First impressions of Doha


Saffiyah Mohamed 18/10/2016

When I prepared to go abroad during the holidays I don’t think I quite knew what was going to happen. I knew that Doha was a conservative country but I didn’t know how it would affect my daily life. Being in a new place without family and friends is a bit daunting. The first few days were very difficult and the rules different to those in Scotland. Here I have a curfew at 10pm and I need to be inside the compound before this to register each night. I know that it’s a matter of security but when you’re used to going out whenever you want and not telling anybody anything, it’s a little frustrating. The weather here is also quite extreme, due to its desert location the heat is very intense for the majority of the day, which makes it difficult to leave before 4 or 5pm. People say though that in a couple of weeks the temperature will drop until December when it is much more pleasant. Doha is a Muslim country and we need to dress conservatively here, especially for women- this causes problems when it is hot and you can’t wear a t-shirt.



Living with someone new can be a little difficult, as I found with my roommate. She likes the room hot while I like it cold and simple things like that. It’s important to have agreements to maintain good relations and cohabitate successfully.



There are always problems, and there will always be problems, that is a fact of life. We have already had lots of problems here especially in the first week. For example, I didn’t have my proper bedroom for three days, my phone (which my dad had sent from London) wasn’t at the accommodation and I had to go across town to get it (twice!! Because FedEx was closed on a Friday), we had to go to another university which took forty minutes instead of fifteen because the taxi driver didn’t know where he was going and we had lots of hiccups in the hospital when we had the medical exam. I learnt that it’s a fact of life here and the best thing to do is to simply accept it, learn from it and move on.



Here we have five days of classes for five hours each day. It’s a little strange especially since we don’t have long breaks during the day, only ten minutes every hour. In addition to this, we have lots of homework which doesn’t leave us with much time to go out in the evenings.



It’s a little strange to have two buildings for every department in one place, I think not seeing signs saying ‘men not allowed’ when I get back home will be weird! University is separate for men and women and campus is split for each. The entire campus is very big and we need to take a bus from inside to change to the women’s side of campus for activities (we have all our classes on the male side of campus)- I had a problem last week when I didn’t know where the bus would stop and had to walk across campus for my class when it was very hot.



There are lots of foreigners here especially in the shopping malls who don’t speak Arabic, so it is very easy to speak in English. I’ve met a lot of different people and that has been incredible, recently I became friends with two girls from the Middle East which is a great opportunity to practice Arabic. I think that during my time here my Arabic has improved and I think in Spanish less (which is useful when I want to speak in Arabic but I don’t want to forget it!!) but it can still be a little confusing switching between English, Arabic and Spanish.


For now, after three weeks of being here I’m gradually getting used to it, I have lots of new friends and I learn the language everyday which is great. It’s the biggest change of my life and I hope that it benefits my language ability, it’s a very special experience which I’ve been lucky enough to have and enjoy. Just being in this country where I can practice my language is useful and needing to speak it all the time in class has improved my vocabulary. The only bad thing about all of this is that I don’t have my family near me and I miss them very much.