Life in Doha

As an introduction to Expatriate Life I have decided to start with an essay I wrote when we first arrived in 2005.  Many things have changed since then but the essence of living here is the same.  The Asian games have been and gone with with much acclaim. Qatar is bidding for the World Cup in 2022 and the Tribecca Film Festival has came to Doha last year to name a few of the changes.  The city has grown exponentially with the construction of new buildings and in regard to population (expatriate).  Due to this growth, many round abouts have become lights to regulate traffic better.   You are no longer whole hand printed with ink in order to obtain a residency permit.  And at an attempt to make driving safer, many laws have been implemented including not allowing children under the age of 12 to ride in the front seat.  The ability to network has also grown. This has been particularly useful when trying to become an entrepreneur.

Here is the original essay…

What a long strange trip it has been… Many of you have asked about our life here in Doha.  Hopefully this will serve to give you some insight to life in our corner of the world.  My son and I arrived after almost 24 hours of travel.   I thought our whole trip was doomed after being delayed at the ticket counter by a woman who was having a bad day.  We were further delayed as my son had to be deselected from a random security screen.   I was quite the sight pushing three carry ons all strapped together with one hand, the car seat strapped to my back in a large backpack and pushing a stroller in the other hand. The luggage dolly I bought was a great idea until I had to take it all apart at security only to not be able to get all three pieces to stay attached.  Every other minute the carry ons were flying off.   Needless to say, one golf cart ride to the gate and a literal trip down the walkway and we were off. My son did very well during almost 20 hours of travel.  We arrived to a pleasant warm evening and my husband’s smiling face.  The nanny was smiles and my son went to her immediately, thankfully!  This is the second time my husband has preceded me in a move and set up “house” in advance.  It is very helpful indeed to arrive to a clean bed and a functional household.

Our villa is centrally located and as my husband told me, we would be swimming in it compared to our prior living spaces. Villa sounds much too glamorous and while some villas are luxurious, the term is meant to imply a house.  Some are free standing, some in compounds some attached to others.  Ours is in a row of four villas, and has a shared swimming pool.Sadly, the pool is only intermittently clean enough to swim in.  Our nanny, Mary is Indian and has worked as a nanny for 30 years.  In addition to watching our son, she cooks, cleans, washes, irons, and makes our lunches at 6 am (so they will be fresh!). What a luxury to have not only ironed sheets but, pajamas as well!  A final word on having a nanny overseas, it took awhile getting used to being catered to, being called: Sir and Madame and having someone live with you.


Our Villa in2005

The first few weeks seemed a blur.  They were filled with gaining residency, transferring driver’s licenses, and getting acquainted with a new job and environment.  The residency process here is most interesting.  Like all other processes here, only the locals seem to know the procedure.  In order to obtain residency, you must have tests for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis along with a chest X-ray (to exclude tuberculosis). If you have any of the above, you will not be granted residency into the country.  The tests require waiting in four different lines with many women trying to “line jump”.  The whole process was most amusing and only mildly annoying.  After medical clearance, you prints taken of your whole hand; yes, the whole hand. Thankfully, my husband’s company, like most companies employing expatriates has a hired public relations officer (P.R.O.) who was there to assist with the whole procedure.  And now, we are all officially residents of Qatar.

Driving here gives the experience a new meaning.  The first five weeks I didn’t drive and had the luxury of being transported by the hospital’s employed drivers.  Initially, it was easy and welcome. Later it became a burden as you could wait for the driver for long periods. Now, the hospital has supplied me with a car and I can zip around town with ease.  At first, it felt like we were always driving in circles because well, we were.  There is a huge median strip down every road that you cannot cross.  So you either need to take continual rights to get to and from where you are going or do u-turns at the roundabouts. The town is almost exclusively roundabouts.  I don’t feel as daunted about the roundabouts particularly as I have had the experience of driving them while visiting New Zealand.

So far, my account may make it sound as if I don’t like it here.  This is not the case.  Life here is quite easy, simple, and safe! (Did I say safe, aside from the drivers!)  The nanny leaves us with not a thing to do at home except enjoy the company of ourselves, pure bliss especially as our son is in a delightful stage.  Contrary to what you might think about the Middle East, Qatar is safe and even more so than the US.  A murder is rare and will be in the news for weeks.  Child abductions almost never happen.  The country is very family oriented and kid friendly.  On more than one occasion, a Qatari has been delighted by Liam, walked over, picked him up and kissed his forehead.  Here it is benign. In the states; we would be alarmed over such an incident.  The majority of the country (70%) is expats.  These expats herald from all over the world including: India, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Britain, Africa, NZ, Australia and the USA.  The western expats are extremely friendly and tight nit.  It has been very easy making acquaintances.  My husband’s colleagues are largely young married couples with kids.  I have befriended a female IVF doctor.  She has an interesting background as do most of the expats, leaving me to feel a bit bland! She is Tunisian born; Belgian trained and most recently worked in Saudi.  She and I started the same day and were jointly laughing at the hospital’s disorganization.  Through her and my husband’s colleagues, we have started to meet many others.  This networking and socializing is one aspect that is quite exciting and perhaps was missing while we were in Chicago. (This is not to say we don’t miss our Chicago friends!)  Most social outings are private parties at homes.   There are a good number of restaurants and bars.  Only the hotels have bars that serve alcohol.  Buying alcohol for consumption in your home requires a “license”.  It is merely a technicality that requires a letter from your employer and a deposit of a couple hundred dollars.  The limit is 10% of your salary per month in spending.  This is more than enough to keep us inebriated for days on end if we desire.

For those of you that don’t know, the expatriate package comes with some nice benefits.  Most positions come with a relocation/furniture allowance, a housing allowance, a car allowance, cell phone allowance, travel back to your country once a year paid, private schooling for your children, three-four week bonuses for every year worked, healthy vacation time (Kerry has 4 weeks, and with my current job I have 50 days) etc.  We are thankful to have a housing allowance as rental costs have increased greatly (300-500%) in the last 5 years.  Lastly, hired help is inexpensive.

As far as work, I accepted a three month locums (temporary) position with Hamad Hospital working in their primary outpatient health centers. This is the public hospital that is free to the locals and nearly free to expat residents.  This has been a most interesting experience.  I could fill pages with the whole experience.  I won’t. Just be grateful with the care you have in the USA. To summarize, the organization is very disorganized which can comes across as rude if you are the employed physician.  In any other circumstance, I would not have accepted the job.  However, there are many aspects I have enjoyed.  The hours are great 7-2.  The other docs and staff are extremely friendly.    And as a nice bonus, there are “tea boys” who water the doctors with tea and coffee throughout the day. Several of the medical directors of the outpatient clinics are really great female physicians!  It has also been fun to learn yet another language.  At the time of writing, I have been offered a position with Qatar Petroleum in their primary health centers and will more than likely change jobs once my son and  I return from our trip back to the states in September.  Currently, we are considering continuing west after the U.S.A to stop off in New Zealand for a couple of weeks as a surprise visit to the other grandparents. Heaven help me, an around the world trip with an 18 month old.

As far as the other aspects of Doha life, the city is quite small, smaller than Columbus, OH. There is decent shopping with some of the stores familiar to us; Gap, Banana Republic, and Furla to name a few. There are also high end stores:  Gucci, Prada, etc.  I have found almost all of the makeup products I use from Bobbi Brown, to Lancome, to Clinique, and even Laura Mercier.  Some of the products are anywhere from slightly more expensive to 50% more.  There is an abundance of baby products, particularly clothes.  However, the American brands are steep!  Our $70 Graco car seat retails for $180 here! And, some convenience items liked curved spoons and forks for toddlers learning to self feed are non-existent.  Also lacking is a huge selection of fiction books, magazines, and salon quality hair products.  The magazines that are available are pricey $8-9 dollars for “People” and “Parents” both!  If you entertain an international move, buy your favorite magazine subscriptions a couple months before you leave the US as they will ship the remainder of the subscription internationally for no additional charge.

The expat mom’s group is 200 strong.  The group provides information about events for parents and children via a monthly newsletter.  The country is also athletically oriented and has a Sports academy, Aspire which makes available many classes.  For my son there is a fabulous mother and child “gym class” that is free!  Sadly like most clubs and activities, there is a break for the summer when many expat wives take their kids back to their respective countries to escape the heat.  The Asian games, Asia’s answer to the Olympics, are being held in Doha in 2006.   There is also an ice skating ring in one of the mall’s.

In general, Doha is small but there is enough to do.  Even more exciting are the surrounding areas we will get to explore.  Locally, there are the sand dunes and the inland sea. Nearby there is Oman for the beaches, mountains, and diving as well as Dubai for the ultimate shopping experience and nightlife.

Speaking of heat… Yes, it is hot, over a hundred degrees most days. Temperatures can reach 125 F.  Thankfully, it is only humid for a couple of months of the year:  July and Aug.  About 5:30 PM in the summer, we can take Liam out for a walk on the Corniche which runs along the waterfront.

The Corniche


The villas do not get as hot as you would imagine as they are well constructed against the heat.  For awhile, we were using ice cubes to cool Liam’s bath.  The cold water tank is on the outside of the house while the hot water tank is inside.  By the end of the day from spring to fall, the cold water is really hot!  During these months, we turn the hot water tank off and use “hot” water for cold!  The metal portions of the car seat straps can get extremely hot as well.  But, the locals need not worry as there are no car seat laws.  More than once, I have seen a local driving with his child sitting on his lap.

Now an update on our son!  He has really flourished here.  He went from a feeding challenge to eating just about everything including the nanny’s spicy curries! We managed to wean him off bottle and formula in about 2 days.  He has also become very verbal.  At 16 mos, he is approaching 50 words.  He just started running and has not stopped since!

Mary, the nanny

The Royal Palace


One other obvious difference of Arab life is their dress.  The niqab (the veil which covers a woman’s face), I feel enhances a woman’s looks more than it does to hide beauty.   The eyes can be one of the most sensual parts of the body.  Additionally, there is a call to prayer 6 times per day.  During these times, the doctors will disappear to pray while the patients wait.  At first, the call to prayer would wake us from our sleep. Now it goes unnoticed and is for the most part drowned out by the A/C.  The language is quite beautiful.  There are certain phrases that you will hear repeatedly:  “Inshallah” for God willing, Mafi Meeshkeela for No worries, and Al Humdulela for Thank God.  You will often time here, Inshallah Bukra Mafi Meeshkeela (god willing tomorrow no worries). Obviously this phrase is not so reassuring when you are trying to make something happen! I spent a long time writing and editing this and fear I have left off so many things.  Hopefully you have enjoyed the look into life in Doha.

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40 Comments to Life in Doha
    • CMS
    • Hi Rajka,

      Very well said.
      Thank you an informative blog.

      I will be having my interview tomorrow in one of the agencies here in the Philippines as Secretary, bound to Doha

      Wish me luck.

      Thanks! c”,)

      • Rajka
      • Hi! I am wishing you all the luck in getting the job. Fingers crossed they will provide housing as this is expensive here!

        Thanks for enjoying my blog. Be sure to stop back or subscribe soon!


    • Nadir Khan
    • Hi Rajka,

      Thanks for your informative blog; I am planning on relocating to Doha, from London next year. I am a Human Resources manager and my wife is a teacher. We have two young children and are keen to move to Doha to enjoy a better quality of life!

      I would love to hear more about your experiences in Doha, please continue with them.



      • Rajka
      • Dear Nadir

        Thanks for visiting my site. I think you and your family will enjoy Doha. It is great for families with young children. Have your wife check out Doha Mums: and Qatar Professional Women’s Network: I am part of both, on the organizing team of the later and they are the best things to happen to Doha for expats in the past 6 years!

        You have prompted me to write more about our expat experience!

        Take care,

    • Sharath Nambiar
    • Hi Rajka,

      My name is Sharath. I have been offered a job in Doha to market a new firm and drive business. I dont have any friends or relatives and i am single. I am 26 i am a highly social kind of a guy who enjoys life to the fullest. I am serious professionally to. What i want to know is, is Doha a place for someone like me. do u think i should take this offer. 

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Hi Sharath.

        Lots to consider.  Some things to think about are whether you will have adequate housing as it is quite expensive to rent an apartment/house in Qatar.  I would also prefer to have the company hold any lease and not hold one personally.  Too much room for trouble.  Try and get a good feel for your colleagues and boss beforehand as this is crucial. Make sure your package is one that meets your needs: return flight to your home country once a year etc.

        Also to consider are that some positions in Qatar de-skill you so not ideal for advancing your career but like in my husband’s case, he has had great opportunity and has worked his way up to director level. Does the company have means to continue training you and will they do so.  Back in 2005, they felt like expats did not need further training which is the wrong way to think!  Everyone in any field needs to continue learning!

        The single life in Qatar well.. so you are aware the government bans single men from frequenting the parks, malls etc on Fridays as these are considered family days.  Having said that, there is so much more to do than just these things.  Do you know anyone in Qatar?  Look at the posts on or post yourself.  It is an excellent starting point.

        Good luck and shoot me an email if you have further questions.
        Dr Rajka

    • Sheetal
    • Hi!!! I find it really difficult to find the makeup that I am looking for here in Doha. I want to know how and where you got your hands on the Laura Mercier products here. I would be really grateful if you could give me the details.

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • They used to sell Laura Mercier products in Debenhams at City Center. They got rid of the line several years ago. This look into Doha was written when we first arrived in 2005. Sorry for the confusion.
        I order online and have products shipped via Aramex when I can’t find them in Doha. I hope this helps.
        Take care,

    • Leslie
    • Dear Rajka,
      There is a possibility of moving to Doha for me. Can you tell me if the postal service is reliable for such things as magazine subscriptions? I have several I subscribe to from Australia which I doubt are available at news agents or book stores there and as I am paying for an international subscription, the cost is quite high. I would like to know if I can expect the magazines to arrive safely and regularly. Could you let me know your experience?
      Kind regards,

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • The only magazine I receive is one of my medical journals because I find the postal service into and out of the country very unreliable.  The journal arrives anywhere from 2 weeks to several months late or not at all.  I use for orders online out of the USA or UK and then we do have documents forwarded via bu the uses the main postal system. We have the letters bundled and this envelope usually always arrives.

        To buy US/UK magazines in Qatar is very expensive.  For example instyle is selling for 46 QR which is over 12 USD!

        Good luck on your decision.  Feel free to email me if you have further questions.

    • Kept private
    • Hi Doctor,
      I may be moving there next year with my employer. I am from Louisiana and currently living in Japan with my Japanese wife and 3 kids. Looks like a nice place to live. My question is: I noticed the rent for furnished villas or high rise apartments is an average of 13,000 QAR per month. Some sites I noticed stated it’s 13,000 per month with a couple months down payment. Is this correct, or do you know if I can simply just pay 13,000~15,000 QAR to an agency and get the keys and move in? What are the prerequisires, if any, for a foreigner to rent a nice place. Thanks in advance for your response!

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Hi!

        Housing… I said, that we would never hold a lease here but this year, changes have been made within my husband’s company and we will be assuming the lease.  hmmm.

        At any rate, 13-15,000 QR seems low for a furnished villa.  I would say 15-20K for furnished is more accurate.  But, if you have looked at the ads and this is the range then go with this as we haven’t looked in a year and the prices were going down.  Usually it is one month security plus first month’s rent.  Also, you have to give the landlord postdated checks for the terms of the lease. So 24 postdated checks for a 2 year lease. 

        The other issue to consider is schooling if your employer doesn’t reserve spots for kids. Usually only the oil companies do this, then there are waiting lists in almost all the schools.  For the American system of schooling there is : American School of Doha and the newly open ACS which I don’t know much about but is receiving favorable reviews.

        Email me directly, happy to give you insight as to what makes a “good” expat contract as well as some of the cons of living here.

        Best of luck in your decision.

    • Anita
    • Hello Rakja,
      I recently found your blog and enjoyed reading your posts. I would like to ask you some questions about life in Doha. I might be moving there with my husband and twin girls who are almost 4. I have a question about finding babysitters and nannies. What is the best way to find a babysitter in Doha? Are there agencies? I am Indian and would like an Indian nanny for my children? Also, I’ve heard that there are long waiting lists for schools. Is that true? We would look for international schools for our girls. And last but not least, what is the healthcare system like? Would you recommend us getting private healthcare? As soon as we get there, we would need to find a pediatrician as with toddlers, it’s important!

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • On the babysitters, word of mouth is the best and then you can go agency vs. advertising in the gulf times.  If you advertise then you will be inundated with calls! Just beaware.

        Yes, there are long waits for schools, apply now for next year!  Expats have left because they haven’t been able to get their children into a school.

        Healthcare… Well that is a whole book. I think the system is overwhelmed and it equates to very variable  care. I would have private insurance that also covers your home country so you can leave if need be. 

        I hope to be in practice in the next 1-2 months and I take care of infants through the geriatric age.

        I take my children to see Dr Attiya Bashear at Al Ahli who is American trained.

        Email me if you have further questions! And good luck with your decision.

        • Anitapsharma
        • Dear Rajka,
          I hope you are doing well.  I wanted to follow up with you about a few things. How can I contact you directly? I would like to get the details of your medical practice if you are all set up. Also, if you hear of any  Indian nannies that are looking for work, please do let me know. We plan on arriving in the month of April. Also, is it common for people to hire drivers to work for them on a full-time basis? I would love to email you privately and ask you some questions, if you don’t mind.
          I look forward to hearing from you and thanks for taking the time to help!

        • Anitapsharma
        • Dear Rajka,
          I hope you are doing well.  I wanted to follow up with you about a few things. How can I contact you directly? I would like to get the details of your medical practice if you are all set up. Also, if you hear of any  Indian nannies that are looking for work, please do let me know. We plan on arriving in the month of April. Also, is it common for people to hire drivers to work for them on a full-time basis? I would love to email you privately and ask you some questions, if you don’t mind.
          I look forward to hearing from you and thanks for taking the time to help!

    • Euns2
    • Dear Expat Doctor Mom,
      How are pets (Dogs) considered in Doha? Are they pet friendy, or is it difficult to bring in a pet to the country and how are they treated? How much freedom are there for dogs, and is it very restricted? Thank you. Hope to hear some feedback from you soon

    • Anilkumar Sirasagi
    • hi doctor,
      im dr anilkumar male, specialist in clinical pathologist having offer in doha and riyadh.Thinking of more religious nature in riyadh, i want move to doha  with family, im hindu ( nonmuslim). so i want to know about social life there, especially religion tolerances level. is non qatari women also have to wear niqab?.

    • Nnshabnam
    • Hi Dr. Rajka,

      I like your blog. It’s interesting and informative. I am a mom of 12 years old twins. Moved here from US since 2010 and have been working in HMC’s marketing dept.
      At first I found the transition very difficult with many challenges but I feel as though I am somewheat so adjusted. I can’t say that for sure I am could call this place home but have grown to appreciate it more at times.
      thanks for your blog!


      • Expat Doctor Mom
      •  I am so pleased you like the blog!  I wrote this article in 2005 when we first move as a way of communicating with friends and family about how things were as expats in Qatar!  Then I didn’t know it would blossom into a blog.

        I would have to agree with you on the adjustment.  I still have my days! 

        Thanks so much for reading my articles and taking the time to comment!  It means so much!

    • Jed 42
    • Hello Dr Rajka,
      Thanks for taking time to write this blog it’s so helpful, my husband is bound for Doha in August he is a civil Engineer,I’m visiting him the end of October with a view to considering joining him .

      However having always worked as a professional (social worker and Probation Officer at present and for the last 20yrs) I’m thinking my work options may be limited although I have many transferable skills , any advise you could offer would be great,am also interested in perhaps some voluntary/ community work I guess if I like the place any job would be ok, as I have no desire to stay home day in day out
      As I would like Qatar to be a constructive move as oppose to a destructive move,

      • Rajka Milanovic, MD
      •  So sorry I missed this.  Somehow I am not getting notifications of all comments…

        I find Qatar can be difficult for the accompanying spouse.  Virtual work is best in my opinion.  I have really liked Qatar Professional Women’s Network. I helped found this organization and was part of it almost 2 years. I have stepped back and help out in the periphery:  This is the best starting point for jobs, networking and if you want to volunteer.  There are other opportunities for volunteering depending on interest.


    • Arunchandwani
    • Hi Dr Rajka 
      It was helpful to read about Doha. I am Arun,  i am a Yoga teacher from Mumbai India, i’ll be moving to  Doha in August on work permit as a Yoga teacher, i would like to known how aware people are about there physical fitness in Doha. Our intention in coming to Doha is that everyone who uses our service takes up health and fitness and move to the next level. Thanks and i appreciate your effort to support, with regards to information about Doha, God Bless.

      • Rajka Milanovic, MD
      •  Many expats are very aware of physical fitness. And now with the push to get/keep Qatari’s moving, the locals are more aware of the importance of health and wellness and physical fitness.  I think the motivated crowd will find your classes.

        Best of luck!

    • N123v123
    • hello dr.  rajka,
      i am a single mom with 3 girls. i am thinking of moving to doha to work for a uni.  can you tell me if that would be a good move?

      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Living the expat life has so many factors to consider. It would be so hard for me to advise you specifically.  Weigh the pros and cons to start and then follow the normal steps you take in making a decision.  I like to talk to good friends. In the talking, I can usually hear my own answer. And sit with the decision.  Sometimes just a short amount of time brings clarity for me.

        If you still don’t know or can’t decide, then maybe it is not the right move for you at this time.

        Best of luck,

    • Sanet
    • Dr. Milanovic:

      We are relocating to Doha from the US and I am seeking a very good pediatrician.  My daughter is age 2.  Can you help with referals, please?

    • Guest
    • Dear Dr. Rajka,
      I set an appointment for a breast ultrasound exam at the Hamad Hospital for July 1, but I am leaving for the States on May 23. Do you know of any other medical center or a private practice where I can get this exam sooner,

      • Rajka Milanovic, MD
      • Most of the clinics do ultrasound. Of them I would recommend Al Ahli. You can bring in your order from the Hamad doctor and they should schedule you without having to see one of their doctors but they might request this. Also, unless you had prior authorization from your insurance you would have to pay out of pocket and then submit for reimbursement. Ultrasounds and all radiology testing in Qatar is far cheaper than it is in the USA so it shouldn’t be more than $150 USD or there about. Hope this helps.

    • Lila Glazer
    • Dear Dr. Rajka,

      I set an appointment for a breast ultrasound exam at the Hamad Hospital for July 1, but I am leaving for the States on May 23. Do you know of any other medical center or a private practice where I can get this exam sooner, before May 23?

    • Nikkid
    • Hello,
      I know this blog was written in 2010 but I hope you get my message. I was offered a job as an RN at the new women’s and children’s hospital in Doha and I am reaching out to find info on life in Qatar. I have a 14year old son as well. I am from the US in Delaware. Could you advise and guide me through this decision to possibility move to Qatar? Please send an email to thanks

    • Ruwani Perera
    • Hi Dr. Rajka,

      I was googling on IVF in Doha when I stumbled upon your site. Nicely written I must say. I was hoping whether you’d be able to advise me. I’m hoping to go to the Women’s hospital for infertility treatment. Would you please be able to recommend me a doctor?

      Thanks in advance


      • Expat Doctor Mom
      • Dear Ruwani

        The only doctor I am familiar with is Dr Shahati at the Women’s Hospital. I believe he was head of IVF or is? He is quite good.

        There is one thing they do in Qatar which is not really standard in the west: they will rely on IUI’s first after the age of 35. Or they will do too many courses of IUI’s. Only serves to age a women’s eggs while awaiting IVF.

        I have known to get pregnant via IVF at the Women’s Hospital. However my personal choice would be to go outside of Qatar. There is a clinic in Dubai which was started by an American trained doctor who works both in the USA and Dubai. Hope this helps.

    • Bringslite
    • “These expats herald from all over the world including: India, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Egypt, Britain, Africa, NZ, Australia and the USA.”

      P.S. Egypt is in Africa :)

    • Sabahat Saad
    • Hello Dr. It was a good read i really enjoyed your experience! I am a doctor myself and I am looking forward to join Qatar for work. Can you kindly help me out as to how do I get a job there, which places to apply for? I shall be deeply obliged.
      P.S your son is really adorable Masha Allah! =)

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