The following is some general information about Qatar and also some comments and advice from residents who have lived here for some time, but who also remember what it was like to be a new arrival!
The state of Qatar lies on an 11,437 sq. km large thumb-shaped peninsular on the West Coast of the Arabian Gulf. The majority of the country is flat with some rocky outcrops up to 40 m high. Although there is very little natural vegetation, Qatar is investing in the planting of grass, flowers and palm trees in its built up areas. The desert landscape ranges from flat and rocky to stunning sand dunes, ideal for the brave who take four wheel drive vehicles and attempt 'dune bashing'. Arabic is the native language, however almost everyone speaks English to some extent. Probably the best time to arrive in Qatar is in the early Spring. This will give you time to acclimatise slowly before the summer heat sets in. In mid summer temperatures often reach in excess of 45C with humidity up to 95 per cent. However, unless you have to work outside most people live in a air-conditioned environment. The winters are mild with night time temperatures around 10/12C.
Doha, the capital city stretches around a horseshoe shaped bay. The seven kilometer long, palm tree lined Corniche provides an ideal place to stroll, jog, or simply drive along whilst admiring the beauty of the bay. This is also a popular meeting place in the evenings, and on weekends where many enjoy a picnic or visit one of the many attractions there. Doha is a rapidly growing city, with buildings and shopping malls springing up virtually every month. Sometimes it looks as if the buildings are going up so fast that the infrastructure is struggling to keep up. Often beautiful villas have been built with no proper asphalt road to the gate!
Qatar makes an ideal location for families looking for a safe and comfortable place to live. Basic crime is so low that it is easy to become complacent and forget that not every country is as safe as Qatar. Quality of life often improves with a move to Doha as traveling time to and from work is less (average daily commute time is 10 minutes) and fathers normally see more of their children than ever before. Housing is generally available only on a rental basis and varies considerably. The majority of landlords rely on local real estate companies to not only advertise but also to let their properties. As a result by utilising an established and reputable real estate company, people arriving in Doha have a better selection of properties. In the majority of cases this service is free. When considering location it should be remembered that where ever one lives in Doha you are always within twenty minutes of anything such as schools, clubs, hotels, and the airport etc. There are a large number of compounds, apartments and individual villas available for rent on both long and short term basis depending on the budget. When you first arrive in Doha getting around is very easy. Orange and white taxis are numerous and easy to flag down. There are also a couple of limousine companies with fleets of air-conditioned new vehicles. However driving yourself requires concentration and a certain determination! On your arrival you are able to drive on a British license for the first seven days, after that you need to get a local license. This usually just involves some paper work, an eye test, and a simple road sign recognition test but occasionally it also involves a driving test. It is also advisable to remember that if you are involved in a crash (even in the middle of a busy roundabout) you must not move the vehicle until the police arrive and instruct you to do so.
There are numerous expatriate and local schools in Qatar to serve all the major ethnic communities. Private education as in most countries is relatively high and term fees plus a registration fee is normally required in advance, by the majority of schools. Classes generally have less pupils than in U.K. schools and high standards of education of education are achieved.
The cost of living in Qatar is comparable to Britain, however a large number of expatriates receive their salary tax free. You are able to buy virtually anything you would need in Doha. Supermarkets stock British, American, Asian and other European brands so variety is good. There is always an excellent selection of fresh fish, vegetables and fruit available daily. A number of high street stores such as Marks and Spencer's, JC Penny, Debenhams, Next, Benetton and BHS are to be found in the larger malls where, because of the variety of western shops, you could easily forget where you are shopping.
Your free time is well catered for with all possible sport available, if not on your compound then in one of the many excellent clubs. These work on a membership only basis and are good places to socialise and partake in sports. There are beach clubs with sailboats and windsurfers for rent and a recently opened ice rink. One of the highlights of living in Doha are the abundance of eating outlets. With the wide variety of restaurants available, one is able to gastronomically travel the world from America to France, India to Korea or Argentina to the Philippines to mention only a few. Most restaurants make children welcome, and a number have huge play areas to keep them occupied while parents are able to enjoy their meal.
Perhaps one of the main advantages of living in Doha is the real family atmosphere around the place. When out shopping you often meet friends you know. Although there are a number of large functions (time to have posh frock made) held each year, a considerable amount of socialising takes place in peoples homes. Consequently close family friendships are formed which often last for years after people have left Qatar. It is also not unusual to find people who have left Doha either returning on holiday or working for a different company.