Things That are Weirdly Expensive in Qatar- Collab post

What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?

How many of us go into Walmart or Target expecting to pick up one or two items and leave thinking, ‘what did I just spend $100 on?’ Well it’s like that everywhere you go in Doha, especially since if you see it, you better get multiples because it may be a long time before you see it again. This is life in Qatar.

I’ve been living in Qatar for 3.5 years and it still shocks me how expensive some things are. Most of the residents are expats, like me, who come here for a tax-free salary. However, there are other benefits to living here, like diversity of cultures and safety, which you can’t really put a price tag on. But contrary to what numbeo.com says: the “Cost of living in Qatar is 8.72% lower than in United States …”, the cost of living in Qatar is not lower than in the United States. In fact, I have the data to prove it.

For example, the first time I saw a deck of cards here, it was at a Shisha spot and it cost about 100 Riyals or $27. In the U.S., you can get that same deck for about $3.87 at Walmart, or a cheap deck for $1 at the $1 store.

The other day, Darryl and I were looking for jump ropes to exercise with and the prices ranged from 50 qar to 159, between $13 and $50 usd.

And don’t even get me started on manicures and pedicures. They can set you back 500-600 riyals easily, that’s $137.

One of the reasons I chose to come to Qatar was it’s location, which should make it a pretty easy travel hub all over the world. Unfortunately, due to the blockade traveling from Qatar is dreadfully expensive now. Three years ago, my sons and I flew to Dubai, for $99 each, non-stop, round trip. The flight took less than 2 hours. Now the flight cost $400+, takes double the time and includes a layover.

Okay, so I know that this is a Muslim country but they do sale alcohol and you will definitely pay the cost to sin. There is literally a ‘sin’ tax and because of it, alcohol prices have doubled in the last year. A bottle of Tito’s vodka is approximately 231 riyals or $64 at Qatar Distribution Corp. You can get that same bottle of Vodka in the U.S. for $20.

In a country that has one of the highest rates of obesity, you would think Gym memberships would be reasonable, think again. An annual gym membership can range from 5000-9000 qar or $1300-2500.

Rent here is insane for what you get. I live in what Americans may call a project looking apartment. A flat among many, but it is very nice, clean and surrounded by greenery, which is rare in Qatar. The maintenance is wonderful and utilities are included. It also has a gym and shopping within the area. The best part is it puts me 10 minutes from work. It’s a two bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, 120 sq meter, 1291 sq foot apartment and the rent is 8500qar/mth or approx $2400/mth. I’ve lived in 4 places in Qatar and rent all ranged from $1500-$3900/mth. Here is where I agree with numbeo.com, “Rent in Qatar is 16.40% higher than in United States (average data for all cities).”

Thank God my job provides a housing and utility allowance which covers this insane cost or I would not be living here.

Since Darryl does the shopping let me introduce my guest blogger, my husband Darryl, who will discuss other weirdly expensive things in Qatar:

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Wimpy 1931

Like a lot of children I loved cartoon as a kid…who didn’t? The Wimpy character from Popeye was hilarious to me because all he wanted to do was eat and not pay for it (lol). Now that I am older, I see Wimpy as someone who wanted to get the most he could and pay the least for it (not sure if he ever paid for any of those burgers he ate).

As the main shopper/cook of our household, I, like a lot of people (excluding my wife), will travel to the ends of the earth or Qatar for a bargain, (although if I factor in the amount of gas I use to travel to the ends of the earth it may not be a bargain anymore, IJS). However, in Qatar there are some items that no matter how far you drive they will still be weirdly expensive when you get there.

With that being said, here are the nominees for Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category:

A Liter of Listerine mouthwash at 60 qar (approx $16 usd) may cause you to stock up on Mentos.

Tide w/bleach at 75 qar ($20 usd) might have you thinking about using the old bar of soap and wash board method to wash your clothes. Even some of the non USA brands are just as expensive.

Taco Shells, not even the full taco kit, is 35 qar ($10 usd). I mean if you are going to pay that much for the shells all the fixings have to be top of the line like Waygu beef and aged cheese.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream 45 qar ($13 usd) regardless of your reason for eating non dairy Ice cream (vegan or health issues) at this price it is definitely a treat worth savoring.

…and the award for most Weirdly Expensive Items in the Household and/or Food Category goes to that little green leafy vegetable called Kale!

At 60 qar per kilo ($17 usd) it is by far one of the most weirdly expensive food items in all of Qatar. I mean it is a leaf for all intense purposes. While I understand it is a superfood, at that price it should be considered a super duper food.

To my readers: What weirdly expensive items have you discovered in your foreign country?

Thank you to my contributors- Darryl Montgomery (husband), members of the BSOQ facebook group.

Fun and Active Things to do in Qatar

Get out there and find some fun

When you’ve been an expat for a while in the same country, the glamour and newness begins to wear off. I’ll admit, I’ve gotten quite comfortable in my routine just sitting at home, cuddled up, watching Kodi or Netflix. Once my personal training sessions ended I GOT LAZY! So I began looking for some fun and active things to do here, at least until I re-open my gym membership. You may be quite surprised by what this little country has to offer.

It started out with Paintball. It only lasted an hour as I purchased the voucher from Qgrabs for a one hour session but we had a good time. Our party of 6 got a little beat up and for 3 of them it was their first time. Jennifer was not ready for the pain that comes with getting hit with a paintball. The course is in Sealine and if you’ve ever been to paintball before, you will automatically think as I did, “Is this really the course?”. They should get a little more creative with the course. Nevertheless we made the most of it.

The Paintball course

A couple of weekends later, we rode out to Sealine again, but this time to ride ATV’s over and through the sand dunes. It’s different than riding through the mountains and mud in the Pocono’s like Darryl and I are used to. Instead of getting dirty in mud, you get covered in sand. I recommend riding the bikes with 4W drive (350+ riyals) because they can handle the dunes. The smaller bikes will get you stuck in the sand (250- riyals).

If you want to save the world by killing off Zombies or Robots, head over to Zero Latency. It is a multiplayer virtual reality game. It’s located in the Tawar Mall, inside Bounce. For 35 minutes, minus the 15 minute introduction, and 70 riyals = $20 you can do just that. For more money you can play more games for longer periods of time.

You and a few friends will battle together. You step into this empty, dark room, that is until you gear up with your heavy artillery back pack, gun, ear phones and virtual glasses. Then the room is transformed into a virtual world that looks real. My back was hurting afterwards because well I’m old and I have a bad back and that backpack is heavy, but it was loads of fun. I killed 71 zombies, all in a days work but they also killed me and I came in last for kills. I’ve never been that good at video games anyway.

Something I am good at is real shooting. You can even do this in Qatar. Well you can’t actually buy a gun and go bust some rounds off, like in America, at least I don’t think you can. But you can do some clay pigeon shooting at the Lusail shooting range. It’s located very close to the Lusail Circuit, along Al Khor road and about 10-15 minutes pass Festival City and Ikea. It’s open Sat-Wed, 4-8pm. You get 25 shots for 100 riyals almost $1 per shot. (You can shoot shot guns if you are a member)

My accuracy was 20%. That’s pretty good for someone who has only done clay shooting one other time. I’m so much better with a real gun.

Almost!

The point is, your host country is what you make of it. So get out there and find some fun. What are you waiting for?

If you are an expat, I’d love to hear of some fun you’ve found in your host country. Be sure to leave a comment.

Attending a Desi Wedding

Love brings us all together!

I was invited to an Indian Henna party by a friend. Her brother was getting married so Jennifer and I attended the brides party. I felt much more comfortable attending this wedding-one because I had recently attended a Qatari Henna party, two I had the inside scoop being a friend of the grooms sister.

I regretted not purchasing the Saree, I’d tried on in Sri Lanka, because it would have been perfect to wear to this wedding. At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever have anywhere to wear it, but this is one of the unexpected things that happen when living abroad, you get opportunities to experience other cultures.

Here I am in Sri Lanka wearing a traditional Saree

Since I didn’t have anything Indian to wear, I got something made. This is a Lehenga Choli and Dupatta. Although blue is my favorite color, I fell in love with this hot pink and gold material. Jennifer wore blue. How do we look?

Only women were allowed at this party as this is the Muslim way. Jennifer and I was pulled up to the dance floor as soon as we entered. I couldn’t do the traditional dances but they didn’t care; they told me it was all in the feet. I noticed it was also in the hands. We thought it a little strange that several women also asked to take our pictures. I’m used to being stared at when I wear my baldness, but taking pictures not so much. Jennifer and I both decided that this is what it is probably like in China, when you are the only tall blonde, white women at a party, and the only black bald woman at a party. We weren’t offended; we just smiled and kept dancing. I actually felt quite comfortable. Being asked to be photographed amongst a room full of hair and beautiful women, made me feel special. I’m glad I decided to go as my beautiful, fun, bald self. The strangest part was phones were supposed to be collected at the door, but no-one seemed to mind the many phones and pictures being taken, so I whipped mine out too.

These women had dance routines and everything

I thought I was in a Bollywood film. That’s the bride by the way in the green and pink.

Watching these women dance was the highlight of the night. These women sure know how to cut a rug. I tried to be respectful of the ‘no phones’ policy and only film in short clips but I wish I could have captured more. The bride’s family even battled the groom’s family in a dance off. Everyone was so nice and friendly.

We ate and even got henna tattoos.

The groom and company arrived later and did some dancing too.

Thank you friend for the invitation. I had a fun and lovely time. All the best to the bride and groom!

The major differences, I’ve noticed in American weddings and Desi and Qatari weddings are these: the exchanging of gifts, separation of sexes and the separation of the ceremonies and receptions. In both the Desi and Qatari wedding, the guest received gifts, male and female celebrated separately and the actual wedding did not occur on the same day as the party. The major similarity is this: Life is about being happy and love brings us all together!

When the Newness of your Host Country Wears off…

It feels like this school year should be further along than what it actually is.  Between all the packing and unpacking and repacking and re-unpacking and moving to a new school building and shifting classrooms and constant changes this school year feels infinite.  Thank God, winter break is just two weeks away.  But outside of work, it seems the flashy newness of my host country is wearing off and after two and a half years I’ve settled in.  So now what… Well I’ve started checking things off of my ‘Things to Do Before I leave Qatar’ list.  This doesn’t mean that I’m leaving tomorrow, because I have signed on for another year, but next year may be my last for several reasons unless there is a major change in my position, because a change is overdue. 

For our anniversary this year, Darryl and I stayed at the famous Torch hotel and had dinner at Restaurant 360.  It rotates so you get a full view of Doha.  The hotel is very nice.  The rooms are all powered through the Ipad and you can set the mood in the room by changing the color of the lights.  The food at the restaurant was delicious but the service was slow.  However the view was great.  

For his birthday, I took him to Nobu- a well recognized Japanese restaurant.  Although the lightening of the interior is a bit darker than my taste, the food is amazing.  I could not resist the Black Cod Yuzu Miso dish, so my fake veganism re-appeared. 

Last week we went to see Creed II in the Seven Star Novo Theatre in Souq Wakif.  It is very similar to a First Class Flight on Qatar Airways with reclining leather seats and partner pods.  You even get a blanket and satin covered pillow.  We received a welcome non alcoholic drink upon arrival and ordered some food that was bought to our seats.  Had I known, this movie theatre was so luxurious, I would have dressed better. Oh the movie wasn’t half bad either.  

A few days ago, my girlfriends and I made a visit to the beach that is literally down the street from my house.  We had a small picnic and some girl talk.  It was the first time I actually sat on this beach and I’ve been in my flat for 6months.  There was a nice amount of people there enjoying the cool weather and I decided that I’d frequent Al Wakra beach more often.  Besides, I always wanted to live near the beach. 

Over the weekend, Darryl and I along with another couple (Britney and Quahn) went Kayaking in the Mangroves of Al Khor.  I didn’t know kayaking was so much work.  But it was nice to be out on the water, and for a little while, I felt like I was on vacation. 

I don’t know how much longer I will be in Qatar; I’m thinking 1-2 additional years Max depending on the situation.  But before I leave there are still a few more things on my list that I plan to do before I go because once I leave here, I don’t plan on returning.  In the meantime, I’m off to see another part of the world.  Nine Days in Sri Lanka, coming right up.  Stay Tuned…

Arabic 101: Lesson 2

Ahlan Wa Sahlan- Welcome, Hello

If you ever want to know what it’s like to be an esl student, become one. ≈Me

I’ve never been a very empathetic person but this class is causing a change in me when it comes to my class of first graders.  Even though they understand a lot of English, they are still learning English as a second language and many of them are spoken to in Arabic at home.  I have to repeat directions several times in class and I’ve become more mindful of how fast I speak.  I’ve been told by multiple people that I speak rather fast.

Darryl and I have had 4 Arabic classes now and my confidence level has gone wayyy down.  This class is intense.  I am having a lot of difficulty with reading the letters and remembering what they mean.  However, I am catching on to bits of conversation pieces when the Arabic teachers at my school talk.  I assume it is a lot like this with some of my students.

Anyway this week we learned the Arabic numbers 0-10. Ten is just a combo of 1 and 0.

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Here is my favorite phrase that I’ve learned:  La Atif– it means I don’t know.  I use it quite often.

Other Phrases:

Ayna taskunu- Where you live?

Ana Askonu fi Bin Omran- I live in Bin Omran

Ahamaloo fi- I work in___

Come (not the right spelling but same sound)- how many, Becum- how much

A few Adjectives: Kabir- big; Jadil- new; Jamil- beautiful;

A few nouns: Baab- door; kitaab- book; cowlim- pen, wajib- homework, Bayt- house/home

Possessive- Kitaab- book, kitaaboka- your book for a boy, kitaaboki- your book for a girl, kitaabohu- his book, kitaaboha- her book, kitaabi- my book

Until next time- Iilaa aliiqaa [Ela licka]- See you

 

Has America Lost it’s Sense of Humor?

What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor.  Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America. 

Imagine living in a foreign country in the middle of a diplomatic crisis, during a time when your country recently elected a very controversial President, while sitting through a comedy show.  Wait, that’s not all.  Now imagine that foreign country is in the Middle East, a level of censorship is maintained and speaking of certain things is considered taboo.  Confused, well this is the position I put myself in 4 days ago.  Was it the best idea I’ve had here in Qatar?  I’m still not sure, but hey, I’m here for the experience right.  I didn’t think of all of this prior to paying for the tickets but in the midst of so much chaos in the world, humor is always a good idea.

So as I sat through the Doha Comedy Festival at the QNCC and laughed along with hundreds of people, natives and expats, there were times when I felt very uncomfortable.  Maybe it was the comedian from India, who made mention of hand jobs and women being able to wear whatever they want.  Or perhaps it was the stage set up of buildings with smoke coming from behind them as one comedian mentioned, with Arabic comedians.  There was jokes of marijuana, cross-dressing, terrorism and racism. But most of the jokes centered around the blockade and President Donald Trump.

Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be that funny because of where I live.  My husband and I had a conversation before we went about our doubts that it would be funny.  We even planned our code phrase for a reason to leave early.  We thought because the country is Islamic, that there would be no profanity, or inappropriate jokes. Aren’t those the things that make comedy in the first place?  There was profanity and inappropriate jokes, totally unexpected and we laughed through the entire 4+ hour show.

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All of the comedians were funny and America, my native country, was the biggest blunt of jokes.  The sad part about it was, the jokes were true.  In the face of this blockade, Qatar held a comedy show, where many Qataris showed up and even the host/comedian was Qatari.  They laughed at the headlines that circulated in the media about the false reports of Qatar during the blockade.  What stuck with me the most was, what one comedian said, America has lost it’s sense of humor. Everything is so serious and it is, but if Qatar can do it, so can America.

With all of our differences, the audience all laughed together because…

“Laughter has no foreign accent.” — Paul Lowney