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Living in Qatar
A practical guide to the way of life in Qatar
Are you wondering what you can expect from life in Qatar? Our guide to living in Qatar has essential information on healthcare, schooling, and accommodation for expatriates. That way you’ll get to fully enjoy the mix of old and new, tradition and innovation, which this country has to offer.
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Life in Qatar
Most expats living in Qatar settle in Doha, the country’s capital and its most important financial center. Aside from Doha, other cities, such as Mesaieed, Dukhan or Ras Laffan Industrial City, host production and trade facilities for the petrochemical industry. The latter offers many job opportunities and is thus one of the main destinations for expats in Qatar.
All in all, the country is divided into seven baladiyat (municipalities). Here, traditional life in Qatar coexists with a globalized economy and modern architecture. While Qatar’s government invests in up-to-date technologies, it also encourages its people to maintain their cultural heritage. Souq Waqif, for instance, is one of the places which best represents a more traditional sort of life. Although renovated in 2004, this souq still showcases typical Qatari architecture, shops, and restaurants.
You may be surprised to find out that formal education wasn’t introduced until the 1950s. Since then, the education system has improved significantly, offering public education throughout the country. However, just like life in Qatar in general, education in particular is based on the country’s Islamic roots. This is reflected in the strict gender segregation in public schools and universities.
The education system is controlled by two different entities: the Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Council. The Supreme Education Council is slowly taking over the Ministry of Education schools, turning them into independent institutions. It has also begun to introduce reforms and develop new curricula and educational programs to help students keep up with the challenges of a globalized economy.
Expat children tend to attend private international schools in Qatar. Most of them were established only recently and are located in Doha. Independent schools welcome the children of expats as well.
Private schools are only free of charge for nationals living in Qatar and those eligible for public education. Currently, there are 137 independent schools and kindergartens, which offer curricula in Arabic and English. The list of schools provided by the Supreme Education Council can help expats living in Qatar to find schools for their children within their district.
Higher Education in Qatar
Qatar University is located at the northeastern outskirts of Doha. Its campus is divided into sections for male and female students. Each has its own lecture halls, labs and other facilities. Established in 1973, the university offers a wide range of academic programs, mainly undergraduate degrees.
Six American universities also have campuses in Qatar, offering different educational programs to Qataris and expats living in Qatar. These (often co-ed) campuses are located in Education City proper.
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Health and Housing for Expats in Qatar
Qatar’s Healthcare System
The Supreme Council of Health is in charge of Qatar’s healthcare system, supervising medical facilities and implementing reforms. Qatar’s primary healthcare system was introduced in 1954, but it was not until 1978 that a comprehensive scheme was developed. The government began to establish modern hospitals and facilities all over the country, offering dentistry, pregnancy care, vaccination, and health education.
Throughout the last 20 years, reforms have modernized Qatar’s health system. Health centers have opened throughout the country, providing different kinds of therapy and treatment, including oncology and psychiatric services. Unfortunately, Qatar’s healthcare system is still suffering from unnecessary bureaucracy.
Due to its many expats, Qatar also offers a lot of private clinics with international staff. Although public healthcare is relatively cheap in Qatar, it may make more sense for expats to purchase private health insurance and visit private facilities, thus avoiding the nerve-wracking bureaucracy of the public health sector.
The Health Card
Currently, residents have to pay for public healthcare. However, costs are low, as the sector is heavily subsidized. A single visit to a clinic in Qatar, for primary treatment and a referral, costs about QR 30 (8$). Those who purchase a health card don’t have to pay anything, as health card fees cover the costs for one year. Unfortunately, hospital consultation and treatment cost extra.
To purchase a health card, residents need to visit the health card office at their local clinic or at Rumeillah Hospital, bringing the required documents:
- Copies of passport and visa
- Two photographs (4 x 3 cm)
- Appropriate fee
- Completed application form
The application form should be completed in Arabic and English. The card is available within two weeks and can be renewed at the general post office. This is a comparatively easy process. All that expats need to provide is their current/expired health card and a fee of QR 100.
Since 2004, foreigners may purchase property in designated areas of Qatar, especially The Pearl, West Bay Lagoon and Al Khor. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to provide reliable information on property and rental prices, as they are often subject to severe fluctuation. Over the last few years, prices have sometimes risen and fallen by 50% within a few weeks.
Expats can obtain a residence visa by buying property. They need to provide proof of ownership as well as proof that they are free of diseases and have no criminal record. Additional paperwork is required, and most expats hire an expert to help them with it. Avoiding the legal trouble that comes with bureaucracy is usually worth the cost!
Finding Accommodation in Qatar
It is best to use professional estate agents such as Barwa or Mirage to help you find property to rent or buy. Their employees are usually fluent in English and can help expats negotiate prices and repairs. Those expatriates who are fluent in Arabic can also try to find housing on their own by checking the classified sections of local newspapers.
Most rental places are located within compounds, which range from the size of a small village to only a few houses. They often have their own security, tennis courts, pools, and other facilities. Expats can rent individual villas as well as serviced or non-serviced apartments in Qatar. Many international hotels feature furnished apartment suites, too.
Utilities in Rented Accommodation
When renting a place in Qatar, expats should check if their electricity and water supplies are connected before moving in. To set up an account with Kahramaa, the Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation, expats have to submit the completed application form, a copy of their lease, a copy of their ID, their phone number and PO Box number, as well as their reference number for electricity and water. This number can usually be found on the outside wall of your building.
Expats should prepare to pay a large deposit. You will be charged a monthly estimate until the first reading of the meter. Energy consumption is extremely high as air conditioners require enormous amounts of electricity. However, sometimes bills are incorrect or not sent regularly. Keep an eye on the meter to avoid unpleasant surprises!
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