are a bit pricey, but mostly safe (sometimes you get a crazy driver and see your life flash before your eyes multiple times on the journey).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I recommend an SUV or crossover of some sort, partly so you don't get terrorized on the roads by all the massive SUVs they drive here and partly because the roads are in surprisingly poor condition. When there is construction (which is always) you'll often end up doing a bit of off-roading just to get through it. I wouldn't recommend a huge SUV, though (even though that's what all the Qataris drive...) because despite the fact that most cars here are very large, parking spots here are made for Smart cars. You can get cars here, but they are pretty expensive, especially SUVs. If you bring a car you'll have to get a few things outfitted to meet with local regulations (like install fire extinguishers).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, expensive and speed varies. They're working on installing fiber-optic everywhere, but the buildings that don't have it yet still have pretty slow speeds. If you have fiber optic you have the potential to have high speeds, but the speed is throttled by the cable company so that they can charge you insane rates to get it faster.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a fancy smartphone (or bring an unlocked one), get Ooredoo Shahry for whatever minutes you need and then add a data plan for whatever data you use (I get the smallest pack on Shahry and a 1 or 2GB data plan - it's much cheaper than getting the Shahry with as much data as you want, because they come with very small data allowances).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. There are a couple decent vets, but they're pretty expensive. The vets have boarding services.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Mostly, yes. There's no spousal work agreement for diplomats, though, so getting one might be tricky and is kind of on a case-by-case basis.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not much. There's no homelessness here, and only poverty as inflicted by employers on the migrant workers. The orphanage doesn't let outsiders in. I guess you could clean up trash on the beaches or something... but the government can also hire people to do that.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative. Suits for work. Cover your knees and shoulders at a minimum (I never show legs at all, and mostly wear 3/4 length or long sleeves), no deep necklines.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

In terms of crime it's very safe here. There was a small terrorist attack about 10 years ago, and you do have that constant threat looming over you in this region, but it's easy to forget it on a day-to-day basis. The main safety concern is road safety - Doha has one of the highest rates of vehicle accident death in the world. It's a strange combination of Qataris who don't care about traffic rules and expats who come from an assortment of countries with little or no traffic laws, and it doesn't mesh well together.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Mostly respiratory problems related to air quality. There's also MERS here, but just stay away from the camels and you'll be fine. There seems to be some kind of child disease epidemic at the moment (lice and pink eye and such), not sure what's going on with that. Medical care is questionable at best. The hospitals look fancy but there are hardly any qualified doctors in them. As in many do not even have valid medical qualifications. There are a few good ones here and there but it's hard to find. I wouldn't recommend getting anything worse than a bacterial infection treated here...

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very unhealthy - one of the worst cities in the world for PM2.5. Almost everyone has respiratory problems here, many children develop asthma, and when it sandstorms, thousands of kids end up in the hospital. Many adults with no history of allergies have developed terrible allergies and chronic sinus inflammation, and the only advice doctors give is to leave Qatar.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Don't come to Qatar if you have dust allergies. Just don't. Food, depends on what it is... there's not much peanut used here, but there is a lot of gluten. I find being a vegetarian here quite difficult, that's just not really a thing here.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Unbearably hot for 9 months of the year, idyllic for 3 months, and oddly chilly for about 2 weeks. Summer temperatures are usually around 115-120F, and extremely humid on top of that. In the winter it is in the 70s F, except for about 2 weeks each year when it dips into the low 60s or high 50s. It's sunny 362 days of the year or thereabouts, and usually rains 3 or 4 days in the winter (at which point all the streets flood because there's no drainage).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ASD is the main American school here; there are several other options but they fall far behind in quality. ASD is reputably one of the best American schools around the world.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Depends on the school. At ASD it should be fine, but other schools might not have the capacity.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes but they are very expensive. Good quality, though, they are actually more like schools than just daycares. Space is very limited though, so plan far ahead to get your kid in. Also there are weird rules in Qatar now about not allowing kids in nursery school past age 4 (as in literally the day they turn 4 they get kicked out) so there are big issues with gaps in childcare for kids who turn 4 before they start kindergarten.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

ASD has school sports. I'm not sure if there are external expat sports leagues... for Qataris (boys) there are various sports clubs that have youth divisions. There are very nice facilities here, just not many people willing to play.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Expats make up about 88% of the country. Morale is pretty low in general, for various reasons depending on the group. Largely because it's very expensive, hard to get around, and the weather sucks most of the year. Also because expats are mostly treated like garbage by Qataris. There seems to be a standard maximum tolerance level for living in Qatar, and most people reach it at about the six year mark.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Good question... Go out for tea at a fancy hotel seems to be the main form of "entertainment."

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families seem to like it, since the school is very good and the country in general is pretty family-oriented. Couples and singles often don't have much to do. There's a decent amount of cultural and athletic activities going on, but it's very difficult to go out anywhere in Doha. The city is hugely spread out, traffic is horrendous, and parking is always a problem, so even just going out on a simple expedition will take hours and often it's just not worth the effort for most people.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No, homosexuality is "illegal" here... just like how they're talking about making anorexia "illegal." Yep cause it makes sense.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, all of the above. Qataris are supreme, then other Gulfis, then everyone else is below that, but especially anyone who looks like the people they bring in as migrant workers (south Asians and Filipinos mostly) will be treated poorly. It's a very conservative Muslim country. There's a little church-town where all the other religions can practice (except Mormons, because the other Christians here held a vote and said they don't count... yes, seriously). Atheism is not even understood at all (and may even be in some ways illegal, I can't remember if that's still the case or not). And as a woman you'll just have problems in general with everything. You don't have to cover here, but you can expect to be leered at most of the time since you don't. There are a lot of male-only places that women either aren't allowed or are just made to feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable if they do venture in. Many male contacts just won't take you seriously as a woman. You'll probably get rude gestures made at you if you drive, and someone will definitely make an absurd comment about women not being able to drive (even though like 90% of vehicular accidents here involve men...) For men, you'll have some annoying access issues. You can't go to girls schools, or girls youth centers or clubs, or the women's sections of buildings or the university. You'll probably have fewer contact with female Qataris, and miss out on half the society.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Iftars, dhow trips, picnics in the desert, seeing the Serra statues.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Desert tours, camel farms (careful of MERS!), Film City, the Serra sculptures in the desert, forts, Souq Waqif, Museum of Islamic Art, Mathaf, Katara, walking along the Corniche, Sheikh Faisal museum, dhow rides, inland sea, singing sand dunes, camel racing, Aqua Park, Al Shaqab horses.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There's not much actually made here. You can get gold at good prices, though.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Good school, unique culture and people; right now it's a really interesting time to be here since it is developing so quickly. It almost feels like a country caught in two different centuries. Or as the more cynical would say, a third-world country with a first-world facade.

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10. Can you save money?

No way. Even if you don't do anything, just food alone will break the bank.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known how bad the air quality was and how hard it is to do anything here. I was prepared for a lot of the flaws of Qatar, but those two have really been the biggest pains for me (literally! I'm in constant pain from the dust and pollution). If you have a full-time maid or stay-at-home spouse who can take care of a lot of the necessities of life for you, it's probably okay, but for me having to do all that by myself it's just not possible with a full-time job. Just going to the grocery store is a several-hours expedition. When I first arrived and tried to register a car it took 3 or 4 hour+ visits to the traffic department. In order to pay my phone and cable bills I have to physically go to an Ooredoo store and wait in line for usually an hour. And anytime you go anywhere you have to allow at least 30 minutes each way for driving (even if it's only a mile away; if it's on the other side of the city that'll be an hour drive, at least), plus another 20+ minutes for finding parking and getting into the location. Then of course when you get there that store won't have what you need, so you'll have to spend another 2 hours going somewhere else. And they won't have it either. And you'll nearly die 3 times on the way.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Nooooooo. Mostly because of health reasons. I've pretty much been constantly sick for 2 years. But also because life here is just so difficult for so many little reasons that all add up to one constant headache and a lot of stress.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Umbrella, shorts, short skirts, tank tops, winter clothes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, sunscreen, power adapters (British outlets here, but for some reason all the appliances the Embassy gives you have European plugs), top-of-the-line phone.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There seem to be 2 types of people here: people who are blissfully happy and apparently ignorant of any negative thing about Qatar, and cynical pessimists who've had a really hard time here and can't wait to leave. As you can probably tell, I'm in the latter category. Almost all women are in the latter category. Pretty much only men with kids and stay-at-home wives are in the former. I actually tried really hard when I first got here to hold off the cynicism (even though in general I am someone more likely to see the negatives). But when you have to drive and deal with daily life here it is just impossible not to get stressed and depressed. You know how people say it's more about the job and the people you work with than about the local conditions? This is the exception. I LOVE my job here, it's fantastic. And almost everyone at the Embassy is great, too. But I've hated it here. Everything here is just too difficult. I have colleagues here who've been to warzones, 25% hardship posts, been evacuated from posts, and they still all say Qatar is the hardest place to transfer to and live in.

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Doha, Qatar 04/09/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Third expat experience. Lived in Belgium and France before.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC. It is a 13-hour direct flight into Dulles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Nine months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse's job with the DOS.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large, comfortable housing in safe compounds with excellent amenities.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Learn to buy regional products and you can save money on groceries.e.g. Saudi Feta cheese is $2/pound!Still, you can find every expat comfort food you might crave. You'll just pay $$ for it.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More cool-weather clothes!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the major fast food places are here but we prefer the excellent Indian and Middle Eastern options which are inexpensive and delicious.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Yes, organic produce and gluten-free are readily available at select shops. We even have a Dean & DeLuca!

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Minor... small ants and spiders as it heats up. Flies may pester you at a picnic but it's not bad.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the APO.The local mail system is a mystery to me.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and affordable. We have a live-in maid who has made my life so much easier!

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes! I have a compound gym across from my house. It is easy to stay fit here.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Easy to use ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. I am learning some Arabic phrases but English is ubiquitous here.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This is not a walking city. You drive everywhere. I believe it is becoming more accessible as the infrastructure is developed.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe and cheap thought not always easy to find. Many people use private car services which are also pretty affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We bought a used SUV here. The expat auto market is robust and you can find what you need. SUVs are helpful as there is a lot of construction about.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Q-tel is in the process of upgrading us to fiber optic internet which will be awesome.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You definitely want a cell phone. Easy to get here with affordable plans.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes. We like the Canadian vet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Possibly. I telecommute to California from here.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Slightly more casual when it's crazy hot. Just remember: Women should cover shoulders and knees. Just be respectful and you'll be fine.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is a very safe place. My children are able to play freely in our compound which is priceless. As a woman, I feel very safe alone in the evening in public places. Criminals are quickly removed from this country and I have no problem with that.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good health care. Excellent private hospitals. Be prepared to pay for the services and then submit to insurance for reimbursement.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate air quality. We had some bad sand storms in early spring that kept us indoors for a few days. Otherwise, it's not bad.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Great weather eight months of the year. Colder in the winter months than we expected: low-50s at night, low 60s during the day in Dec/Jan. In early April, it's now warming up to a summery low to mid 90s. Expect HOT weather May through September... well into triple digits. You get used to it. In the summer, we swim every night after the sun goes down at 6 pm.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We love the American School of Doha. My girls are incredibly happy!The teachers are dedicated and innovative. There are myriad after school activities too-- free of charge and late transportation is available. Big thumbs up.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There are schools here for special needs. Look at the Compass School and ACS.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes! Many!!!

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large... expats from everywhere!

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2. Morale among expats:

Decent to high. Some people are bored... but they're not miserable. A lot of families find reward in the contentment of their kids here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We dine out at the hotels about once a week (the only place you can buy a beer or a glass of wine).We get together with friends at home, meet up with friends at the pool, spend a day at the beach, etc. It's low-key and lovely.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

EXCELLENT for families. I might be bored as a single person or someone without kids.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is a bit of a caste system when it comes to South East Asians as they are the labor force here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Don't come here expecting Big City life. Doha is a sleepy suburban-like place where you can find great friends, make your own fun, and watch your children thrive. Don't come here for nightlife, museums, or a cafe culture.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Please note that this is not Paris!There are a handful of tourist places to visit and, otherwise, you make your own fun by the pool, on the tennis court, on your patio, etc. We like the souq, walking the Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Village, and the malls. Dubai is an hour flight and it's a hoot!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Shisha pipes, prayer beads, camel bone boxes, lanterns, and carpets.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

My children love it here! Safe, great weather eight months of the year, kid-friendly activities, excellent schools, good housing, and easy living.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really, maybe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes! This is a wonderful place for a family. Living is easy (although sometimes dull) but you can make your own fun.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bad attitude, prejudice against the Middle East, and strapless dresses.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, sports equipment, jackets, and open mind.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I am sorry the March reviewer had such negative (and often erroneous) things to say. This really is a fine place. It is up and coming and growing pains abound, but it has become "home" for us and we're glad to enjoy two years here.

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Doha, Qatar 03/24/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I've lived all over South East Asia and the Far East.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Chicago, 16 hours with a layover in DC. Qatar airways flies direct to DC, and I connect.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work in the IT department in a Qatar government company.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The rich ones live in compounds named Bel Air, Palm Springs, etc., (you get the picture). The not so rich ones live in shabby condos. The poor ones (laborers from Asia) live in tiny tin roof shacks, many without air conditioning.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Not expensive, if bought in bulk like in Costco.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Salsa sauce and baked beans!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the nastiest of the nasty American giant chains are here, and they all deliver. Cost is comparable to that of the States. There are some good Arab restaurants, and some good Indian ones too.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I haven't seen any.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None, there are tiny german cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The postal system is a mystery. Everybody has a post box number.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive filipino housemaids.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Plenty, there are many good local gyms.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are everywhere, and credit cards can be used in most big stores.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Islam. Period.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Local English newspapers, which carry the king's stomach upset as a headline.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot, if you interact with local Arabs. Others know English well.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Too many, there are no sidewalks mostly. It is very difficult even for the able bodied.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are nice and affordable, but they are very infrequent and don't go everywhere. Taxis are affordable if you can find one of those green government run taxis. There's a huge network of "illegal taxis," which most Americans and some Asians use. Make sure you get into a clean one, and reduce the rate significantly before you step inside one.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Don't bring any, you can buy Hummers, and maybe even bigger gas guzzlers here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

They say internet is fast, but if snails are fast, so is the internet here.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You get all cellphones without contract.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

They hate dogs. Cats are everywhere.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

An illiterate Arab will earn US$25,000/ month for being an Arab (government really gives free money to keep them quiet).

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Formals, and decent casuals. Nothing revealing is allowed.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really, getting run over by an Arab is scary, they drive very badly. That being said, Qatar is safer than the USA, where self-appointed neighborhood watch captains kill at will.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is spotty. The Sheikh Hamad hospital is big, but waiting times are long and surly nurses and doctors. Many people get medevaced to Bombay, India, for serious issues. Oh, and Sudafed is OTC, so is Prozac and many other dangerous meds!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very unhealthy, we had one of the worst sandstorms last week, and it deposited a not so thin layer of red dust everywhere, maybe in the lungs too!

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This year has been weird, we are the end of March, and summer's not here yet. June-September sees temperatures over 100 on all days, with temps touching 120 on some days in July and August.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are many schools here, some good, but I wouldn't bring my family and kids here, Arab kids are spoiled rotten and will spoil your kids too.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Special needs kids are considered a curse. Enough said.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Many, especially during summer when kids would be inside.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Many Indians, although they are leaving in droves. Many Nepalese, filling in the voids left by the Indians. Caucasians are there too, and many are at the base here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low to none.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

None.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

No for all. Singles will have to go to a mall to kill time. Couples will have to interact with others from their own countries. Families, the men work, women watch TV all day.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No, this is a medieval Muslim country.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

None, marking time is great!

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Villagio was touted as a modern mall. However, it was too kitschy inside with cheap artificial skies and clouds. And also a tacky venetian canal with a tacky motor-powered gondola. I found the place so disorientating that I soon started gasping for breath, and ran away.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

None, all local items at the souq are rip offs.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

None, except saving money. Even the souq (traditional middle east market) is sanitized and westernized.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you live like the hapless Asians, and not go to the overpriced, tacky malls.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I will leave this place like a bat out of hell when I get my chance.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Hopes that this is a rising middle eastern power. They think money is a solution for all issues, how wrong they are.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Any Egyptian move will prepare you somewhat for life in the Gulf.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a hardship posting, everything here is fake and plastic. Medical care is bad. People come here out of sheer desperation. You can see many sad faces counting their days left here.

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Doha, Qatar 03/04/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Fourth expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.Trip is an 18 hour flight, including a stop in Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over 1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My commute isn't bad - 15 or 20 minutes. There is a lot of traffic in the city though, and it's getting worse every year. They are building a new roads infrastructure, but in the meantime the traffic will get even worse has they block off the roads for construction.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are a number of Western supermarkets including Carrefour and Spinney's. You can find pretty much any British product and most U.S. products if you are willing to pay for them. Veggies are imported and expect to pay a premium for quality. If you have to have the exact same brands you eat at home, shopping can get expensive, but if you're willing to go with other brands and try some tasty middle eastern and indian foods, it's not too expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pet supplies. Wall hangings and other things to decorate the house. Air purifiers. We loaded up on cleaning/household supplies at Costco and it saved us money - even though you can find everything here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All the fast food/corporate food you could want - from Applebees to Burger King to Nando's. Restaurants run the gamut in price, but you can find some good deals, particularly for middle eastern/indian foods. Eating out is a major pastime for locals and expats alike. Expect to put on some weight.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There's a supermarket my wife and I like called Megamart which has lots of speciality items. My wife was on a gluten free kick for a while and was able to find products, albeit at a premium. You can also order a lot of stuff online if you have APO

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

A few cockroaches, but not much. Few lifeforms can survive the climate.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

You can get one for $7 or $8 hour, or less if you have a live-in maid.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Most of the compounds have small gyms. Mine is more than sufficient

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No issues with ATMs

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a government-sanctioned "church city" where several denominations have churches, including Catholic, Protestant (Anglican I think), LDS, and Greek Orthodox.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are three english language newspapers. Most cable stations are in english.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Arabic is not necessary to get around. Signs are all in english and arabic, and most people speak english. You may find yourself forgetting your Arabic while you are here.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Relative to many world capitals, it's not too bad. You can drive everywhere, there is handicapped parking at the malls, and plenty of elevators.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are affordable, but few and far between. If you want to order one you will need to call half a day in advance. I've never taken a bus. You'd probably wilt while waiting for the bus during the warmer months.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I would recommend a large SUV, which is what most of the locals drive. People drive very aggressively here, and the bigger you are the more likely you are to get respect on the road. There are a lot of accidents, so a bigger car will probably give you more protection. You could get by with a sedan, but there are some nasty speedbumps on the side roads, so you'd want to have a decent clearance (no low-riders).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is fast. I don't remember what it costs, but it can't be too bad or I would remember.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Qtel works fine.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are some decent vets/kennels. We are happy with ours.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are plenty of job opportunities on the local economy, but due to legal restrictions it can be hard for the spouses of diplomats to get permits to work.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business dress at work. Men usually do not wear shorts unless going to the pool. Women are generally expected to dress conservatively in public (longer dresses/pants, no shoulders, no cleavage).This isn't Saudi Arabia though, and you will often run into people in the malls or hotels dressed rather scandalously.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The country has very low crime. Some Qataris leave their cars with the key in the ignition when they go to shop, though I think that would be tempting fate.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Food safety is pretty good. There are some decent medical facilities including the private al ahli hospital. For some speciality procedures/treatment you need to go to Hamad, the public hospital. Hamad has decent equipment/doctors and is very affordable (a real boon for many of the expat laborers) but takes a long time to get service. You can spend half a day there trying to get some nurse's attention and then have to walk around in circles to get the right feespaid.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Limited artificial pollution but there is lots of dust, particularly during dust storms, which happen about once very couple months

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Virtually no rain, yet plenty of humidity because of the Gulf. November through March is beautiful. October and April-May are pretty warm. June through September is unbelievably hot. In July and August the temperature can get up to highs of 120 and lows in the mid 90s. It feels like you're on the surface of another planet. Everything is air-conditioned

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Everyone raves about the American School here, which is said to have great facilities and dedicated teachers. I was told that children have to meet certain basic standards to enroll in the school, and some USG employees were not able to enroll their kids because they didn't meet the qualifications.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not sure, but given that sports is a big priority here (they recently declared a National Sports day holiday), I'm sure there's got to be stuff.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large. Expats outnumber locals 4 to 1.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Most Western expats don't last more than a couple years, but a few stick around for a while. Most people are drawn here for the money.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

A lot of socializing centers around kids. Drinking is expensive in bars - expect to pay as much as $15 for a heineken - so people often have parties at home. Some of my single friends have active social lives, and others seem rather bored.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families with kids seem to do the best here. Some single people do fine, but others are unhappy. You have to be able to entertain yourself.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Homosexuality is illegal here, as it is in the rest of the Gulf. There's probably an underground scene, but I don't know anything about it.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is quite a bit of prejudice/discrimination here, particularly towards South Asians and Filipinos, who form the the bulk of the workforce. Some of the malls have "family days" which technically implies that single men cannot go, but in practice does not apply to Arab or European men. I have not heard of women being excessively harassed here, but it is a conservative and male-dominated society.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Our house and the compound - which has plenty of open space. I've enjoyed the work a lot and the fact that you rarely feel cold. I enjoyed travelling to Sri Lanka and other places in the Middle East. I like eating out a lot. I also like the interesting blend of expat cultures here.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Souq Waqif, the Islamic Art Museum (and a couple newer museums), Katara cultural village, and the boardwalk of the pearl (artificial island) are all amusing. Plenty of good eating out options, especially for middle eastern food. There is an area about an hour's drive south with a beach resort and sand dunes where you can ride ATV's. You could fill about a week with activities before you started running out of things to do. Many expats spend their free time at malls or in hotels (which are the only places where alcohol is served).

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not very much is made here. I have a pakistani tailor I like that makes affordable suits.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

No Winter. Easy and cheap to travel in the Arabian Peninsula or to South Asia. Plenty of good middle eastern/Indian food. Interesting sporting and cultural events that come through town during the cooler months , most of which are very cheap because they are subsidized. For example, yesterday I went to a huge Murakami art exhibit, and a couple weeks ago there was a Women's Tennis tournament that brought in the top-ranked players.

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11. Can you save money?

Not the best place to save money. If you travel that will eat out of your budget. Surprisingly, flights to anywhere but the Arabian peninsula and South Asia are quite expensive from Doha.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely if I had some older kids and could send them to the American School (though I would send them home during the summers).I've enjoyed my work a lot, but socially it hasn't been the most exciting tour.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Zen-like patience. Driving can be very frustrating here and you will need patience when someone in a land cruiser pulls up inches behind your bumper and flashes his brights at you to move out of the way, because you're only going the speed limit. Flipping the bird is a crime. You'll also want to bring plenty of DVDs, video games, books, and other forms of self-entertainment.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There are definitely many worse places you could be posted to. Doha is safe and comfortable, if a bit boring at times. Come here with managed expectations and you will do okay. I recommend sending your spouses/kids home during July and August so they can retain their sanity.

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Doha, Qatar 01/13/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is my third. I previously lived in Mons, Belgium and Paris, France.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is Maryland. Currently there is a very comfortable (albeit long) direct flight from Doha to DC-- about 13 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Six months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of a U.S. Foreign Service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Expats tend to live in gated compounds that are quite swanky, decked out with sparkling pools, gyms, club houses, playgrounds, restaurants, mini marts, etc. Houses are modern and bright. Ours has a lovely garden and patio which our garden maintains for about $40 USD a month. Commute times very. It takes my husband about twenty minutes to get to work.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I find things to be reasonable here. You need to seek out local produce, otherwise you will pay dearly for US lettuce or Dutch broccoli. You can get meats from all over the world, and you just need to shop around for best quality and pricing. US cereal is pricey (about $7 a box) but delicious feta cheese is $2/pound. Learn to love Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods and you will save $$$ on your grocery bill. Note that there is one shop in the entire country where you can buy alcohol and pork products, QDC. You must apply for a permit to shop there. It is expensive, but you can't beat a BLT or a cold beer when you want one.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Stock up on kid toys for the gazillion birthday parties your children will go to. Toys are expensive here. You can find everything you need here... you just might pay more for your home country creature comforts. One item I searched frantically for was pine-scented candles during Christmas. Don't pack candles if you are moving here over the summer months. They will liquify! My mother came to the rescue and mailed me some Yankee Candles from Maryland. They took a week to get here via APO.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Holy cow! EVERY fast food restaurant is here. And most deliver. You know you're not in too exotic a place when you can find Krispy Kreme. The Middle Eastern restaurants are fantastic and cheap. You can feast on grilled lamb chops, hummous, etc. for a song. Western-style restaurants are pricier, and the hotel restaurants that serve alcohol are the priciest. You will find yourself doing a lot of cooking at home -- we put our BBQ grill to use all the time.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

You can find all of these. You'll just pay a bit more than you would in the US.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Very few. Some tiny ants during the summer months. Small, pesky flies at times when you're picnicking outside.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the APO system. The Qatari mail system is a mystery to me. People do not have mailboxes at their homes. We currently do not use the local mail system at all.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is quite affordable. We pay $450/month for a live-in maid who is AWESOME.This is a bit on the high side. However, it is best to inherit a maid from a departing expat who can offer solid references, as quality of service can very.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes! Most every compound has a gym that is free to use. There are also many fitness centers you can pay for.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Very safe. No problems at all.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I'm sure they are here but you won't see church steeples.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There are a few local papers and event magazines available. Local TV packages include lots of US and UK shows. Cable is affordable.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Sadly, you don't need Arabic to live here. Signage, currency, publications, etc. are in both Arabic and English. The universal language among the myriad cultures is English. It is good to learn some Arabic greetings out of respect for the host culture. Sometimes I forget I'm in a faraway place.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The infrastructure is getting better and better by the day, but they are still not up to speed in accommodating people in wheelchairs. The lack of public transportation makes driving a must.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are affordable but not always easy to come by.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You can't import a car that is more than five years old. We bought our car here as there is a robust expat auto market with all the comings and goings. We opted for a used Volvo SUV. Gas is ridiculously cheap, so don't worry about MPG. Expect some aggressive drivers! Opt for a safe car with high clearance. Lots of people drive BIG cars here. You will command more respect on the road if your vehicle is big, too.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is fine but not the fastest. We are supposedly upgrading to fiber optic cables next month. Qtel is the communications monopoly here. We pay about $60/month for a 4 mb line, but it is much, much slower than that currently.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Easy to get an unlocked phone here. I pay about $50/month for a generous call/data plan.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

We use the Canadian Vet Clinic for our standard poodle. They are very caring and reasonably priced. Just be aware that your dog will be limited to compound living. This is not a culture where dogs are necessarily welcome. But our dog loves our garden and lounges on the cool marble tile in the house during the hot months.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not particularly. You may find work at the school, and the embassy often has job postings. I am lucky in that I do consulting work for the US from home. This keeps me intellectually challenged and brings in extra money for family travel.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More formal in the moderate months. When it's stinking hot, things get more casual. There is a requirement for modest dress here. Women cover their shoulders and their knees-- nothing too low-cut or snug. Just be respectful. You're not in Miami.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. Aside from the fact we are neighbors to the "Evil Doers," this is a very safe country to live in. This is a true melting pot of expats and the local Qataris are accepting of this. Criminals are quickly deported, and this keeps the local population on good behavior. The biggest risk here is the poor driving!

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Great healthcare!We use the Doha Clinic for almost every medical need. It's a private drop-in clinic chock full of specialists. A visit is around $50 USD and you never wait more than about 20 minutes to be seen. I'm very pleased.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is fine, but there is a fair amount of fine sand/dust that will blow around on windy days.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Refer to Phoenix, Arizona to answer this one. It hardly ever rains, and November through February are spectacular. Expect acceptable heat conditions in October and March but nearly intolerable heat April through September. Still, the sun is down by 6 pm in the summer months so we can swim every evening in the neighborhood pool across from our villa.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our children attend the American School of Doha (ASD) and we love it. The new campus is top-notch and the teachers are incredibly creative and caring.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ASD does not have a special-needs program, and that is the one weak point about them, I think. However, there are a number of schools in the city, including The Compass School, that can accommodate special needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Tons! All year round you can find soccer, swimming, martial arts, dance, tennis, horseback riding, sailing....

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

GINORMOUS. But, these are expats from all over the world. In our compound of 40 villas we have French, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, British, Egyptian, and US -- and surely more that I'm not aware of. You won't necessarily make friends with the local Qataris, but you will make many international friends.

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2. Morale among expats:

My husband and I can't understand why people complain about this place. This post has been a truly pleasant surprise. We know of some people who let boredom take over, but that's their problem, not Doha's. If you are here with your family and can't find enjoyment in it, I think you're nuts.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We tend to dine out at one of the many luxury hotels about once a month. You can expect to spend about $100+ per person if you include cocktails. Otherwise, we like to entertain at home. It's easy to strike up impromptu gatherings at the compound pool or to drop by a neighbor's house with a bottle of wine. The embassy offers a calendar of social events, too, but we prefer to branch out as much as possible. There are lots of interesting people to meet here. You just need to get out there and make some friends.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This place is the Mac Daddy for families! I think singles and couples may find it a bit boring. If you like to entertain in a spacious home and you like having your kids running in and out of the house with a gaggle of neighborhood friends, this is the place to be. If you want a bustling metropolitan cultural mecca, you may want to pass on this post.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I really don't know. This place is such a melange that I am sure gay people find their niche-- but not necessarily overtly.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There remains a caste system for the SE Asians here. I fear that if you are SE Asian you may be treated like the low-wage labor.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Seeing how happy my daughters are living a "Wonder Years" existence-- running around the neighborhood with friends, riding bikes, swimming, exploring on their own. My eight-year-old can't wait to go outside on the weekends to play with friends. The TV is almost never on. Kid life is GOOD!

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Doha is teeming with sports opportunities, you just have to look for them. There are loads of expat clubs for every interest and hobby out there. As for local culture, it's rather thin. However, we really enjoying visiting Souq Wakif (the big open-air market), walking the Corniche (the water of the Gulf is a lovely turquoise!) and the Museum of Islamic Art is a sophisticated taste of Doha's future. Luxury hotels abound and, while they are spendy, they are the only place with alcohol licenses -- so it is common for expats to frequent the restaurants and bars within them.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Olives, cheese, sheisha pipes, incense burners, spices...Note that there are a million shopping malls here with US and UK shops galore.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Shhh... don't tell!This is a wonderful place for families with school-aged children! It is very easy to live here: affordable, modern, cheap domestic help, spacious housing, safe, excellent schools, and perfect weather about five months of the year.

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11. Can you save money?

Perhaps, if you don't go out for cocktails all the time and if you learn to adapt to local/regional groceries. We find this place really affordable overall, but we have splurged on travel. Airfare from Doha is pricey!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, yes, yes! My girls love it here. We know a number of families who extend when they can. It's summer time and the living is easy!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

assumptions about Arabs. I love how this place has shattered any prejudices I may have acquired in the US. Also, don't feel you need to stock up on much before arriving. It's all here.

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3. But don't forget your:

sweaters and jackets for the "winter" months, as it will dip into the upper-50s at night. Bring your grill, your swimsuits, your sunglasses, your defensive driver skills, and your openness to not-terribly-exotic expat suburban existence.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I think Doha is a real gem. If you find this post on your bid list, don't overlook it. You won't find much by way of cultural sophistication, but you will discover a family-friendly place where you have the time to make your own fun.

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Doha, Qatar 06/19/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Bonn, Berlin, New Delhi, Detroit

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Lahore, Pakistan. There are several direct flight from doha to lahore, and it takes 3 to 4 hours to get here.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Student at an American university's branch campus,

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in compounds. They are provided with all the amenities (gym, swimming pool, playground, supermarket etc.)

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them (KFC, Pizza Hut, McD's, Hardee's, Pinkberry, Applebeess and MANY MANY more.) Turkish Restaurants provide cheaper option.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is this place that provides organic food called "Dean & Deluca" in villagio. It is expensive though.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I know of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Courrier. Postal service isn't reliable.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Plenty.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Very safe and accessible.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think this place is very friendly towards the disabled in terms of its infrastructure and its people.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Public Transportation is horrible. The taxi service (Karwa) is ok. Private taxis are illegal.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

SUV's seem to be most convenient because the traffic is horrible and you'll feel crushed with a small car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Qtel and Vodafone are the only two carriers in the country. Rates are ok.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None. Qatar is extremely safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate. It can get polluted in the densely urban areas. Dust storms are the norm.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It is extremely hot for most of the year and you hardly have to wear a jacket in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are plenty. American School of Doha and Doha College (British System) come to mind. Qatar is also home to branch campuses of some the world's best universites (Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, UCL, Northwestern, HEC Paris and more to come).

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Qatar really takes care of special needs kids. There is the Learn Center which is a world-class institute dedicated to their needs in Education City. Most of the public places are also accessible to the disabled.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I am not sure, but they must be good.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Aspire is state of the art.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

More so for families than for couples and singles. There is a party scene but it is a bit shady from what i've heard.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I believe there is a gay community, but they are mostly closeted because of Qatar's strict Muslim principles.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Racial problems exist as people from the subcontinent and Philipines are often discriminated against. Westerners and Arabs are above everyone else in the hierarcy.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Seeing the country grow and develop, and seeing the leadership's goals of making Qatar a knowledge economy take shape. The energy on the streets was spectacular when Qatar won the World Cup 2022 bid

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Not so many. There are plenty of world class cinemas (including an IMAX). There is also the Doha Tribbecca Film Festival, Sheesha/Hookah at the Souk and a state of the art islamic and arab musem.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is an extremely safe place - probably one of the safest in the world. It is also a booming economy, and you can see the country really building itself.

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11. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. Definitely. Although you do tend to get bored at times and I would prefer to go somewhere else for grad school.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Doha, Qatar 10/26/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, first expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC-a 12-hour straight flight to Doha.

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3. How long have you lived here?

14 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am associated with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most everyone lives in compounds. Most are very nice. All Al Afardan compounds are suitable. There are a few others that are nice as well. The villas are quite large, with all-tile floors. No matter what, commutes are horrible. There is constant traffic in Doha.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is more expensive then in the states, but if you stay away from the western-type grocery stores (like MegaMart), you won't spend too much more then what you are used to.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can really get just about everything in Doha if you are willing to pay for it. Or you can at least find a substitute for it. The only item you can't get is vanilla extract.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Every nasty american fast food chain is there, Hardees, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Dunkin' Donuts, Coffee Bean, Chili's, Applebees, Bennigan's, Fuddrucker's, etc. There are also a few cheap places to eat that are good. But other then that, prepare to eat out at hotels and prepare to spend alot of money.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There is a new company that imports organic food from europe that is becoming more popular. It is still very expensive, though. If you are vegetarian you will do just fine.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the embassy. There is a pouch and an APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Most everyone has help. You can either grab help from someone who is leaving or fly someone in. The costs are getting more expensive. Paying about $400-$500 a month for a live-in is typical but they are getting more expensive.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Almost all compounds have a gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems using credit cards or ATMs.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a born again christian church, catholic and LDS that I know of.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. Not sure on the cost.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None. Everyone speaks English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots. There are no sidewalks or any special systems put into place for people with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are fine and safe. Not too expensive. I don't know anyone who has ever taken a local bus. And there are no local trains.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most everyone drives an SUV. It's not necessary, although the driving is horrible, so most people feel safe in them. Because of traffic, speeds are never very fast, and if they are it won't matter what car you are in if you get hit by one of the crazy Qatari drivers speeding down the street. SUVs are really only necessary if you plan on going to the desert. If you are bringing a car, be sure that there is a service center for that type of car. I can tell you that Nissan, Hyundai and Toyota are all fine.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Its not super fast but not super slow either. I think it was about $40.00/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one. Everyone uses them. Qtel is the provider and it's fine.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are two vet clinics. Both are decent. There is also a government-sponsored clinic that is fine as well, plus it's very cheap or free.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Lots of my friends were able to find work if they wanted to.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I never felt unsafe, but just keep in mind that you are in the middle east.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None really. The medical care is better then I would expect. Hamad hospital is respected. Unless its life threatening, you will be fine.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Pretty good, however there always seems to be dust in the air. But its not polluted.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

HOT, HOT and HOTTER.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American School is good, as are some English schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Most everyone has a nanny/maid. Most everyone also sends their kids to a preschool -- or nursery, as they are called. For kids 4 yrs and above, ASD (American School) has a nursery. Park House, CESK, and DESS (English schools) also have great nursery programs for kids 3-5 yrs. All are very good. For the younger ones, there is a slew of nurseries, but only a few are worth mentioning: Appletree, Starfish, Tots' Corner, and Rising Stars. All have LONG waiting lists and are expensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

For little kids, Aspire has a great program that is very cheep. But prepare to wait in line at the end of the summer and hope for a spot. There is also a My Gym there that is incredibly over priced. There is a "play ball" program that is expensive but doable. There is also t-ball for kids 4 and above. There is ballet for girls 4 and above, but the waiting list is about a year and a half long, and I don't know anyone that has ever actually gotten in. But it's a great opportunity for your kids to learn how to swim, and swim well.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

LARGE. Lots of oil people.

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2. Morale among expats:

If you are with an oil company, you love it. Everyone else is biding their time.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Hotels, clubs. Lots of parties at houses.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families do very well. I have also heard that there is a decent single scene if you are into clubs and restaurants. I think couples have a harder time.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Uh, NO. This is a Muslim country.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Qatari men are at the top, western men are just fine, then women below that. Everyone else is pretty much a menace in their minds.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Leaving Qatar.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Leaving the country. But there are the sand dunes, and people like them, as well as desert camping, the malls, the pools, and the sub-sub-par beaches.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Travel within the Gulf is cheap via flydubai. Also, travel to India and Sri Lanka is not expensive either.

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11. Can you save money?

It's hard, but if you don't leave the country every other month and stay away from hotels and imported food you can.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No, Doha is a pile. I am greatful for the friends that I made, but it had nothing to do with Doha. However, its not a hardship country. If it's your one shot at living overseas, take it. But if you have somewhere else to go, consider your options. The Qatari's are un-friendly and are always watching. The way they treat the people who are basically building and running their country is despicable.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter coats.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Doha, Qatar 12/22/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

5th expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Wonderful direct flight from Dulles - about 13 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3-year assignment.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Nice villas throughout the city in housing compounds with people that look the same as us but make tremendous amounts of money through their oil companies. Everyone we've met is from Texas and is affiliated with an oil company. Their salaries and glamorous lifestyles make it difficult for government-salaried individuals to play in the same sand box. Villas are big, but the have virtually no closets or storage, so plan accordingly. Bring armoires or storage units. Limited green space. Wonderful children's parks, swimming pools and workout facilities.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More children's clothes and toys. Just bought a Barbie at Toys R Us and paid $75(!)Everything is here but very expensive.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Tiny ants are everywhere -- after all, it is the desert, and the ants take full advantage of the sand. Black flies are also a problem, but there are no disease-carrying or too-scary critters to mention.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO or DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available mostly from the Phillipines or Sri Lanka. Most want sponsorship and live-in. We pay about $500/month for a live-in helper.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Wonderful facilities on every compound. No need to join any fitness club.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You will need to use your credit card, as everything is so expensive in Doha. You will fast run out of cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

This is a Muslim country, and proselytizing is illegal. One must be very respectful and mindful of this at all times. That being said, there is a Christian non-denominational church, a Roman Catholic one and active LDS.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN and/or local cable showing almost every channel available stateside.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, but learning a few Arabic phrases goes a long way. All signs and such are in English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Doha is set up very well for individuals with disabilities. Remember my previous comment about traffic accidents? Those that survive traffic accidents tend to be disabled and require a lot of assistance. Villas and embassy housing, however, are not set up for individuals with disabilities. There are a lot of stairs, bathtubs for showers and such.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are safe, as are limo services. Doha will be wonderful in 10 years when their public transportation system is complete. Buses are for day laborers...although they still look plenty safe to me.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring a four-wheel drive with working A/C. Every car dealer imaginable is in Doha. It's quite possible to purchase your car here, either from a departing expat or directly from a dealership.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available and reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You will need one.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Great vets in Doha. Remember that dogs are not welcome here, so yours will be on your compound at all times. Sad.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes. Many with excellent pay. Women, beware. Some jobs are posted "men only". There are some good EFM jobs available, too.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative, smart.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to unhealthy. Very limited, if any, industrial pollution. The sand dust often makes it difficult to breathe.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Your usual Middle East terrorism threats against soft targets: schools, housing compounds, shopping malls. Qatari driving is the biggest perceived threat. There are more traffic fatalities in Qatar than anywhere else in the world (The Economist Oct 2009). Petty crime is virtually non-existent. We feel very safe. Excellent RSO.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Doha is extraordinarily hot from April through November. The heat and humidity are crushing and prohibit any outdoor activities. Have a dog? Forget daily walks, as paws are literally burned! December through March the weather maintains at around 70 degrees with a couple of rainstorms. Beware, there are no drainage systems, so the roads flood.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ASD is fantastic. Beautiful campus. Amazing facilities - but it is very far from all housing communities. Kids spend over an hour each way on the bus. Bidder beware! The school is often not in session, making it impossible to not have childcare if both parents work. All U.S. holidays are given many days off, then add in Ramadan, two weeks for Eid(s), half-Tuesdays every week, and copious amounts of teacher work days. The kids are just never in school. As of this post, the kids have already missed over 7 weeks of school, and it's only December! Further, if you are embassy affiliated, don't assume that your child has guaranteed admission. The school is full, and they are reserving spots for those companies that contribute a lot of money. They have a formula that they go by. If ExxonMobil contributes said amount, then they will allow said amount of kids in. Fair? It seems the Dept of State's contributions to security/land and such is of little concern. Bidder beware.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Minimal accomodations. ASD has the right to refuse kids that present too much of a "challenge" to the staff. There's a huge wait list to get into ASD, so the administration is fine with turning kids away. Children must meet entrance exam requirements.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies are available if needed. Sponsorship is required. Most are from the Phillipines.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Tons! You name it, it's here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

GIANT.There are over 20,000 Americans living in this small country. I feel like we've moved halfway around the world to live with Americans.

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2. Morale among expats:

Oil folks are loving life. Those of us with government salaries are a bit shell-shocked at the cost of living. Life is easy and safe in Doha. There are many more difficult posts, so morale ranges from good to great. Surround yourself with positive people and you will do well.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Mostly done at homes.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably best for families. Although everyone seems to find their niche and do fine.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are no gay Muslims, right?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Absolutely. This is a conservative Muslim country.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Sand dunes, beach, malls and then repeat.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Save your money for your next post! Everything is imported from China, India or the U.S.

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9. Can you save money?

No. It's cheaper to live in WADC, even with the added bonus of free housing in Doha. We're astonished at the cost of living.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Our children are enjoying their time here. This is an easy post, however desert fatigue sets in early, and the lack of cultural opportunities is disappointing, so I'm not sure.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations of experiencing ancient Middle Eastern culture. Even the goods sold in the Souqs are from China. Doha is an easy place to live, but it's like Tyson's Corner, only Muslim and on the water.

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3. But don't forget your:

Good manners and your positive attitude.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Doha is a lovely city and this is a family friendly, safe place to be.

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Doha, Qatar 09/01/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. First Middle East expat experience.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Direct from Doha to Washington, DC on Qatar Air. Also direct to New York.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government Employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Compounds with others who look like you. If you don't have the government or an oil company paying your rent, forget about it!I heard of one expat renting a room, a single room, in his villa for QR6000 - that's close to US$2,000.Just outrageous. Rich people raise the rents on their properties every year, forcing the rent paying working class to take the kids out of school and send them home because they can't afford to work here and have a family. It's a huge problem.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are so expensive you can't even joke about it, and the prices keep going up. That said, you can get everything you want. You just have to decide what you are willing to pay for.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

As I said, you can get everything you want here, including booze at the government run store. So ... I don't know. Bring your ice skates, there is a very nice rink in the mall and sporting equipment is expensive if you can find it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

It's astonishing that they have imported the very bottom of the American diner style food establishments. TGIFridays, Chilis, Applebees. Hardees, Burger King, Arbys. Krispy Kream Donuts. One bright spot in all this dreck is Johnny Rockets.but why would you eat in any of these places when there is so much great regional food? Middle Eastern food is fabulous and cheap. And the huge working class from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, and other places guarantees that you'll find restaurants that cater to these folks. They are usually pretty darn good.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I have APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

You can have your very own slave for quite cheap, but why on earth would you debase your humanity by engaging in and condoning a system of indentured servitude?

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Perfectly safe. Have fun.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I think the Christians have some choices.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. About US$60 equivalent a month.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

They speak english here. Everyone. Everywhere.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably few. They have handicapped parking spaces and most buildings have doors wide enough for assisted access. Older buildings not so much. There is a lot of slippery paving in malls. This is by no means a walking town. You must have a vehicle to get around.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

If you know what is good for you, you drive on the right with an eye on your mirror - so that you can see when the Landcruiser rages up behind you flashing its bright lights to indicate you must move out of its way NOW.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They exist but they are filled to the brim with the impoverished working class. You really want to take a different mode of transport.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

The terrain here is pretty much flat and rocky, small rocks, boring rocks. There are no hills, no outcroppings, no trees, no bushes, no nothing. There are good roads. You should bring a car that is sturdy and can deal with the heat.a car with an excellent air conditioner. As much as I hate to ever recommend one, an SUV would be perfect. Not so much because you need the power or the capability, but so that you will survive the accident when a Qatari forces you off the road. An accident is a rite of passage here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, comes bundled in a cable TV/internet package. Not a bad deal, reliable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Everybody has one. Same as everywhere.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

VOIP.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

It is okay.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. There is a caste system here and people get paid according to nationality.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative, but there are always those who push the envelope. They say no tank tops, but you see them. They say no shorts, but you see them. The Qataris forgive an awful lot of boorish western behavior, but then, as I said the place would fall apart without the expats.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

This is a very dusty place. The sand storms, as they call them, are really nothing more than a layer of dirt settling down over the sky, obscuring the sun and coating everything. There is very little in the way of industrial pollution, though.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The usual in a high threat Middle Eastern city for Americans. However, crimes against individuals, pickpockets, purse snatch, car burglary, are almost non existent. Have not heard of any burglary in the expat compounds.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Qataris go abroad for all major medical care - like heart operations, transplants, etc. For basic care I think you can find a doctor you like. There are several decent clinics and a pretty good hospital. Be prepared to get shoved out of line if a Qatari comes in .They get served first, even if you have been waiting an hour.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid summer from May to October. Mild winter. Little rain.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a lot, but they are all impacted. Unless you have guaranteed admission through your employer, then you will face a waiting list.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge ! There are 1.5 million people here and 80% of them are third country nationals. The expats run everything. If we all left tomorrow the place would unravel.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good for the most part. The oil sector folks like being rich and living in big houses. The education folks are in it for the experience so they are content. Most government types are just marking time.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Most people entertain in home. Sometimes there will be an event - Placido Domingo gave a one night only concert. It was nice.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, depends on if you are male or female, gay or straight, and yes. Look, there isn't that much to do here, so if you are self contained you'll be fine. If you are dating you might find it a little bleak. As with everything, its what you make of it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There are no gay muslims, right? So I'd say no.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. A woman is still not as important as a man and must ask for permission to work and travel.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The list is short and you'll get through it very quickly.you can hire a four wheel drive vehicle to take you out across the sand, there is some camping to be had, you can drive around the whole country in a day and be back home in time for dinner. The hotels have some bands and nice restaurants. The waterfront is nice. The problem is that for about 3-4 months out of the year your only refuge is the mall, or any other air conditioned building. The temp may only be 107F, but the humidity pushes the heat index up to 140F most days. It is crushing.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

A ticket out. They sell the usual junk in the souque. I don't think that they manufacture anything here, so why would you buy it?

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9. Can you save money?

Not if you let yourself get wild in the supermarket, but in general yes. There isn't that much to spend it on. You'll drop all your money getting on a plane to explore the region.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I suppose. I've been worse places. It is comfortable, and I have everything I need. But the arrogance of the Qataris is unbearable, and the way they treat those who they feel are below them is abhorent.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of a spiritual intersection with Islam and an enlightening introduction into Middle Eastern culture. This is a money culture, pure and simple. Character is measured here by how much someone can display, how much wealth they can accumulate, and how much more important they are than the next guy in a Landcruiser.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you come here, fight against a tendency that expats have to start to act like the Qataris. Be courteous on the road.

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