From property market to public holidays - all you need to know about relocating to Qatar
As relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move, and of course to have a seamless transition when settling in your new destination.
Therefore, to make your relocation as hassle-free as possible, Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues, which could pose problems for expats. This month, we take a closer look at relocation to Qatar.
Known locally as Dawlat Qatar (State of Qatar), this geographically small Emirate covers a peninsular protruding into the north-east Persian Gulf, connected to the mainland by its only border with Saudi Arabia. Formerly a British protectorate, it has been ruled by the al-Thani family for over 200 years, whose members control every aspect of government and civil regulation. Since discovering massive natural resources within its borders in the early 20th century, it has gone from being a small exporter of freshwater pearls to being amongst the world’s richest nations. It now possesses one of the world’s largest proven reserves of both oil and natural gas.
Both its mineral wealth and geographic location have long made it a focus of international interests. Qatar has built up close military and financial ties with the United States, providing strategic regional bases to US Central Command and the Combined Air Operations Center. Between energy export and a business environment that actively encourages foreign business establishment, Qatar had achieved the world’s highest GDP per capita by the end of 2010, a year in which its economy grew by nearly twenty percent.
Qatar has a population of around 1.5 million, but only about 300,000 of that number are actually citizens, the rest comprised of expats. The economy relies heavily on overseas workers to fill both domestic and menial labor roles, as well as military, technical, and executive positions. Although the entire nation is smaller than the state of Connecticut, it is expected to receive around $3 million per citizen in investment into the energy sector over the next ten years. At the height of the global credit crisis, the worst that happened to Qatar was that its growth briefly slowed to being just nine percent up on the previous year.
Property market in Qatar
Few expats in Qatar actually own their housing. The expat population is divided between the low-paid manual labor force, the majority of which come from South-East Asia, and the corporately sponsored expats on assignment from their parent companies. The first is unable to afford property in Qatar, and the latter prefers to rent as their stay is only temporary.
Most property tends to be rented unfurnished, irrespective of its size or status, and furnished apartments will be significantly harder to find and commensurately more expensive. Whilst furnishings may be harder to come by, facilities in Doha apartments will be some of the best in the world, with features such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and playgrounds considered standard.
The renting process is very straight forward, partially due to local agents being well practiced, but mostly because the majority of expats will have their accommodation organized by their employers or through contracted relocation services. Several of the larger companies established in Doha simply own apartment buildings.
With the meteoric rise of both the affluence of Qatar and the expat population, the rental property market has no shortage of demand and is able to charge highly inflated prices. It is a seller’s market and rates have almost tripled over the last three years. Even expats with formerly generous housing allowances have found it impossible to cover costs and are being forced to leave the country, or moving to shared accommodation. This has not helped the county’s unusually skewed male-female ratio, which stands at around 3.46 males per female. However, supply and demand is slowly normalizing, and lower- and mid-range properties are becoming more affordable as wealthy tenants are demanding ever higher facility standards.
The most favored area for expat apartments are the new developments around the Diplomatic District, particularly West Bay and Al Waab/Ain Khalid. According to property consultants DTZ Research, rents for a two bedroom apartment in these areas range from around $2,300 to to $3,900 per month, subject to situation, finishes, unit size, onsite amenities and furnishing. The housing stock for villas is comparatively thinner, and are available at around $6,300 to $12,300 monthly.
Health Care in Qatar
Qatar has invested heavily in its public medical facilities, with many of its sectors now world-class. The National Health Service has formed partnerships with global medical service providers and education centers, such as Cornell University, and developed some of the best healthcare anywhere in the Middle East. Whilst Qatar enjoys the wealth to invest in its medical facilities, it is also suffering from a health-crisis created by the same affluence. Qatar now has some of the world’s highest rates of obesity, diabetes and genetic disorders exacerbated by diet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Qatar spends the most on health services per capita of any of the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) states. Since the capital city opened its very first modern hospital only 50 years ago, it has grown to have numerous hospitals and clinics both public and private run by the world’s most prestigious medical groups. Healthcare is free or heavily subsidized, is available to both nationals and expats, and is typically of an excellent standard. It is still recommended that expats secure comprehensive internationally valid health insurance.
There are nine hospitals in Qatar, four of which are privately operated, and the ambulance response times are the lowest in the Middle East.
Cost of Living in Doha, Qatar
Qatar has a moderately high cost of living when compared with other major expat destinations. Like many Middle Eastern countries, whilst many living costs are high, the cost of labor is low, so luxuries like domestic staff may be within even modest budgets. Xpatulator ranked Doha the 41st most expensive expat location, out of the 282 most popular cities to live in for expats. Mercer notes that compared to other destinations in the Middle East, such as the UAE and Israel, Qatar is still more economical for foreigners.
Qatar is a largely tax-free environment, which helps to attract higher earning expats. Accommodation and education are typically the biggest expenditures by an expat household, although many established companies will offer assignees allowances for both. The government subsidizes many services to better encourage expats, particularly utilities and long-distance calling.
(Qatari Riyal – QAR)
|Meal for 2, Inexpensive Restaurant||$11,00||QAR 40|
|Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant||$35,00||QAR 130|
|McDonald’s BigMac||$7.00||QAR 25|
|Medium Latte @ Starbucks/Costa||$4.5||QAR 16|
|Fresh Milk (1 liter)||$1.4||QAR 5|
|Eggs (Dozen)||$4.5||QAR 16|
|Sugar (1 kg)||$1.5||QAR 6|
|Tomatoes (1 kg)||$2||QAR 7|
|Chciken filet (1 kg)||$11||QAR 40|
|Apples (1 kg)||$2||QAR 7|
|Evian Water (1.5 liter bottle)||$3||QAR 10|
|Heineken (330 ml bottle)||$ 9.5||QAR 35|
|Pack of Marlboro Red||$ 2.2||QAR 8|
|Snickers Bar||$1||QAR 3.5|
|Lipton Tea (25 bag box)||$2.2||QAR 8|
|One-way Ticket (local transport)||$ 1.6||QAR 6|
|Monthly Transport Pass||$65||QAR 240|
|Taxi (5km, downtown)||$2.7||QAR 10|
|Gasoline (1 gallon)||$ 1||QAR 3.78|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||$95||QAR 350|
|Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat||$8.3||QAR 30|
|Male Haircut||$ 8||QAR 30|
|Female Haircut||$ 50||QAR 180|
|Pair of Men’s Levis 501||$ 95||QAR 350|
|CoverGirl Lipstick||$ 7||QAR 25|
|Old Spice Deoderant (stick, 2.25 oz)||$ 3.5||QAR 13|
|Palmolive Soap (Bar, 80g)||$3||QAR 10|
|Colgate Toothpaste (reg. tube)||$1,50||QAR 5.5|
|Johnsons Baby Shampoo (15 oz.)||$5.5||QAR 20|
|Tide Detergent (Powder, 33 oz.)||$3.5||QAR 13|
|4 x Duracell ‘AA’ Bateries||$3||QAR 10|
|Windex Window Cleaner (32 oz)||$2||QAR 7|
Official Language in Qatar
Whilst Arabic is the official state language, the majority expat population means that nearly every language can be found spoken somewhere, particularly English. The most prevalent minority languages include Hindi, Tamil, Pashto, Malayalam, Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Balochi, Telugu, Bengali, Tagalog and Somali. Expats will likely be able to function entirely in English on a day to day basis, including interaction with government and local authorities.
Education in Qatar
The Qatari leadership has followed a long running policy of steering the country away from dependence on energy exports, and has invested heavily in creating a skill- and knowledge-based economy. As such, there are an enormous number of international educational institutes and academies established within the tiny nation. Statistically, Qatari citizens have some of the most abundant access to higher education anywhere on the planet.
- Al Jazeera Academy Preschool
- Doha College Preschool
- Doha Montessori & British School
- Newton International School
- Middle East International School Kindergarten
- ACS International School
- Park House English School Nursery
Secondary and Higher Education
- Qatar International School
- Doha English Speaking School
- American School of Doha
- American Academy
- Compass International School
- Al-Jazeera Academy
- Al-Khor International School
- Doha British Montessori School
- Doha College
- French School
- International School of London
- Newton International School
- Park House English School
- ACS International School
- Qatar Academy
- Qatar Canadian School
- College of Arts and Sciences
- College of Business and Economics
- College of Education
- College of Engineering
- College of Engineering
- Qatar Academy
- Weill Cornell Medical College
- University of Qatar
- Georgetown University, Qatar
- Texas A&M University, Qatar
- Carnegie Mellon University, Qatar
- University of Calgary, Qatar
Climate in Qatar
The entire emirate consists of a low-lying peninsular projecting from the north coast of Saudi Arabia, surrounded by the Gulf on three sides. As a result, the climate mostly varies between being hot and dry, or hot and humid. Winter temperatures can be mild and pleasant, but the height of summer brings danger of heat exhaustion and sunstroke for expats. Coastal regions tend to be a few degrees cooler, but this is made up for by having very high levels of humidity.
Expat Life – Living in Qatar
Qatari society is middle-of-the-road by the standards of the Middle Eastern Muslim states. It is not as liberal as the UAE or Bahrain, but significantly more so than Saudi Arabia. Shari’a law is applied to all aspects of family law, inheritance and certain criminal acts, which includes homosexuality or public drunkenness. During the month of Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking in public is strictly banned from dawn to sunset.
The current Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who deposed his own father in a coup in 1995, has overseen a period of liberalization that means that women are allowed to drive, and bars and nightclubs are permitted to operate under license. The Emir also established Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee, but international humanitarian organizations have criticized Qatar for its ill treatment of immigrant labor, lack of wage standards, and prohibition of labor unions.
As is common amongst Arab countries, the immigration policy revolves around the concept of sponsorship. The power given to sponsors, known as kafeel or kafala, has been described by critics as modern slavery, as employees cannot leave the country without the kafeel’s permission. The sponsor also has the right to ban the employee from re-entering Qatar for up to five years. Reports of abuse of this system are almost constant, including physical, mental and sexual abuse, but the victims are poor and unrepresented menial workers so the system is unlikely to be changed any time soon.
A recent ‘Trafficking in Persons Report‘, published by the US State Department, has detailed that menial laborers are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages, which are either partially or almost entirely withheld upon arrival. The Report also said that local laws against forced labor are rarely enforced, and when they are the result is typically that it is the victim who ends up interred in a detention and deportation camp. The US State Department categorizes Qatar as a state “that neither satisfies the minimum standards nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance” with international human rights standards. The Qatari government publicly maintains that it is the leading proponent of human rights and labor relations in the entire Gulf region.
Alcohol can only be sold by shops of the Qatar Distribution Company, of which there are two. The one in Doha is by no accident overlooked with a watchful eye by the next-door Department of Islamic Affairs. Purchasing anything will require an alcohol permit, which can be obtained within the store itself. Obtaining a permit will require a letter from your employer, signed and stamped by a person authorized in your company, which states your position, basic salary, accommodation, marriage status and religious affiliation, plus a valid passport, residence permit and a $275 deposit. Alcohol can also be purchased for consumption on-premises at certain hotels and clubs.
Arabian TV news network Al-Jazeera is owned by the Qatar government. Whilst the network has avoided openly criticizing its Gulf allies, specifically Saudi Arabia, it is unusually free from the censorship which is the norm amongst regional networks. This level of freedom has made it a highly influential international news source, providing a platform that has gone a long way to elevate Qatar’s international profile.
The crime rate in Qatar is low, and there is a robust police presence. Incidences of violent crime tend to be restricted to areas heavily populated by the menial worker expat population. There are reports of petty theft and pick-pocketing, but not more so than in any urban environment. Local young men have been known to verbally and physically harass unaccompanied women. The biggest criminal enterprise that expats are likely to encounter is in the form of counterfeit and pirated goods, which are imported in large quantities from South-East Asia.
The local emergency telephone number in Qatar is 999.
Be aware that expats will be subject to Qatari law, heavily predicated upon Islamic law, which can carry severe penalties for what would only be considered a misdemeanor in a European state. An accusation of violating Qatari law may result in the accused being subject to a ban on leaving the country until the dispute is settled, which as processed via local courts can be a matter of months. Local authorities are reported to have detained anyone it considers a potential witness, as well as the relatives of persons of interest, for the entire duration of its investigations without charge or access to legal counsel. Such detentions have been precipitated by incidences as basic as traffic arguments and slander. Once arrested, the Qatari Police are constitutionally unable to release a suspect until ordered to do so by the Public Prosecution and Court Service, meaning any brush with the law will not be a short one.
All non-Qatari or non-GCC citizens entering Qatar will be required to carry a visa at all times. Citizens of some nationalities are able to obtain basic entry visas upon arrival (including the United States and Britain), while others must apply ahead of time. Visas issued at the border will typically be a one-month Tourist Visa, which can be extended for another month. Citizens of countries not on the list of non-visa countries may obtain a Tourist Visa through embassies, or simply through a liaison agent associated with their hotel.
Expats may bring their family on a Family Visit Visa, which is valid for one month and can be extended for up to six months for immediate family members and three months for other relatives.
Things to see and do
- Doha Corniche
The Doha Corniche is arguably one of the most picturesque locations on the entire Gulf Coast. The seaside promenade fronts turquoise waters, and is lined with shops, restaurants, cafés, museums and parks. The sunsets are magnificent, and can be enjoyed along with a picnic. Keep in mind that the weather is at its best in the winter, and even in the evening the summers can be oppressively hot and humid.
- Singing Dunes
The Singing Dunes of Qatar are examples of a natural phenomenon that only occurs in a handful of places on Earth. 40 kilometers south-west of Doha, these crescent shaped dunes catch the prevailing winds in unusual ways and produce an unearthly musical effect as the sand vibrates and flows. The site was once considered a place of evil spirits and was described with trepidation by Marco Polo, but today is a popular destination and worth the trip.
- Mangrove Swamps
Qatar isn’t just sand, city and sea. On the northern shore are white mangrove forests which provide refuge for over 250 species of exotic bird. The lush greenery is likely to come as a welcome change from deserts and city districts.
Al-Jassasiya is a range of low, rocky hills in the north-east of Qatar, renowned for having some of the most ancient and historically significant stone carvings in the world. These artifacts date back to pre-historic times, and are important clues as to the earliest migrations of man.
- Oryx Farm
The Arabian Oryx is a magnificent cream colored horse, with striking black and white markings, chosen as the national animal of Qatar. The sprawling Oryx farm is home to these protected animals, which roam the estate in herds. There are frequent shows and races by the Al Shaqab Stud Farm and the Qatar Equestrian Club.
Public Holidays in Qatar
August 31 - Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
September 3 – Independence Day
November 6 – Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
December 18 – National Day
If you are considering moving to Qatar, Move One’s relocation services include city orientation, home and school searches, immigration as well as door to door moving services worldwide and cover packing of personal effects, warehousing, pet transportation and fine art shipping. Should you need help with your corporate or individual relocation needs, or if you would like to receive a free moving quote, do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Rest of the series:
No related posts.