I felt a lot of mixed emotions after my move to Doha. If you’re desert-bound yourself, here’s some of the stranger things you can expect to happen to you.
1. Your concept of heat changes entirely
As an Australian, I prided myself on my ability to handle heat. Then I moved to Doha in the middle of the summer. 35°C/95°F is a hot day in Sydney. In Doha, that’s considered a “cool” summer’s evening.
So what do you do? The only thing you can do. You climatise – to the point where a 40°C/104°F day feels normal. Try not to feel too disturbed by this new concept.
2. You’ll start sweating approximately 27 seconds after you leave your house
The heat is one thing, the humidity another. The air is heavy and oppressive – it clings to you the moment you step outdoors.
You’ll feel much like a little human sausage being squeezed out of your skin. It’s not the most pleasant sensation, as I’m sure you can imagine!
3. You’ll find yourself getting addicted to shisha
You don’t have to be a smoker to enjoy shisha. There’s something soothing about sitting at a café at the local souq, lazily inhaling smoke infused with grape and apple, while watching the world go by.
One thing to remember is that shisha has many of the same health risks as cigarettes, so it’s best to indulge every now and then as a rare treat. Your lungs will thank you!
4. You’ll travel more
Doha is pretty much in the middle of the world, with an airport that is ever expanding. Europe and Asia are each within easy reach. Better yet, you might find yourself journeying to places you never imagined travelling to – countries such as Oman, Jordan, Bahrain or Iran.
5. You’ll stockpile alcohol for Ramadan
As Qatar is an Islamic country, the entire city of Doha observes the month of Ramadan. Eating and drinking in public is banned, conservative dressing becomes mandatory and the nightclubs close for the ENTIRE MONTH.
You need a licence to purchase alcohol from the two shops run by the Qatar Distribution Company. The day before Ramadan begins, these stores are rammed with Western expats, desperate to get their hands on as much grog as possible before the month long shutdown of hotel clubs begins. It’s basically Doha’s version of Black Friday.
6. You’ll mourn the absence of bacon in your life
Turkey bacon is NOT THE SAME THING.
7. You’ll grow accustomed to being driven everywhere
Public transport is almost non-existent in Doha, apart from a couple of buses. Some expats buy cars, others rent but a large majority have personal drivers.
On the downside, you have to know what you’re doing ahead of time and book your driver accordingly.
There is a silver lining. You’ll never be late for work again.
8. You’ll want to adopt every cat you see
Doha has a cat problem. They are everywhere. Skinny little creatures constantly flitter from corner to corner and occasionally allow you to get close enough to pet them.
The desire to adopt each one and love them forever can be overpowering. Unfortunately, you can’t save them all. You can feed them scraps from your lunch, so that’s something, I guess.
9. You’ll befriend someone who lives at the Hilton just to use the beach
Public beaches are rare in the city of Doha. The Hilton is easy enough to access from West Bay (the city centre). I had the most success when I strutted in like I owned the place, chucked my towel down on the nearest chair, spread out and waited for the suns rays to do their work.
During summer days, the water is so warm it feels much like taking a winter bath. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen liberally and keep out of the midday heat!
10. You’ll go ice-skating in the middle of the summer in City Centre
That’s right. There’s an ice-skating rink in a shopping centre, built in a city that is surrounded by desert. Once you manage to process that fact, you’ll use this facility to your advantage!
11. You’ll embrace dressing conservatively
It seems counter-intuitive to wear trousers in the searing heat. Yet, conservative dressing is encouraged in Doha and as a woman, you’ll find yourself wanting to cover up. Wearing anything that cuts above your knees or elbows is considered disrespectful and draws attention in the street. Better to keep to the dress code and try to go as incognito as possible.
12. You’ll Internet date more than you ever have before in your life
There are two ways to meet people in Doha – at work or online. When you’re new to the city, Internet dating is a sure fire way to meet new people and possibly make some friends.
There are strict rules on interaction between couples on public. Handholding is frowned upon and kissing strictly forbidden.
It’s best to keep within the parameters of the law in this regard, when out in public.
13. Rainfall will become a cause for celebration
It rarely rains in Doha, but when it does the city turns to utter chaos. People leave their houses to gape openly at the sky and traffic becomes utterly chaotic. Rain usually indicates a dip in temperature, which after the heat of the summer is definitely a cause for celebration.
14. You’ll never see a sex scene at the movies again
Even kissing scenes are banned at the movies and are forcibly cut out of films. This can be a bit jarring when you’re watching a love story and the flick suddenly jumps ahead to the next scene!
15. You’ll fall irrevocably in love with the desert
There’s a lot to Doha, but at the end of the day, it’s just another city. It’s the desert that will command your attention and pull at your heartstrings.
You’ll go on crazy drives over endless sand dunes, marvel at the silence of the Western desert and go swimming in the ocean, the shores of Qatar stretching out on your left, a distant Saudi Arabia visible on the right. And at night, you’ll lay out on the sand, under the endless starry sky. You’ll stay there for hours, counting shooting stars and know in that moment, there is nowhere else in the world you’d rather be.