My new Middle Eastern routine
I left the cool shores of Canada for hot and sandy Doha, Qatar in January, 2014. Nearing two years in the Middle East, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on some of the changes that, while seemingly different in the beginning, have now become routine while being an expat in the Middle East.
Friday is the Muslim day of prayer, meaning the weekend begins on Thursday evening, consisting of Friday and Saturday, returning to work on Sunday. When you spend your whole life adhering to a different weekend, it initially plays havoc on your brain. You start mixing up the days of the week when telling stories, booking appointments, etc. I’m now happy to report that I think my brain has now adapted to the change (but it takes a while).
9 am? That’s sleeping in
Back home, the majority of people stroll into the office around 8:30 or 9. But in Qatar, most are awake before the call to prayer at sunrise (around 5:30am this time of year). What does this mean for expats? Everything starts earlier. Rush hour begins around 6 am and I’m sitting at my desk by 7:30.
Cold shower, how I miss thee
Most water in the Middle East is desalinated from the Arabian Gulf and then pumped into water storage tanks. Individual tanks are located on the top of buildings, warming in the desert sun. When you turn your cold water tap, it’s nearly always warm, and always piping hot in the summer.
All the wonderful smells!
At home, most people skip perfume and scented products, with many workplaces being scent free. Here, wonderful aromas are part of the culture, not only celebrated but deemed mandatory in certain situations. I actually love the wonderful smell of wood chips burning (oud) filling malls, hallways and workplaces. And because it’s natural, you certainly won’t hear any sneezes from allergies.
Sand, sand, everywhere sand
I love going to the beach, desert and everywhere there’s sand! But sometimes it actually comes to you in your apartment. The air always has trace amounts of sand in it, meaning your floor, furniture and apartment sometimes has a fine layer of sand.
Broadly meaning “influence” or “clout”, wasta is a cultural phenomenon that controls many aspects of life in the Middle East. If you can’t be bothered to wait in line like the average person, just flex your wasta and sometimes magical things appear. While I don’t think I actually have wasta, a girl can dream.
Allison Furlong is originally from Newfoundland, Canada and is now living in Doha, Qatar. She regularly blogs about her exciting travels around the world and is always interested in hearing from other travelers and expats. To find out more about Allison’s adventures, subscribe to her blog – Where ya to – a wanderlust blog or follow her on Twitter @AllisonFurlong