It’s been an honor getting to know Qatar the last couple of days. Even though it is only a country with a population of just over two million, it’s economic and infrastructural development has put it as a leading nation in the Middle East. These are just some of the nuggets I’ve learned during my couple of days here so far:
1. Much of Qatar’s economic and infrastructural development happened in the last 40 years, starting in the late 1970s to today. The reason why the infrastructure feels so new is because it is so new. For example, Doha has three metro lines; red, green and gold. The red line opened eight months ago and the green and gold lines opened just a mere three months ago!
2. As soon as I came out of the metro, I was struck by how all the buildings are the same color. You will see that a lot of the buildings are sand colored and it is sometimes hard to tell them apart from one another. And, at times, they appear to blend in with the ground.
3. Arabic and English are the main languages here, but there are people from all over the world here. I would say most of the population are expats.
4. According to a couple of students here I spoke to, education is tremendously important in this country. Scholarships are very easy to get because the government wants to cultivate the best talents and according to a Palestinian student who has a full scholarship to a university in Doha, “they really want you to learn and become something”.
5. Perhaps because of their emphasis on education and self development, there is a metro stop called “Education City” here where there are branches of American universities and universities from other countries as well as local Qatari colleges. For example, the following American universities have a branch here: Georgetown University, Weill Cornell, Northwestern University, and a few more...
6. Speaking of Doha’s metro system, it is the most accessible and user friendly metro system in the world. Since the metro lines just opened, I think they are still trying to figure out staffing. As of right now, it seems to be overstaffed. As soon as you enter the metro, there is at least one metro staff member eager to help you. And then when you go down to the platform, one and often two more staff members are down there waiting for you to ask them anything. Not only is Doha’s metro system accessible and user friendly, it is also clean and beautifully designed. The bright baby blue seashell color pillars and the white flower-patterned cutout ceilings are gorgeous.
7. The metro tickets are quite reasonable for a country as expensive as Qatar. I’ve been getting the day pass, which is 9 riyals and you can ride the public transportation as many times as you’d like during the span of a day with this day pass.
8. I’ve only ridden the bus once, but it also seems to be accessible. There is a ramp in the middle of the bus the driver has to manually pull out. And the slope is pretty steep so one does need assistance going up and down it.
9. I’ve met very few local Qataris here in Doha. Most people are immigrants. Even most of the metro staff was uprooted because of the recent launch of the metro lines. Their arrival into the country ranged from a couple of months ago to five years ago, most are under a year or two.
10. Perhaps because there are so few locals here, there is really no traditional Qatari food. It is a mishmash of food from other Arabian and Middle Eastern countries. One American individual said she considers Lebanese food the local food.
11. I heard there is a passport hierarchy here. For example, American and European passports rank higher than say Philippino passports and this effects the type of jobs people can get. The metro staff and other workers I’ve met are from the following countries: Uganda, Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Nepal.
12. There is a lot of people from developing countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, Nepal, and Sri Lanka here.
13. The demographics of Qatar feels very similar to Dubai. The infrastructure and metro system is similar as well. The only difference is Doha’s metro line, the conservative attire and other infrastructural developments are even newer.
14. Speaking of attire, you will see the majority of men dressed in the traditional right robes and women covered in black clothing from head to toe. Just from clothing alone, one feels that the Qatari society is a lot more conservative than say Dubai. I was wearing a spaghetti strap the first couple of days I was here and I felt like I was wearing a bikini 👙 amongst a sea of people fully covered. Even foreigners are dressing conservatively and do not have their bare shoulders showing.
15. Premarital sex is illegal. If you one was proven to have broken this law through say being pregnant, they could potentially be thrown in jail.
I cannot wait to explore and learn more in the following couple of days! It’s a fascinating country with its strong religious roots on one side and its desire for innovation and technology with its strong emphasis in education and knowledge cultivation on the other side.