Kicking It In Qatar: Keji’s Abroad Life

February 14, 2020

I was two minutes ago years old when I found out I’ve been mispronouncing ‘Qatar’. For the bad kids at the back, how do you correctly pronounce Qatar?

So this took some getting used to for me. Normally, I say Ka-TAr, which most foreigners do. But then, others say Gu-TAr, but the real Arabic pronunciation sounds a little like QWURr-turr. Just say the one you can, really, life is hard enough.

Okay, while I enrol in Qatari pronunciation school, let us in on how you went from saying o and ẹ́ (terms of respect) in Yoruba, to being able to shame me with your Qatari words?

Well funny story. First, my Yoruba is no where near perfect. You should hear me explaining to the elderly in church when I visit England that ‘mi o wa around, because I live in Qatar now.’

Hear, hear! You’re speaking to the President of the ‘start in Yoruba and switch to English after two words’ club.

Haha. So, I was born and raised in England, grew up with Nigerian parents plus our extended family. I’ve visited Nigeria a bunch of times. I grew up in the Celestial church where literally everyone was Nigerian, so I never lacked for Nigerian influences in my life. But my move to Qatar was just one of those things that happened on the fly and I love it. There was a teaching opportunity that presented itself and I took it, the rest is history.

Ahan, what kind of rush-rush story is this? We asked for the tea, not Bournvita inside sachet.

Haha, okay, ẹ́ ma binu (don’t be upset), my bad. I had just finished university and was on holiday in Qatar about 7 years ago with my mom. While we were there, I saw an opening for English speaking teachers and pretty much spontaneously applied, mostly because I’ve always loved travel and living elsewhere was just appealing to me. 

The trip ended and I returned to England. Shortly after that, the school I teach in reached out to me for an interview, so I had to fly back to Qatar. Let’s say I arrived in Qatar on a Thursday, by Sunday, I had been approved to teach in Qatar.

Oh ith lith!

It really was. But when I first started working in Qatar, I was placed on probation, you know so they can determine how well you teach and if you’re a good fit. I eventually passed the probation period and it came time to grant me a permanent staff role.

Real recognised real!

Haha. Well, before I got confirmed, there was a whole process. I was on a visiting visa during the probation period, so my school, which is a pretty reputable international school, applied for my working visa. I needed to submit my educational credentials and the school did a CRC (a Criminal Record Check) to make sure the children weren’t in any danger from me. 

After everything checked out, the school flew me out

Ooou, sis was getting flewed out.

Haha, well it was to a neighbouring country. And it was just so when I returned, it would mark the end of my visiting visa and the start of the working visa. So I’ve been teaching for six years since then.

Got it! So you’ve visited Nigeria, grew up in England and now you call Qatar home. Who’s getting top marks for your favourite place to live in?

Hmm. It depends on what you’re looking for actually. Personally, if you’re looking for the best place to live a wholesome life, while also saving money and things like that, I’d rank Qatar first. If you’re thinking of social life and being free to dress and live how you like, just going out and chilling, definitely London. Then maybe food and a bit of the club scene, pick Nigeria. 

Qatar could have come tops, but it still needs a lot of things to be in place for it to be home.

Nigeria said I should tell you at her big age, it’s club you’re using to rank her. That reported, I’m very interested in this small shade you threw at Qatar there. What should be in place for it to be home?

Well, I have to say Qatar is great, but their transport system? Not so much. Because I grew up in England, I’m used to buses appearing every 5 – 10 minutes, walking out of my house and having a rough estimate of when I’d get to my location because the transport system is pretty reliable and convenient.

*Squints at Lagos’ BRT buses, one broken headlight squints back*

But in Qatar, the bus system is still in development, I actually have never been on it before. You pretty much have to take cabs everywhere, which can get expensive. There’s a metro system that I frequent, but the transport system still needs work. I ended up getting a car here because I was tired of relying on it.

I hear that. Now when you moved to Qatar, what were some things that took some getting used to?

First, the transport system like I mentioned. I had to really plan my movements ahead and truly worry about it, so that needed some getting used to. Then language. I teach English at an international school, so communicating isn’t too hard because a lot of the staff members speak in English and most children do too. But my Arabic is maybe 3/10 and the language being spoken everywhere in signs and announcements took some getting used to, but I obviously expected that.

Yeah, of course.

Then maybe their modes of dressing. I mean, I was used to it, I had gone on holiday here and I was obviously aware that Qatar is a Muslim country, but seeing everyone decked on thawbs and abayas, definitely took some getting used to in maybe the first month I lived here.

Oh really?

Yepp. And then, there was this little voice at the back of my head that told me to be more deliberate in my dressing. In London, I could just wear a top with maybe a little boobie showing, some ripped jeans, arms exposed, and I’d go to the shops like that. But here, I always remember to cover my arms, carry a scarf if I’m wearing anything a little low cut and swap ripped jeans for just regular jeans. 

It really doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it was something I never paid attention to in the past.

For some of us, *points at self*, for whom hoe is life, what would be a typical Qatari reaction to less than decent exposure?

Haha, well you might get a number of stares, but that depends on what part of Qatar you’re in. If you’re in expat heavy and more urban locations like Inner Doha, Souq Wakif and The Pearl, people might not even give you a second glance. 

Oh really?

Yeah. But if you’re somewhere like say Al Wakrah which is a more traditional setting, you probably will get quite the eyeballing. But chances are you won’t, because it’d be quite obvious you’re not a local or from around Qatar.

That makes a ton of sense actually. Now I’m curious, what does Qatar’s nightlife look like?

Hotels and hotels! Qatar has a nightlife, no doubt. But if you’re looking to have a club feel, you can only get it in the clubs. Those are the only places licensed to sell alcohol in Qatar. 

But there’s a big but, hotels have clubs, but they can only run from around 10 till 2AM, no exceptions.

Oop. Qatar said the party pops from 10 PM until Mama Calls (ᵃᵗ ² ᴬᴹ)

Haha, they really did. But it’s largely because Qatar is a Muslim country and they want to limit as much as possible, displays of drunkenness on their streets and public spaces. The usual thing is for people to move from the clubs to like shisha lounges, which are everywhere in Qatar, those spots usually close really late. But forget about getting any Henny or anything of the sort there, absolutely no alcohol outside of hotels. 

The teetotal in me is pleased. Now before I start plotting my relocation mission, what can I expect if I approach a random stranger on Qatar’s streets?

Ah, about that. Depending on where you are, and who it’s with, you  might and this is a big might, get a friendly response from a Qatari woman if you stop her on the street in a more urban area like The Pearl. The men are a lot more cautious and will probably not wait to hear what a woman has to say on the street. 

Oh really?

Yeah, but Qatar’s young people are very helpful and will definitely stop to chat or help with directions and things like that. You just need to know who you’re approaching.

Got it. Now on average, how much can you spend in a month in Qatar? 

It’s really a preference thing. On feeding, I budget around 500 Qatari Riyals per month (about  ₦50,000) on feeding. On accommodation, it really depends on where you’re staying. Places like Al Wakrah, Al Thumama, Najma and Al Hilal range from about 2000 QR to 6000 QR per month. (₦198,000 – ₦594,000) while others like Lusail, The Pearl, and Doha can set you back between 4000 – 11,000 QR (₦396,000 – ₦1,089,000). 

Per month you said? Wow, who needs light and a metro system, I love my country.

Haha, well that’s on feeding and accommodation. Transport, you can spend like 2 QR per train journey or 10 QR if you want to go stay in VIP

Wait, wait. What’s in VIP?

The funny thing is, not a lot. You can just pick it for more privacy. Qatari men might pick VIP so he and his wives can get privacy without staring eyes and all.

Oh I get it. Now, talking about Qatar and Arab money. I am ready to be tensioned, what’s the biggest display of wealth you’ve seen in Qatar?

Funny thing is, display might not be the word. But you will know Qatari wealth by their smell. There is this unmissable smell around them that’s just like pounds and dollars mixed together as perfume.

Hmm. My Smart Collection is spinning.

So the smell, and definitely cars. They have a thing for exotic cars and if you’re passing a rich Qatari’s home and the gate happens to be open, you’ll definitely see nothing less than 10 cars in their parking lots. It’s like a standard.

Qatar just told me to stop being poor.
Let’s shift gears a little, you’re in a predominantly Muslim country and you’re a practising Celestial, how has it been so far, these past six years?

Very uneventful. The Qatari people really believe in brotherhood, everyone is their brother or sister. So even with religion, they respect everyone’s choice to worship. There’s a place called The Religious Complex where all religions gather. There are Catholics, Pentecostals, Celestials around there, and everyone is free to worship.

That is so great!

Oh yeah. The highest I’ve ever gotten to any kind of side-eyes is maybe children wondering why I’m wearing white because their abayas are mostly black. And you can see them trying to do the math in their heads like, this is a white garment, it’s not an abaya, why isn’t she wearing shoes?! But that’s about it!

Haha. Crackheads. 

Now to my favourite question. How is the food in Qatar?

Oh, it’s a lot of sweets. These people are sugar fiends. They love coffee, they love bread. They really love lamb and rice. But pastries definitely take the cake here. My favourite sweet has to be the esh asaraya. It is so good! My goodness.

So is it safe to say the sweets are your favourite part of living in Qatar?

Haha, not in the least. I mean it’s up there. But, my work, which I really love is my favourite part. And just having such a diverse mix of friends who have now become family, just makes Qatar the best place for me.

Oh wait, now speaking of family, is there a Nigerian community in Qatar?

Oh yes! There’s a whole African community. But maybe the countries with the highest percentage of immigrants would be Nigeria, Kenya and India, they’re everywhere.

I trust my people.

Nigerian have community meetings here, which I have to admit, I haven’t really attended because of time and really already settling in with friends and colleagues. But guaranteed, you’ll never want for Nigerian companionship if you move to Qatar.

Fantastic! So will you be hanging up your boots and moving to Qatar permanently?

Well, I can’t say. I’ve loved it here and given it six years, but I won’t mind trying other countries and seeing what prospects they have for me, so we’ll see.

Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.

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