back to article No Santa, no Irish boozers and no regrets: life in Qatar

In this week's eXpat File, we meet Irishman Russell Clark, who's settled in Qatar. Russell's loving life there, even if the only Irish pub has closed down and the traffic is terrifying. Tell us more, Russell, especially the bit about there not being an Irish bar ... The Register: What kind of work do you do and with which …

  1. AndyFl

    Tax Free

    The best thing about Qatar is all your income is tax free. I find I can save about 4 times as much as I could in the UK.

    That said it is surprising how many expats spend everything they get and go back home with next to nothing.

    Andy

  2. DavCrav Silver badge

    There will almost certainly be alcohol available, well, Budweiser anyway, in the stadia, as it's a condition of hosting the World Cup. Brazil had to overturn their own law banning alcohol in stadia because FIFA threatened to move if they didn't.

    1. Rudy

      That's interesting - I wasn't aware of that. I'm looking forward to seeing how that works!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Enjoying the Expat articles

    Keep up the good work.

  4. redstar

    Shame about the Christmas decorations - Dubai is full of them, albeit nothing obviously Christian, but it is quite 'festive'.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big tip, just like Dubai. No rude hand gestures or swearing as you will be instantly arrested and locked up especially if you do it to the locals. This is very difficult not to do when driving there as the locals standard of driving is complete shite coupled with a desire to meet Allah sooner rather than later.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Irish Bars

    Are places to avoid IMHO. Usually Vastly overpriced and full of pretend Irishmen.

    {I'm 25% Irish with lots of relatives in Co Mayo}

    Then Budwiser is not beer. Can we all agree on that?

    It is from my time in Saudi, Abu Dhabi and Dubai very easy to spend all your income. I made a point of putting 25% away as soon as I got paid. A nice little nest egg for when I came home.

    Also (from my time there at least) your income is ONLY free of UK Tax if you are out of the country for a whole TAX year. Not a Calendar year and not 12 months. It is April to April. This got me the first time (A certain G.Brown changed the rules while I was in Abu Dhabi).

    1. Vincent Ballard

      Re: Irish Bars

      You don't have to be out of the UK for the entire year, just for 75% and a few days. (I can't remember offhand whether the maximum number of days you can spend in the UK in the fiscal year is 90, 92, or 93. And I think they've changed the way they count them since it mattered to me, so I don't know whether it's stroke-of-midnight or any part of the day).

      1. Monty Burns

        Re: Irish Bars

        Actually, it's not as simple as that. It all changed last (?) year. Now based on five criteria that can be applied to you depending on how long you visit the UK ... BUT... you are in a VERY strong position if your contract of employment is for a Qatari (for example) company and you have a local housing contract.

        I live in Muscat, Oman, and have had to research this... a LOT.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    That stadium...

    ... what were the desingers thinking?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: That stadium...

      Obvious, innit :)

    2. skeptical i
      Devil

      Re: That stadium...

      That they'd kept the rib from this project -- http://www.alumascroofing.co.uk/projects/commercial/smaralind-shopping-mall/ -- long enough, time to do something with it.

    3. Ossi

      Re: That stadium...

      Come come now.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not on the list of places I'd consider for a gig

    I could probably do Dubai, but Qatar is perhaps a little too conservative for me. Having spent a little time in Oman, and dealt with expats there, I reckon Muscat would also be a good gig. You will need to adapt though. If you're used to having a glass of wine, or stronger nightcap to wind down, at the end of the day, getting something to enjoy at home is pretty much impossible (though Oman and Dubai allow you to bring in duty free).

    Oh, and be paranoid about Customs when entering these places. If you get stopped, and tested, you only need to have recently trod on someone's spent spliff, back home, to find yourself in a shed load of trouble you could do without (and if you occasionally partake of the whakey baccy, it's probably best not to go).

    1. Monty Burns

      Re: Not on the list of places I'd consider for a gig

      "getting something to enjoy at home is pretty much impossible (though Oman and Dubai allow you to bring in duty free)"

      If you mean Oman, no it's not, you've been fed bad info. I know of at least 8 off-licenses and my £160 a month alcohol license allows me to buy that for home consumption, not including the bars!

      Anyway, must nip out to buy a joint of pork from Al-Fare for xmas dinner... cya!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not on the list of places I'd consider for a gig

        Last time I was there (seven years back), I was told only military personnel could get a license. None of the British expats had a license. Now.... For a good pork shop, take a look at Waitrose, in the Mall Of Dubai, next time you're there (but you have to prove you're not a Muslim). Enjoy Christmas in Oman; it's a lovely, chilled place - we have a support guy who seems to have dibs on every trip there (for the diving as well as the work).

        1. Monty Burns

          Re: Not on the list of places I'd consider for a gig

          It's changed, significantly then... and for the better! hehehe

          Waitrose is Al-Fare... even has Waitrose branded good along with the "Non-Muslim" section, although I've never had to prove I'm not a Muslim. The housing complex I'm on also offers a full English fry up, as does a local golf course... although it's not on the menu, you have to ask for it. A lot of the bars also have pork on the menu.

          Btw, you can even get a pork/alcohol license in Qatar and buy it from the Qatari Distribution Centre (QDC).

        2. d3vy Silver badge

          Re: Not on the list of places I'd consider for a gig

          "a good pork shop, take a look at Waitrose, in the Mall Of Dubai, next time you're there (but you have to prove you're not a Muslim)."

          I am intrigued.. how would you do that? I would have thought that buying the pork in the first place would be sufficient to prove that you are not a muslim?

  9. raving angry loony

    Choices

    I guess if you're comfortable working in a country whose infrastructure depends on slavery, then it's probably an OK country to work in. So long as you don't fall afoul of the corrupt officials, the medieval "justice" system, and don't get into a disagreement with a national, in which case I hope you have a solid exit plan. A very solid exit plan.

    Yes, I've worked in the Middle East (various places). It was very profitable, and I probably could have stayed. But I eventually I found it morally indefensible for someone who didn't want to be a complete hypocrite, and I never could agree that slavery was a good thing, no matter what the Qu'ran (or the Bible for that matter) might have to say about it.

    So if money is all you care about, by all means work in the Middle East. So long as you're feeling lucky of course. Get into an argument with the local authorities (or worse, with a well connected national. Watch out for those low-numbered plates in the UAE for instance) and you're going to discover just how inhumane the system becomes. And most often definitely not in your favour.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Choices

      I spent 8 years there and agree with everything you said. The point that tipped it over the edge for me was having two young kids and not wanting them to grow up thinking such things were 'normal'.

  10. Zuzzy

    The Irish bar is open again!

    I believe it opened again last Monday. I looked around the place before it opened and it looks pretty decent, it's only Irish in name and in Guinness. It'll be nice to have a change from the normal haunts for a bit

    I love Doha and I would recommend people do try it. It's not nearly as relaxed as Dubai but they are not far behind Abu Dhabi. It's just alcohol that's annoying at the moment, as they allow booze in hotels (and there are a hell of a lot of hotels so it's not hard to get) but when the new Emir came to power he stopped booze on hotel beaches (only restaurants, so you can't walk out off the decking with a beer or have pool bars any more) and in restaurants on the main expat island called The Pearl.

    But it's a really chilled place and if you avoid July and August the heat is dry and bearable.currently it's absolutely perfect - not looking forward to flying to the UK tonight as I don't own a jumper here!

    1. Monty Burns

      Re: The Irish bar is open again!

      Excellent! So you can get pissed and then go upstairs for a hooker ... all in the same joint!

      (Doha, really is a shit hole, full of double standards and BS. I lasted three months before I ran from the country)

      When did the "beach" thing happen? I was there last year for the MotoGP and had a few at the beach bar in the Intercon.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great Place Except ...

    for the lack of democracy and slave labour conditions of the migrants. No tax for well paid expats though, so on balance ... not a nice place.

  12. Monty Burns

    Driving...

    Yes, it really is THAT bad! It's so bad that they often have police officers on roundabouts in rush hour, waiting for the accidents. I'm a motorcyclist, a well trained and very experienced one but, even I wouldn't ride there.

    On the flip side, I now live in Muscat, Oman, a much nicer place ... the driving's not *quite* as bad but the motorcycling is AWESOME. Loads of off-road tracks and twisty tarmac (KTM 1190 Adventure R, so it's all good!). Also, lots more bars, plenty of places to chill and the locals are REALLY friendly (unlike Qatari's). Your opinions may be different.

    1. dubious
      Thumb Up

      Re: Driving...

      While Doha's driving is atrocious it is also quite liberating. My inner knobhead would be in heaven if I was an Audi driver!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nice for a few years

    I lived in Dubai for about 8 years. It was great for the first two, then got progressively worse as time went on. Cost of living got ridiculous, so no tax but 20 grand a year for a one bed apartment by the peak. And as a business owner, fed up of the unelected fool at the top just passing stupid laws with the wave of a hand and zero warning.

    The locals like to drive big cars like complete arseholes, and not bother to buckle up their kids in the back. If one rear ends you, it's your fault as he's local and guilt is strictly based on who is more well connected. If one of his kids dies, you'll go down for a long time. Had a friend who was highest ranking foreigner at factory where there was an industrial accident, he ended up doing 3 months in jail even though it wasn't his fault. Luckily for him, it was an indian labourer who died and not a local (or a camel), or he might have been in for years.

    I made some money, got married, had kids and just had to get out. I work for myself largely online, so I can be anywhere. Now in Portugal, bought a big house for the price of a crummy apartment in Dubai, beautiful countryside, 25 mins from Lisbon, nice neighbours (you actually see parents with kids at the park, not just filipina nannies) and more than anything I have rights and my kids get to grow up in a free country. Bit cold in winter, but summer is lovely and no 50 degree sun for 5 or 6 months of the year.

    Don't regret the gig in the middle east, but save your money and get out while the going is good.

    Oh, and I can get decent wine for less than 2 Euros here, and have a quiet drink down virtually any street in a nice cafe or bar and don't have to check the map each day to see how close Isis are.

  14. Callum

    I went to Doha in 1994 - there used to be hundreds (if not thousands) of brand new cars parked in neat rows with the keys in the ignition in the desert towards Port Said. Apparently, because there is 0% moisture they are dumped there plus crime was extremely low.

    Our house was on the ring road near Al Arabi football stadium and that was the edge of town then! (it's now pretty central since Doha has massively expanded). They used to allow spectators to watch people try to pass their driving tests in the stadium back then. not sure of they do that now. it was like a demolition derby.

    Seriously hot though, I burnt my hand to the frame of the car door when it was 48'C one day.

    1. dubious
      Thumb Down

      Returning to your car if it has been sat in the sun for a while in summer is like opening the oven door and climbing in. Singed eyebrows!

      Not pleasant.

      1. Monty Burns

        A mate of mine arrived in Doha and thought he would treat himself to a car with leather seats..... whoops!

        Btw, Crime is NOT low, you just don't hear about it as the news is suppressed. It's the same in all middle east countries.

        We've created a big group of bikers (basically everything except Harleys) and we are constantly hearing about people attempting to steal bikes. Lucky for us, the only second hand parts market is for Harley parts so these are the primary targets. That said, a lot of bikes are stolen and then sold in Yemen where there is very little restriction on VIN and License plates. You also only have to go to your local Al-Fare (Spinneys/Waitrose) notice board to see adverts for people asking for information on stolen motocross bikes, boats, quad bikes and jet-ski's.

        Oh... and that doesn't include friends who have been burgled, had phones stolen out of there hands etc. Or the fact that women are advised NOT to get taxi's alone, especially at night.

        The middle east is not as safe as "they" would like you to believe, most expats live in ignorant bliss....

  15. dubious

    Doha is more conservative than Bahrain, and probably close to the UAE, except you don't notice in Dubai because there are only 50 Emeratis in the whole city. Think of it as Dubai 10 years ago - basically half building site with new and exciting unannounced diversions and road closures every week.

    The highways agency equivalent, actually the whole of Qatar government, has not grasped this concept of letting people know about things in plenty of time so they can plan. This, the bad driving and the Middle East's fetish for grouping things like schools and industry together (Bahrain goes a bit meta and has 5 malls within 2km), make for some most excellent traffic jams. Live close to work if you can, although you then run into high rents because of Qatar's "shortage of office and residential space". Patently nonsense of course - the 30 floor tower next to my office has been finished and empty for over 2 years, and two residential towers nearby are only 1/3 full since the locals would rather have them empty than drop prices.

    Other downsides include deeply prevalent racism, a visa system that slaves you to your employer, bureaucracy elevated to an art form possibly because government jobs are essentially the social security system. The Ministry of Skhoolz is mental and the schools are wildly oversubscribed so stay away if you have kids. There is also the chance of being flattened by a land cruiser or dying of some unspeakable lung disease caused by the dusty air. The legislature and judicial system here is bollocks, and you will get a raw deal if you ever get caught up in it (never got that feeling in Bahrain or Oman). Accept that everything in Qatar is set up to cheerfully rip expats off, which I would probably have done if the tables were reversed. Car parts and electronics at 150-200% US price type rip-off. It's like they don't know we have the (generally too expensive) Internet. A note on being linked to your employer - push for an NOC at the dissolution of your contract being written into it or you can get stuck with one company since most won't on principal.

    Across the gulf it will probably be the little things that wear you down. Like handy men almost certainly won't be qualified or often even knowledgeable. You probably need 2 trips to get any government stuff done, the first being a sighting run, and despite being glitzy there is a lot of rubbish construction and head-slap fitting out. For example, the balcony peeled off our house in Bahrain (after the fuzebox caught fire) in the rain, and one house we looked at in Qatar had no sockets in the kitchen.

    On the plus side, salaries for westerners are generally good, (yay tax free!) and the quality of life is great except for July/August when it's just too damn hot and humid. Don't miss anything from the UK except friends and family. Mobile coverage is generally excellent, certainly better than the UK, and seems to be reasonably priced.

    So Doha's ok but I would rather be in Bahrain (except that's died) or Oman (Canada of the Middle East).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    world cup

    As for the world cup, a bit too much talk and not enough building stuff is rapidly eating contingency so I think it will be touch and go.

    Our office is involved in national planning and coordination, and what was initially planned simply cannot be achieved. The port isn't big enough, the world doesn't have enough spare cement, and Doha doesn't have the buses or road capacity to move 500,000 workers to and from site each day, so there has been a strong push to prioritise and spread stuff out. Projects have been shelved or reduced, such as the number of stadiums, which has been politically difficult since everything is political fiefdoms here.

    On the flip side, it means the whole of Doha isn't going to be dug up all at once for a year.

    If you have a stockpile of rebar or cement, hang on a few years and you will be able to name your price.

  17. Yugguy

    The "Irish" bar

    The "Irish bar" only exists outside of Ireland.

    Spent a fair amount of time in co Cork, the pubs there are for the drinking and the craic.

    And NO foamy drawn shamrocks in your stout.

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