Before Zach had even hung up the phone I was googling "Where is cutter?" and luckily google understood what I meant.
I have to admit though that when the pin dropped in the Middle East, a wave of fear come over me. Of course we wanted to travel but why would anyone want to go somewhere so dangerous?? I thought. This was followed many many other questions like would we need to learn Arabic in order to live there? Would I have to wear a big cape to leave the house? Or most importantly does this mean that I have to give up Wine Wednesday??
Luckily many of these rumors of the Middle East grew far exaggerated as they crossed the ocean and some of them are straight up false. So I am here to clear the air with a Doha version of True or False.
1. QATAR IS DANGEROUS!
Car bombs, war in the streets, American stalkers-- you name it, I thought it.
This rumor actually turned out to be completely and totally FALSE!
In fact, Qatar is actually rated within the top ten SAFEST countries in the ENTIRE world!!!!! ( Yes even safer ( by quite a bit in fact) than America!).
This fact is not only written but you can really feel it when you are here. As many of you know, Zach and I live right in the middle of the city and literally, the streets outside throughout the day and even the night are silent. There are hardly any cars in the streets much less sirens, people chattering and music playing like we had in Houston. Now don't get me wrong, there is traffic and there are people walking about but really night life is not a big thing here. It is very much a family oriented city with parks almost everywhere you go covered with families having picnics and parents sliding down slides holding onto their little ones.
Even so, we are always aware when going out and heir on the side of caution regardless.
2. YOU MUST LEARN ARABIC!
I am quite happy to tell you that this one is also FALSE!
Although Arabic is the native language, literally everyone here is bilingual. Which makes me feel super dumb everyday for only being fluent in English. Most people here actually speak three or more languages which is the coolest thing ever. But again, very humbling. On top of that, all of the signs, menus, and even packaging for products are translated into both English and Arabic. I don't know about the rest of the Middle East but Doha has got this one on lock!
Beyond the acceptance of English people even go as far as to compliment Zach and I on our pronunciation of English. We so don't deserve to be treated so graciously in a country where we are foreigners and don't speak the native language. This acceptance definitely makes me rethink those thoughts I had about Spanish in the US... 😁
3. DO WOMEN MUST WEAR BURKAS!
I want to start this one by defining a Burka and the different versions of covering up in this way. It is basically a long loose garmet covering the entire body, usually in solid black, worn by Muslim women in public. Before coming to Doha, part of me feared that I would have to wear one and the other part of me thought it was all old school and no one really wore these anymore. I was wrong on both accounts. I do not in fact need to wear a burka in public so this one is FALSE but they are extremely common here.
The difference in how they are worn and to what extent relate back to each women's preferences and her religious beliefs.
Some women just wear hijabs which are head-wraps and pair them loose fitting clothing.
These are often seen in bright colors matched with just as bold patterns-- I tend to like the more subtle look pictured below.
A step further than this is to wear the full burka but add a little flair to it. This is probably the most popular and allows the women to be conservative but still show some of their own taste. I have seen everything from intricate embroidery to full out polka dot burkas. Another important note here are the accessories. Since the women are limited in how they can show their personal taste and style, it is normal to see extremely expensive and bold accessories like this handbag and sunglasses paired with the burkas.
Other women who go a step further stick with the all black and even cover their face with just two eye holes punched out.
While still other women go as far as to literally cover their entire bodies with a veil over their face and gloves on their hands.
Now although these burkas look simple, they are extremely intricately made and are very expensive to buy. The way the fabric is cut is almost a science with a goal of having it literally flow from the body. It is quite beautiful to see the garmet flow when these women walk about. A few months ago I wanted to try the things out for myself and went to a shop with a friend to try one on. The one I tried was right at about $4,500 dollars!!
ALTHOUGH this rule of thumb varies depending on which part of town you are in and where you are going; for example, if you are going to a museum, the dress is more conservative but if you are going to a patio lunch at the Pearl you can dress with much less caution.
4. ALCOHOL AND PORK ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED!
This one just depends. Due to Qatar being a Muslim country, generally these two items are banned. How it works is that pork and alcoholare sold just outside of the city and under a certain license. One must obtain the license, travel out to the alcohol and pork store and then only consume these foods in their homes (as long as your home or apartment allows such consumption). The one other way to get alcohol is at a hotel-- somehow most hotels have alcohol permits and call sell all of the martinis that could be found at any other bar around the world. Although we do not have the alcohol license, this one has not been a big deal for us. The only thing that I don't know if I can ever get used to is the beef pepperoni-- pizza is just not the same!
Although Qatar is more conservative as a whole than America, we have been pleasantly surprised at the level of acceptance that has been shown to us. It took a little time to get used to at the start, but this new culture has already started to become a way of life for us.
Shokran & Gig 'Em,