Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: The Rick of the Lim
I taught with Sabis for one year from 2006-2007, and from absolutegroove and whosyour_daddy's comments about Qatar in general, it seems like not a whole lot has changed since I left there.
The work itself was fine, I enjoyed the teaching - I was teaching Grade 2 and 3 out there - sure the organisation had its problems in the way things were done but then so does every place I've ever worked for. I recall my hours were 7.00 to 3.00, which did give plenty of time in the afternoons, although it did take a good hour on the bus to cross town to our apartment accommodation. Made some great friends among the staff there, both among those who started out in our group and some of whom are still out there.
I’d definitely echo the comments about getting involved with clubs/groups out there, don’t just end up like a sunburnt washed up expat propping up the bar at the weekend, which could be easy to do. Actually in fairness I’d probably give the same advice to anyone no matter where they were planning on moving. It could get fairly boring out there, so it was great to be involved in touch rugby and Gaelic Football two evenings a week – with the Gaelic Football team we also played tournaments in Bahrain and Oman, they were great weekends away. Played a bit of tennis, did some running and went along to a couple of episodes of The Doha Debates (A BBC World-programme, kind of like an Arab world version of RTE’s The Frontline) out there too, so there was enough to keep you occupied, while every so often there’d be big international motor sport/golf/tennis tournaments, regular local soccer matches, camel racing, rugby matches – plenty of spectator events to pass the weekends by if you’re into watching sport. Saying all that, a group of us got so bored from Christmas to June that we decided, every Tuesday, straight after work to have Eating Day – where we’d go to one of the many American-style diners littered throughout the malls and have a three course meal just to pass the time.
I’d echo the point about Qatar being a great base to travel from – in other words, a great place to get out of Qatar! When we were there we went for a week to Goa in India, then coming home at Christmas went via Istanbul, all for fairly cheaply, went with Air Arabia who are a fairly low-cost carrier in the region, so from that point of view it can be a good base for travel – but bear in mind, if your goal is to save money out there, travelling’s gonna cut into that.
I’d agree with the comments about Qatar being a fairly OK place to raise a family, it is quiet and safe, but genuinely boring for young adults. Doha certainly suffers from the worst practices in urban planning normally associated with big US metropolises like LA – traffic, at least when I was there, was a killer – most of the shopping is done in malls, although we were lucky enough to live on Matar Qadeem, a street full of cornershops, kebab shops and for some reason about 40 barbershops, so at least you could stroll out to do your daily shopping. When I travelled home with a friend of mine we had a 24 hour stopover in Amsterdam, and we both remarked that it was such a pleasure to be able to walk from pub to pub to café without the heat or having to drive/take taxis everywhere.
It is a weird society in that so much of the menial work is done by South Asians as other posters have mentioned, often living in appalling conditions – “Workers’ Camps” – basically slums/prefabs dotted around the edge of the city, inhabited mainly by men sending their remittances home. Guys we knew who worked on construction sites had horror stories about suicides of workers working on projects with them, and if you read the local papers you’d regularly come across cases of foreign workers being used and abused. I found it a very racist country – a lot had to do with what your country of origin was. Even in the school I worked with, there was a girl from South Africa teaching with us – because she was South African, she was on a slightly lower salary to the rest of us European teachers despite doing the same work. When she produced a UK passport, which she got through her English-born father, she immediately got a pay rise to earn the same as us. Also, our employers took control of our passports, so if we ever wanted to travel anywhere, we needed their permission, also their help to get re-entry visas sorted out.
My one regret of my time out there was not making a better effort to learn Arabic – I picked up a handful of phrases all right, but think if I had taken classes I could have practised and improved it more. But as other posters have mentioned, the native Qatari population isn’t particularly big.
I was actually offered a second year out there, which would have entailed getting a nice bonus for serving two years, but after one year I had had enough. In fact, in February of this year I was approached by another company in Qatar to work for them, doing similar work to what I’m doing in Ireland but on a bigger salary and without any rent/bills to worry about (this is definitely a big benefit of most jobs in Qatar!). I didn’t pursue that job, mainly because I found that one year was plenty to spend in Qatar – the world is a much bigger place. After reading the comments of the people out there at the moment, I’m happy enough with that decision.
All in all, I’m glad I went there for a year. There are plenty of pluses to it – you can join a hotel leisure club with access to a beach and spend your afternoons there after work; plenty of travel opportunities; the old souq downtown is nice to stroll around in the evening and get a coffee/waterpipe on a rooftop café; the desert to the south of Doha is well worth a visit – so I’d definitely grab the opportunity if I were you and make the most of your time out there.
Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions.