Qatarization seems to be the hottest topic these days and it also seems to be deeply related to the tension between foreigners and Qataris. So I would like to dedicate this post to discuss ‘Qatarization’
Qatarization is part of the newest trend in the gulf, Gulfization. All six countries of the GCC has started similar labour market strategies and Qatar is no exception. The need to initiate such strategy was due to recognition of threats of increase dependence on foreign labour and lack of developed national workforce. But the huge influx of labour was inevitable since the oil boom, as rapid growth required foreign professional labour to fill the gap of insufficient national labour. Moreover, there has been, and still many challenges to the development of Qatari human capital, and until these challenges were addressed and solved, a professional foreign labour was heavily imported.
Since the oil boom and until today, most nationals are employed within the public sector for several reasons. First, many of them do not have the necessary skills to work in private sector; second, even if they acquired the necessary skills needed the private sector lacked incentives compared with public sector and finally, some Qataris might feel overwhelmed by foreigners who dominate private sector and so do not feel comfortable in such environment.
However, one must point out that Qatari government employs more than what it actually needs as a measure for income distribution and creating jobs to ensure its legitimacy. What matters is not the number of the people employed, what matters is their productivity and it is something hard to measure. As for employment, the greater part of the national population were assured governmental functions or employment provided by the State. One must indicate, during the early popularization of such policies especially that of employment, significant number of nationals still had minimal education and even sometimes approaching illiterately levels. This had made it clear that the majority of state employees were misallocated, either under qualified or underutilized. If Qatar had a different economic model in the sense of extraction of finance from down to the top, this chunk of state employees would have been unneeded and in the competitive developed economies model, they would have gotten rid of. However, the purpose of this system is not similar to that of the western world, but it is simply to circulate the excess of GDP, granting a political stability through a gratified population. Thus, making the approach toward development unstable, where Qatar would have been better off investing in its human capital, education and health, and understood the long run impact it would had on development.
Moving forward, the government has recognized such challenges and addressed them through diversifying economy; education reform; labour market strategy and Qatarization. I won’t go through details of LMS and goals of Qatraization. What I would like to discuss is what is wrong with Qatarization strategy.
First, Qatarization policy is still not fully developed; the policy did not indicate which positions exactly should be Qatarized. It did not also consider that Qatarization could be more difficult in some sectors more than others, such as technical positions in oil based industries. And finally, it is not realistic and didn’t consider that transferring knowledge and technologies would take more than the time expected in the plan.
second, the policy lacks proper monitoring and evaluation system. According to RAND, there has been no deliberate strategy of evaluating the effects of initiated reforms. Even if such thing was intended to happen, the evaluation will face problems of limited experience and lack of data due to lack of administrative state structure, unmonitored population movement and other cultural factors. Due to lack of monitoring, there is no real evidence of the quality of training and care that Qataris are receiving.
What is happening is that Qatar’s labour laws give preference in hiring first to Qataris, then to other Arabs and finally to other foreigner. This could be true in the public sector; however, in the private sector where “ceo’s” are western expats, this is not entirely true. What happens is that these companies are under pressure to fulfil the required quota in a certain time which leads to misallocation of Qataris in different companies. Being in a rush does not allow enough time to create a proper training programme for them. A lot of western expatriates do not see the necessity of coaching developing and mentoring the newly joining Qatari workface. There is no check and balance system that scrutinize the claimed or propagated high percentage of Qatarization in those companies. Many are holding low paid positions with no opportunity for skill development. And the figures are presented to the Ministry of Labour as evidence of Qatarization are thus deceiving.
Therefore, it is a big possibility that foreign labour hinders the development of national labour. In a study made by Dr Hend Jolo on Human Capital Formation within Oil and Gas Based Industry, she conducted Interviews with recently recruited Qatari workers, who had completed their industrial technical training program. She found that the majority of them were not assigned to operation and production positions which would have given them the opportunity to practice their new skills and knowledge. Instead, they were assigned trivial jobs, non-production tasks such as security guards. Even when some of them were assigned to production jobs, most of the tasks were done by their peer expatriates, which may have prevented them from direct interaction with machinery and plant. This is perhaps due to the lack of job security for the expatriate, partly the result of the announced ‘Qatarization’ policy in the sector. It is, therefore, difficult to expect expatriates to be self-motivated to train Qatari workers and encourage them to develop their skills, though their employment agreements emphasise such task.
The point here is not to put the blame on foreigners for lack of training, the public sector which is fully run by Qataris also suffers from the same problem. One should take a look at promotion and reward policies and see if they are implemented fairly. For example, at the Ministry of Foreign affairs, girls graduating with BA in political science or engineering were not given the same treatment as their fellow male colleagues who graduated from similar universities and started working at the same time. All girls from different departments were shoved in one floor and did not get any promotion or training programs or even the opportunity to participate in projects compared with their male colleagues who had two promotions in two years and were sent abroad on several training courses. This situation created frustration and disappointment among young women graduates who just started their career at the Ministry.
Third, the education system and training are inadequate to create a national workforce that could compete in global markets. According to RAND education in the Arab region are often ill prepared to work in a global economy. Qatar’s current per pupil expenditure as a percent of GDP per capita is still relatively low. Countries with similar GDP per capita levels invest on average twice as much on their students. This suggests that Qataris will join the labor market with less preparation than their counterparts from other countries.
In Qatar, inappropriate educational background and lack of training were major obstacles contributing to the limited improvement and development of workers’ competence and performance.
Qatarization policy does not regard other factors and externalities that influence its success. To start with, it ignores the important link between education institutions and labour market demand as well as training within different corporations. Ignoring this link results in inability of those institutions in providing industry with the required technical skills.
In this situation, the government is responsible for education while corporations are responsible for training. If the basic education was not provided then this will increase the burden on corporations to spend more on training. At the same time, if employees were provided with excellent education but did not find the proper training they require it will be a lost effort.
Fourth, social attitude and cultural norms are excluded and not considered in the policy. Despite changes and recent openness in the society, there are still differences of opportunities for education and work between men and women. Increase in women education could lead to false assumption of enhancement in their position in the labour market. There has been indeed development but it is far less than what is expected when considering their educational qualifications. In 2007, two thirds of employed Qatari women had higher education, compared with just 31 per cent of Qatari men. One should not neglect the broader historical social and political context in which gender relations are constructed. For example, many Qatari women are reluctant to work in jobs that require them to spend long hours at work and away from their families or that involve working in a mixed-gender environment.
In the Brira file blog, an interesting point about Qatari culture was raised.
“ Arabian culture is similar to those of most Eastern cultures in the sense that it is a collective society. Arabian culture emphasizes the group. Confrontation is avoided and disagreement is conveyed privately to protect the person from ‘loss of face’. Words such as “Inshallah” (God willing) are used to convey negative expressions instead of saying a direct ‘No’. Respect for elders, the significance of tradition, family honor and expectations, concern for one’s reputation are deep-rooted principles. It is a fact that Arabs are generous, polite and value loyalty. You may compare these values to those of individualist cultures which Anglo societies fall under. These tend to place emphasis on the individual, goals and expectations of the individual are promoted, there is no need to conform to a group, and people are encouraged to rely on themselves.
These differences lead to cultural shock which symptoms might include: heightened irritability, constant complaints about the climate, utopian ideas concerning one’s previous culture, continuous concern about the purity of water and food, fear of contacting local people, refusal to learn the language, a pressing desire to talk with people who “really make sense”, and preoccupation with returning home. Qatari dissatisfaction is not aimed at expats themselves but at government policies that are overly accommodating to foreigners in managerial roles”
Fifth, government policies are contradicting and do not consider externalities that might influence outcomes of Qatarization as well as ignoring local culture influence. Current governmental strategies are adopted based on the advices and plans of foreign companies and institutes, who view the region as business projects rather than nations and governments who have a duty to build their countries, empower their citizens through a process of sustainable national development – development by the citizen and for the citizen.
The most important externality is transformation of demographics of the labour force and its effects on National work force. These changes lead to imbalance between national and foreign population as well as imbalance between genders. The sudden increase of foreign labour and cultural clash between Qataris and foreigners lead to tension between the two groups as was mentioned earlier by Brira. Locals started to feel as suffocated minority in their own country where they can’t even speak their own language in shops and restaurants anymore.
According to Dr Ali Khalifa Al-kuwari in his article ‘Demographic Imbalance in Gulf Countries’, Governments of the gulf did not consider that by brining so much labour it could cause some infringement of citizen rights. Negative externalities such as on infrastructure (housing, sewage, security), society (discrimination, potential assimilation, loss of culture), stability (source of discontent, political pressure), and national pride (dependence on foreigners for key functions and associated vulnerability). National choices and public decisions seem to be unaffected by the demographic imbalance, and disrespectful of the rights of citizens, including the need to safeguard their language, identity and existence. Construction expansion – a nationally unjustified choice – spearheads the so-called development; the loss of the homelands, the disintegration of the national communities, and the endangerment of the future of the coming generations
Dr Al-kuwari says that when nationals become minority groups in their countries, when their cultural, productive and administrative roles are subordinate to those of foreigners, when their living conditions are dependent on donations, administrative decisions, and on an ever diminishing legal protection, they are left helpless in an unfair competition against elite of immigrants who came from different parts of the world. In such a competition, the status of nationals in Qatar would be similar to that of the Malay in Singapore, who have been politically, culturally, socially, and economically subordinated to the Chinese immigrants.
Even after implementing the policy, there is still concentration of nationals in public sector. According to General Secretariat for Development Planning. Qataris constituted only 12% of the labour force in the year 2001. The increase of foreign labour however was so great that it made the slight increase of Qataris participation in national workforce seem insignificant. In the year 2008, Qataris constitute 12% while foreigners were 94%. In 2007, ratio of Qataris to non-Qataris in the labour force was 1:12, compared with 1:6 in 2001.
So are we a spoilt nation or an oppressed nation?
It is true that statistically Qatari citizens enjoy one of the highest GDP income per capita in the world, however, citizens do not really see much of this wealth as there is hardly any data or proof of income distribution. Some might argue that Qatarization simply does not work because people are spoilt and do not need to work. It is assumed that since the oil boom, the average family income is roughly $60K, and most families far above this through private investments or enterprise. Therefore it is assumed that a large segment of the population does not need to work for the sake of a salary. This means they have ruled out several roles that they do not want to play in organizations or as professionals, including: administrative assistants, or entry level jobs, as well as nearly all jobs that require high contact hours or have low status such as teaching or nursing. How do you motivate a population that does not need to work? Nationals are shying away from private sector jobs due to low pay and less benefits in comparison to government ministries and departments.
In reality Qataris are not as rich as many assume. Not paying taxes and having free utilities does not mean that the population is living an easy rich life. Each individual within households cannot afford the luxury of not working especially with the increase of inflation in the country. It might be true that Qataris do not accept certain jobs such as cleaning or watering but this is due to strict traditional values that put a lot of pressure on how individuals lead their lives. People might be afraid of losing respect in the society due to their choice of work.
All of this result in continued dependence on foreign labour; misallocation and underutilization of Qataris abilities creating tension and dissatisfaction especially among the youth.
What could be done?
It is actually too soon to evaluate the effects of Qatarization; however, this is not an excuse for not developing a proper evaluation and monitoring system to enhance the strategy. There is defiantly a need for further enhancement of education and creating strong links between education institutions and labour market demands. Without training and obtaining cognitive skills education will not pay off; therefore a strict monitoring of training in different corporation is needed to ensure quality Qatarization.
What do you think of this?
Since the new government took over in 1995, many policies have been changed in Qatar. A claim to democratization, development and change. A vision for an economy driven by knowledge and increase investment in human capital. Qatar have achieved a lot in such short time thanks to its investment in natural resources. Such fast development lead to its economy to be one of the fastest growing in the world. Moreover, citizens of Qatar enjoy one of the highest GDP per capita(? really?). The Human Development Index show speedy improvement in human development … etc
This is what we always hear about Qatar. Of course some of it is true, there has been great development and change. But we are still underdevelopment in so many other aspects. Sometimes I feel that the change that happened in Qatar is superficial. If we take a deep look at established institutions we will come to realize that hardly any is maturely developed.
My point is, when I saw the ad for bidding Qatar 2022 I felt dissapointed. Yes its great to have all of this, but is this what we really need now? How many billions is going to be spent on that? I think we should concentrate on things other than sport. Aspire Zone and the Asian games are kinda enough for the time being. Too many construction is going on, a lot of ugly buildings are being erected. I feel like all of this gives a false image of how Qatar is developing.
I would really love to see some investment in the environment. Isn’t that more important than sport? Qatar has one of the worst air quality in the world because of the oil and gas industry. and yet there is nothing being done about it. According to 2007 UNDP Human Development Report revealed Qatar’s per capita CO2 emissions to be the highest in the world at 79.3 tones/capita, despite its small size; it is well above the 9th ranked United States. shouldn’t’ this be a priority since it obviously affect people’s health? Why not spend money on planting trees and creating parks in every neighborhood. And please use trees that grow here, no need to import special trees from Australia that will die in few months just to show off!
It is nice to see some green, calms people down a bit and will reduce the temperature. We have the ability to make Doha green since there are many trees and plants that could survive in a desert climate. I wish the minister of environment takes this issue seriously. And, seriously what is he doing anyway? I have not heard or seen any serious or new projects done by that ministry beside protecting wild animals. If I was the minister, I would plant a huge circle of trees surrounding Doha to protect it from sand storms and help purify the air and reduce the temperature. Then I will create beautiful parks and small gardens in every corner of the city. Is there any excuse for not doing this?
Another project that the government should invest in is recycling. No matter how much it will cost, it will be nothing compared to the cost of the new stadiums for 2022. It is not just visible things that we should invest in. We should also put more effort into improving health care services for example. Or create awareness programs in schools or even creative advertisement on TV about living a healthy life since we have one of the highest percentage of people who suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. People need to be educated about that. Education is not about building huge buildings and having Academic degrees.
aren’t these things more important than sport? I would like to see real investment in people, real development. Who cares about big shiny buildings? This is a fake image of development.
- updated version please read again -
I am furious, mad, angry and feel so much hate. Things are seriously wrong and there is nothing I can do about it but to write this. What is going on in Qatar! A lot of injustice, a lot of theft. And no one is saying anything.
May is a fresh pharmacist, she worked for a year in Egypt and came back to Qatar, the land she was born and raised in to work because her whole family is here. She was shocked to know that all medical interns must work for 3 years as interns without being paid! She said this goes for all interns except those with blue eyes and blond hair. She works every day from 7 to 2, and then she goes to her other job to work as a sales woman in a pharmacy and only gets paid 1000 QR per month. The law says she is not allowed to work with a title and get paid as a pharmacist until she finishes those 3 years.
Sara is a Qatari doctor who is married to Saudi. She is a consultant now living in Qatar, however, because her daughter has a Saudi passport, she must pay for her daughter’s education in Qatar. On the other hand, her blue eyed blond colleague, who has less years of experience and is a specialist ( lower than consultant ), and is paid 25,000 QR more than her, and all her four children are paid for to study in Qatar Academy ( One of the most expensive schools in Doha ), since she carries an American passport.
Maha is of another Arab origin who was born and lives in Qatar. She was fired from her work at HSBC because of Qatarization, and it took her 8 months to find a job. By luck, she got employed as a trainee in one of the banks. She works two shifts, from 8 to 1 and from 5 to 8:30 and is only paid 1000 QR per month.
A Philipina Pharmacist who lives in Jordan because she is married to a Jordanian is paid 30,000 QR per month only to give a 2 hour lecture to Cornell medical students twice a month. All expenses of hotel, tickets …etc included. While my friend, a Qatari doctor is asked to give the same kind of talk for free.
My friend is a Qatari designer, she was considering a job at the new museum. They told her that they will only pay her 11,000 QR because she is Qatari and the law says this is what Qatari should be paid at this organization. While her blue eyed friend is of course being paid more than double, with the same qualifications and the same job.
Another friend is working in one of the financial organizations and her non Qatari manager refuses to send her to any training course while her blue eyed friends are being sent to training courses all over the world.
Do I have to have blue eyes and blond hair to be paid and appreciated here, or shall I work with a European or American passport to be treated equally. Why are Europeans being paid so much more than Qataris, not to mention all the benefits of having free houses, cares, phones, insurance, plane tickets …etc. No Qatari gets all of this when they start working, these benefits are only given to the highest of the highest officials and to a handful of Qataris. But for Anglo-Saxons it’s for granted. Don’t give me that silly argument that they are being paid so much more because we brought them from their home land and we must compensate them for this. Why don’t we compensate cheap labour then since they slave all day for nothing!
Is the law that Foreigners should not be paid more than Qataris is nothing but a load of crap!
I am so glad about what happened in QFC when the HR manager discovered that they were using the company’s money to pay for alcohol in parties and many deals with foreign companies that have not fulfilled their contracts and that all of this was being covered by their foreigner friends in Qatar, I am glad that all those thieves were fired.
I actually heard a CO of a foreign company that was brought to Qatar to do some development projects saying, right in front of me ‘We don’t care about the education or the quality of our work in Qatar. We are here for the money and we will try to get as much as we can before they discover that we are taking advantage of their laid back life style’.
I think it’s only a handful of foreigners who really care about this country and truly believe in developing it. I can write about this forever, and give you endless examples of injustice. But what is the point!
I feel like giving up. What is the point of trying to do anything since I will not be appreciated as much as Europeans or Americans. At work I am treated like a table, an object without a soul. They wont give me anything to do, and at the same time they wont let me go because of that stupid contract I have with them. All my potentials are being killed! It’s just such a frustrating situation. I can do so much and give so much but I am not given the opportunity. I have to fight so hard just to give back to my country! how silly is that! why wouldn’t you give me the same opportunity you give to foreigners?
You might think I am exaggerating or making all of this up. What I wrote is not my fiction, it has been proven by a study that has been made by Hay Group Consultancy and was published in the Economist Sep Issue 2008. ‘study compares managers’ disposable income in 51 countries, by calculating average salaries adjusted for taxes and living expenses. On that basis, managers in Qatar … have twice the spending power of their counterparts in America’. The claim is that there is a high shortage of talented Qataris and that’s why we pay very high for talented thieves!
I want to point out that what I write about is not prejudice or racism, this is the normal right, and expected right of every national in this country. If I apply for a job in America or EU, the nationals have priority, then regionals, then any other expat. However, in Qatar, if you have Qatari with a high qualification, first they will choose a foreigner, then an Arab because he is paid less then a Qatari. They look for non skilled Qatari on purpose because they don’t want them to develop, they are just there to fulfill the quota of Qatarization. This is why it has been easier for high school graduates to find jobs than university graduates.
My friend Maha tells me about the Qatari girls who are employed at the Bank, none of them has a university degree. What does that tell you about Qatarization. While I have another friend who has MBA speaks 5 languages, and he was told ‘you are too qualified for our organization’ at the same time, his expat colleagues were given the post with less qualification and higher financial pay.
This does not only cover the working sector in Qatar. but even in the educational one, where we have spent gazillions of dollars in buildings and the making of education city, several universities from the US, Qataris are given second class treatment. Since the number of Qatari students and faculty and employees does not go beyond 12%. The funny thing is that some students were rejected after they have applied to QF institutions! Who are they to reject a Qatari who wants to study! Even the educational sector is biased towards expats because it is managed by expats. The only Qataris who are happy about their position in QF are the board members. While the young people of Qatar are being rejected, the door to study at their country is shut, as well as the door to study abroad with all the difficult new laws for scholarships.
There is so much more to write about this … I will keep updating this post
First published in Women Today, January issue 2010
There seem to be a lot of misunderstanding and gaps in communication between Qataris and foreigners; many misconceptions and hasty judgment. I have wondered where these feelings and ideas stem from. I’ve been discussing this with people around town, and I am drawing some interesting conclusions. These are just opinions, it is not a study. Moreover, I am only talking about concerns and issues – there is brighter side that I will save for my future columns.
We hear many Qataris say “They don’t respect our traditions; They have more privileges than us; How come they have higher salaries than Qataris? Crime and disease spread because of the large number of foreigners! Qatar has become too crowded …” While foreigner say “Qataris are lazy they never work; They take everything for granted; Qataris are aggressive and not friendly at all; They are all spoilt, rich people; They are so closed minded and difficult to deal with”.
Arabian gulf culture in general is very unique; yes people are Arabs and Muslims but the way they live is different from Arabs in Lebanon, Egypt or Morocco. The kind of society in Qatar is more akin to a tribal one, because of its small number and strongly shared values and traditions. People are raised to respect traditions and honour them. Qataris tend to be conservative; formal and shy even with each other. Hanging out in public places is very new to Qataris. Till a few years ago, going out only meant camping in the desert, going to the beach, visiting friends and relatives, or an evening at the Al Muntazah park. Girls would be with their families and boys would be in ‘almajlis’ or at the camp. It was not acceptable for groups of girls and boys to hang out in the malls; there weren’t many in any case. Imagine being a minority in your own country?
Qataris believe that foreigners enjoy the privileges that really matter. For example; they get paid for accommodation, car, annual travel tickets, put their kids in the best and most expensive schools and earn double or triple of what Qataris get. An example is a friend of mine who applied to one of the largest employers in town; he was offered QR15,000 to start with and after one year training an increment of QR2,000. While a French friend of his, with the similar qualifications, with little Englishspeaking skills received this: QR35,000 per month + house + car + cell phone + travelling costs + health insurance for him and his family + education at schools of choice for his children + finding a job for his wife ASA P. There are examples dime a dozen, in this tone.
Why do foreigners with similar or lesser qualifications as us, get paid more?
The frustrations reach another level when the boss at work is a foreigner who refuses to guide or train them properly, because he/she knows that one day this Qatari person will take his place.
And, NO , not ALL Qataris are rich. There are some poor Qataris living in small old houses with no jobs. Sometimes, when I go to certain events where I am the only Qatari lady, I am stared at. I don’t know if they are curious or surprised. Once when I said it was too hot to walk in an Abaya during summer, an expat replied “Oh! I always wondered how you feel in that thing, now I know, not comfortable!” That was offensive.
I also get offended when I am asked: “Can you go out clubbing? Do you have a boyfriend?” And if I answer “NO ”, they give me a ‘sympathetic’ look and say “Oh! so you don’t have freedom.” How ignorant is that? Is freedom only about clubbing or having boyfriends? Is this what life is all about? Imagine if I were to ask an American, “Do you visit your grandmother’s every week”. I would probably receive a ‘No’ as an answer. Would it make sense to this person if I said “Oh! poor you, you don’t have strong family ties.” Another thing that bothers me is when some assume that we are lazy. I bet if they had servants and drivers, they wouldn’t bother with cleaning and driving, would they?
After speaking to several expats to fairly present their point of view; I honestly can say they cannot be blamed for these misconceptions. The first disappointment they face is the difficulty of meeting Qataris and socialising with them. “We’re accustomed to a different type of social structure and don’t take the Qatari structure into account. I’ve been here seven years and during these years, I’ve been invited to one Qatari farm (with the men, but not the women). Because those of us who are from the US and Canada are accustomed to interacting with people from many different ethnic backgrounds and different religions, we are highly disappointed to be in a place where we can’t interact with the people who live here. Most westerners really do want to know Qataris. After a while, we sort of give up and assume that Qataris would prefer not to know us at all”
However, the number one idea they have of Qataris is that they are lazy and that is because of several reasons. At work, a large number of Qataris are always late at work and do not show any regret or care about their tardiness. While people from other nationalities have more respect for time. On top of that, they see many Qataris spending more time on their mobiles than doing actual work.
At schools, expats see maids carrying children’s bags and in some cases feeding them. Children are used to throwing their garbage on the floor, expecting someone else to pick up after them. At public places they see women with their maids carrying their purses and shopping bags. And they know that the maids do all the cooking and cleaning
for most households. They also see children being taken care of by maids instead of their mothers in playgrounds or schools; and usually there is one maid for each child. Whenever they make eye contact with a Qatari, the Qatari either looks away or returns a suspicious look. Hardly anyone smiles which makes Qataris look a little intimidating. An expat explains, “In the west, I’ve become accustomed to receiving a ‘thank you’ when I hold a door open for someone or a ‘you’re welcome’ if I say ‘thank you’ for someone holding a door for me. This interaction rarely, if ever, happens here in Qatar and when it does, it’s usually with another expatriate. In fact, it’s more likely that if I hold a door open for someone, I’ll just be ignored, not even as much as a glance in my direction. Or, if I’m walking in behind someone else, they’ll just let the door slam in my face. Is absence of this interaction lazy, rude, or inconsiderate or is it just a difference in cultural behaviours?”.
I believe that because of this reason; and the fact that it’s hard to meet Qataris, many might assume that we are not friendly. Then, they also get the overall impression that we can buy anything. If we think about it, it’s not their fault that they are getting paid more; these are decisions made by different organisations in the country. At the same time, it is not fair to say that a whole nation is lazy or rude because of a few individuals. I believe that people are the same where ever you go. We are all humans and share the same feelings, aspirations and needs. There are kind and rude people every wherein the world, and passing random judgment blinds us from the truth and the beautiful things we can learn from each other.
When I was in school, many things were not allowed. But when I heard stories from my teenage cousins I was shocked to know that they are even stricter these days. I don’t know if this applies to all schools in Doha but I am talking about Albayan School, the scientific school from primary to diploma level.
Personally, I never understood why a touch of makeup or accessories was not allowed in school. Girls in this age start to develop their character and naturally girls like to get dressed and have pretty things. Just as it’s natural for boys to play football or do whatever in that age (what are they into at this age anyway?), girls like to put a lip gloss or eyeliner. But schools take that an indication for deviation and start of developing seductive techniques that might open the girl’s eye to the world of SEX! I am not making this up; this is what one of the teachers told me! Anyways, sure, don’t allow makeup, no big deal. But why be mean to the girls.
In Albayan School, any kind of femininity is forbidden. Even small earrings, or letting your hair down is not allowed. Even dying the hair or having a hair cut more than average is not allowed. A Qatari girl who had blond hair was shouted at for colouring her hair, she told the supervisor that it was her natural hair colour. They did not believe her and called her mother who told them that her daughter was not lying. Not only hair, but also colour shoes, socks or a jacket are not allowed. Even if they have one stroke of colour that is not black or blue or white, it would be confiscated.
During winter, my sister was ill and yet she went to school. She was wearing a blue jacket that had a yellow line in on the side. The head mistress asked her to take off her jacket, my sister was shocked. It was cold and on top of that she was ill. The head mistress said that this is none of her business and that my sister broke the laws and so she must remove the jacket or it will be removed by forced and my sister will be suspended for three days. My sister was furious. She said that ‘OK I will take it off, but if I get worse it will be your responsibility’
While girls are in classes, supervisors would open the girls’ lockers and look through their things and confiscate any kind of mirrors, makeup, magazine, colourful hair bands. Not only they would not return these things to the girls, but also they would use the girls’ stuff in front of them
My friend’s sister had a small mirror; once her teacher saw it she took it and broke it immediately. Another friend was wearing a bracelet, her teacher asked her to take it off then she wore it and said ‘it looks nicer on my hands’.
Being overly strict makes girls more creative in finding ways to break these rigid laws or make them hate school even more. I agree that pupils should learn how to respect rules and be disciplines but not in such way. I don’t see any point from suspending girls just for having a lip gloss or wearing a bracelet.
Moreover, girls in property school are forced to wear Sheila and abaya and if they didn’t they would be publically humiliated by being shouted at in front of everyone. Girls who are late for school are given a good shout before they go to classes, if it happens more than once, they get warning and they get suspended.
Put all of this in one side, and the insults students receive in another. Why use such barbaric way, girls will eventually use these words and copy this behaviour between themselves. There is no need for violence in words to keep them under control. I know how naughty girls can be, but this doesn’t work. Because the naughty one will take this as a challenge and conduct a bad behaviour on purpose.
Do you think what is happening in Albayan school is normal? What do you think should, and should not be allowed in schools? And should there be a difference between rules in girls’ schools and boys’ schools?
The first time I met my manager was not the first day at work, it was a month after I started working, or rather after I started going to a place to sit on a desk and sip tea the whole day. The first few days I was surprised that none of my colleagues bothered to say hi, or introduce me to the place. And by the last few days I started getting headaches from hearing them chatting, chatting and chatting the whole day. The first thing my manager told me was ‘Don’t expect anything, we all graduated from the US and came here with high hopes and expectation, but let me tell you something. They will all be shattered by the system. Of course, I don’t want to discourage you from working, but this is the reality here. Try your best, but don’t aim so high so that you don’t get disappointed. Anyways, welcome and I hope that you will be different’. I went back to my office after this, sat on my desk which was in the middle of a big room that accommodated 16 women who never bothered speak to me for the first few weeks. I was feeling confused as I was not sure what kind of work I am supposed to be doing because simply, yet after a month, I was not given anything to do!
The first day I started work in London, the receptionist asked for one of my colleagues to come down and meet me. She took me to my desk and introduced me to everyone, showed me the place and got me some tea and cookies. Few minutes later, my supervisor came and had a chat with me, he said ‘we are thrilled to have you here, and we would like to know your thoughts about our work here. We are in the process of developing this department and your opinion is very much valuable. How are you coping in London so far? Are you settled? Please let us know if you need any help’. Few minutes later someone comes in from another department. My supervisor stands up and says ‘Lewis, this is our new intern, Mimi from Qatar, its her first day here’ … ‘ Hi Mimi very pleased to meet you’. After that, I was trying to write down few things my supervisor asked me to, but was interrupted because my colleagues would introduce me to everyone who would enter the room.
It has been few months and I still have not done anything. Time passes by so slow, I come to work from 7:30 till 1:30. Its not much but it seems so long since I am not doing anything. I had enough from drinking tea. Why bother be punctual if I am not doing anything. Most people here come late and leave early, it seems that no one cares.
Gosh, it is 5 already and I still have so much to do. Shall I leave or stay for few more minutes? No one is leaving; everyone seems to be so concentrated in what they are doing. I can’t believe that I have been working since 9 am. Time flew by so quickly, I didn’t even notice that my tea is cold.
What is that smell? Is that eggs and keema? Oh yes it is, who would eat meet and hammous at 8 am! Why don’t they have breakfast at home? Or at least bring something not so smelly. Its 11 now and they have ordered pies and sandwiches. Oh there is a buffet in the other room because someone has given birth or got married and the girls are celebrating the colleagues return. But we leave in 2 hours, aren’t they going to have lunch at home. How much money they spend on this every day?
‘Here is the menu, what would you like for lunch?’. Wow, this is a whole book! Wow, menus from every restaurant in London and I get to pick any meal I want and it’s all paid by the company. Talk about investing in human capital! Ok I should act cool and just order what I want. ‘What are you having guys?’.. ‘We will order from what ever restaurant you pick’.
While working at night:
‘I heard that there is a nice burger shop here’ .. ‘Yes, the Carnaby burger company’ … few minutes later ‘Here, this is a cheese burger from the shop you asked about, it doesn’t have any pork don’t worry’ .. ‘Wow you guys, I didn’t even ask for it, this is really kind of you, thank you so much’
‘Hello, I will have to go home early because I am not feeling well’ ‘ what is wrong with you?’. ‘I have a headache and feel dizzy’ ‘is it so serious that you have to leave’ ‘ yes’ .. a long pause to think if my health is worth giving me permission to leave early .. ‘but we have some work to do’ .. ‘ but I have been doing nothing all morning, how come you are giving me work now?’
I cough … my supervisor says in panic ‘Are you ok? Do you need to go home?’ .. ‘ No I am ok’ .. ‘Are you sure?’ .. ‘Yes’. My colleague asks ‘Shall I get you some herbal tea?’
I cough again ‘Oh you should go home you are tired, let’s call you a taxi you shouldn’t walk home’
The next day I go to work with another team, and a girl from the team of the day before calls me during lunch hour and asks ‘Did they get you lunch yet? … I asked them to get you some lemon and honey for your throat, if you need anything call me’. She calls again when it started getting late and said ‘Let me know when you finish, I will call a cab to take you home’
‘How can I write a response to this’.. ‘ Just see what it says and write’ .. ‘What do you mean? It’s a letter directed to another organization, and this is the first time you send me work, I don’t know what to do with it’ .. ‘Just see what it says and write what to do with it’ .. ‘you are not making any sense, can you teach me how to do whatever you are saying’ ..’You know what, just send it back we will do it’ .. ‘NO, I WANT TO DO IT, would you please just explain how I should do it’
‘Ok, before you start I will explain to you how work is done and what you should do, if you have any questions, feel free to ask me at any time ok’
Every day I hear my colleagues complaining about work, the same story every day, the same complaints every day .. I was complaining myself, I do complain a lot, but I got tired, there is no point of it. I complain because I am not working, and they are complaining because they are given work! for God’s sake, all they do is data entry, and for less than 5 hours a day. If they worked for 5 hours straight that would be a miracle. They pass by my desk and say ‘ You are so lucky you have nothing to do’ and when I say ‘But I want to be given something to do’ they reply very surprised ‘why?’
Oh My God I am so tired, I have been working since 11 am and now its almost midnight! Don’t they get tired! They have a deadline tomorrow and they must finish this film tonight. I never heard anyone complain at all. How amazing! even though I can see they are tired but still they are very thorough in their work!
I leave work in silence, no one notices if I am here or not
Goodbye, take care, thank you for helping today.
Hmmm and I wonder why young people are depressed, or take drugs, or waste time chasing after the opposite sex, or not punctual, or don’t care about the quality of their work or or or!! Whose fault is it? Would you blame me for hating work in Doha, or for being depressed and frustrated? I remember those days, and I remember the stupid things I have done out of boredom. How my energy and ideas were vanished, how a layer of mud accumulated around my brain until I lost the ability to think. I could talk about this forever, give you more examples, of how we are Muslims without Islam, and how westerners have Islam without Muslims. Why can’t we be faithful, punctual, giving, caring to our work and colleagues, why don’t we care about the value of a human being? Most obvious evidence is the way we treat cheap labour and the lack of laws protecting them. Wasn’t the way I was treated in London, Islamic, Human! How come I wasn’t treated like that in my own country, in a place I have worked for, for two years! Those strangers I met in London made me feel more at home than I ever was in that place I worked in, in Doha. They treated me better than my own people. How would that make me feel!
The West understands that to achieve highest profit possible, companies and governments should invest in humans. That is why they give their employees free food, and taxi rides. This is why they care about their health and give them sick leave when they need it. And in return of these benefits, the employees would work and give, because they know they will be taken care of and paid for their hard work. I know that this is not the case everywhere, but this is the general rule, and I know that there are exceptions.
“The only justifiable purpose of political institutions is to ensure the unhindered development of the individual.”
A question crossed my mind few weeks ago, while I was chatting with my sister. She was telling my a story about one of her friends. I don’t know why I decided to write about this now, but I just want to get your opinion. The issue might be sensitive, and might bother some, but it is real and exists in our society. It is actually two main issues. Here is the story, and after reading it, you can understand which issue I am referring to. I won’t make any comments, I will just tell you the story.
Sarah is a beautiful young Qatari woman; she is an engineer and is very successful at work. She comes from a very good family, moderately rich, educated and open minded. She lives her life to the full, but she has a secret that was tormenting her for the past few months. A new guy came to work at her department and she fell in love with him. She was observing how he behaved with his colleagues, how he spoke, how he took good care of his image and health. How rare, she thought, he is so different. Sarah is very confident, yet shy. She never dared to approach him, or show her feelings. However, with time, she noticed that he was noticing her too. Her heart would flutter like a bird whenever he spoke to her. The thing is, Sarah did not know that Ahmed, the one who she is in love with, is also in love with her. He had butterflies in his stomach every time he sees her or smells her perfume. Sarah wants to marry and settle and so does Ahmed. And finally, the day came when Ahmed told her that he would like to come and propose to her. Of course, Sarah did not show that she was about to faint as she heard him utter these words. She just said that she will think about it, and that he should speak to her family if he was serious.
Sarah flew home, everything was light, everyone seemed nice, even the heat of Doha seemed so easy to handle. How would she tell her father though? She can’t tell him that the guy spoke to her directly, so she decided to say that a friend of hers tld her about him. So, she sat both her parents in the living room and told them the good news. “My friend called me today and said that there is a man , works in our company, is interested and wants to propose to me. He saw me several times and asked about me”. Her parents couldn’t be happier; they asked her “really? That is good news, what is his name?”. “Ahmed al-****” answered Sarah. Her parents suddenly were dead silent. Sarah did not like this reaction. She looked at them as they were looking at each other looking surprised, and asked “What is wrong?”. Her dad said “he is not suitable for us”. Sarah was confused, us? “Why isn’t he suitable, you did not even know what his job is, whether he was educated or not, rich or not”. Her dad said firmly, “his name is enough, he is not from a family that we would consider for affinity”. Sarah then realized the reality she lived in, how discriminatory her society is, even against each other. Her mother said “They have Persian blood mixed in them, they are not pure Arab”. Sarah felt furious, she said irritated “That was hundreds of years ago, aren’t they Arab who went to Persia and came back? Didn’t they live here for a long time, didn’t they grow up here, worked and ate on this land, what makes them so different or not suitable for marriage, and what are we, created from a different material? Aren’t we all Muslims? What does this matter? I thought that you would ask about his morals, his reputation, his education, not how many races he has in his blood?” . Her dad said “well my dear, society doesn’t work this way, what would we tell people?”. Sarah got up at this point and said firmly “society are not going to live my life, it’s me who is going to live it”. As she was leaving the room, her dad said “ok, let’s ask about him, he might be a good man”. Sarah said “what is the point, you rejected him before you even know anything about him, how prejudice”, she then said “it’s funny how everyone interfere in this decision, how everyone must give his blessings and approval for my marriage, while it’s me, only me and the person I will marry who will be in this marriage, who will live this life together”.
(Just to warn the reader, i complain a lot in this post)
Sometimes people would ask for your help about something they assume you know. Or they see something in you, or something you do and would like to be the same or do the same. You go out of your way to help them. You get excited. You start pulling your strings and running here and there. You give them so much of your time. All you think about is how to make this perfect for them, how you can make them do better and how you can achieve it in no time.
And sometimes you expect people to be as considerate as you were in some situations. You expect them to respect their word and do what they have promised you. You expect them to finish what they have started. You expect them to be sensitive about your feelings. You expect all of that because you assume people are like you. But no
At the end, after all this tremendous effort and time. They throw what you have given them away. They forget that they were the ones who asked for your help and pretend that you are being such a burden on them making them do things they don’t want to do. At the end you are the “mad” person, the “psycho”, the “7annan” ….etc.
I had had enough of those people!
Here are some of what happened, only this month. Multiply this by my whole life, and you will understand why I am so freggin mad:
- A girl, who we will call “Layla” just for the sake of the story, recently graduated from France. She was very depressed for coming back. She felt sad for not being able to use the language so much here. After few months, she discovered that I speak fluent French. In one day she became my best friend. She would come to my desk at work every day and chat in French for an hour. I would give her the time even though I hate, absolutely hate chatting for more than 5 minutes at work! I thought she is depressed and that I should be there for her. Then she started inviting me out for coffee, taking me abaya shopping, and she also introduced me to all her four sisters. I told her that I have plenty of French friends if she wants to practice the language. She was thrilled. So I asked her if she wants to go to a Beethoven concert to meet all my French friends over there and she couldn’t be happier. She brought her other sister who speaks French and they both made friends with my French friends. Then my French friends started inviting them for any event that would come up. One time, a young French lady invited us for dinner. Layla declined the invitation. The day after she asked me at work:
How was the dinner party?
good, too bad you didn’t come
To be honest with you I didn’t want to
I don’t like French teenagers, they disgust me.
Teenagers? The lady is 23 years old. I thought you miss France and loved the French culture. Weren’t you dying to get to know those people, how come now you don’t like them and call them teenagers.
Yes but I know French youth, I lived there for six years. They scare me. They are so irresponsible and crazy. I don’t feel comfortable being around them. They behave like teenagers, that’s why I call them teenagers.
Layla, this lady is my friend
Yes I know, I just didn’t feel comfortable going. Did something happen yesterday?
Something like what?
You know how they get drunk and go crazy and do sexual things!
Do you think that if they have one drink they will have an orgy on the table or something? Are you crazy? Did you forget that I was there yesterday!
No but you didn’t see what they used to do in France. That’s why I prefer to sit with older ladies, someone in their forties. They are calm and more mature. Remember when one of the older ladies invited us to her house. I told her I wont come if there were any young ladies. She immediately told me that she wont invite them, see she understand what I am talking about.
I said nothing more. I was confused. Few weeks later I asked her if she wanted to be interviewed for a magazine that I work for. I know that she has no problem for her photo to be published because she told me that she was considering a job as an anchor on TV in French. The girl was over the top when I told her about the interview. She even wanted me to interview her sister. She gave me a photo and told me all about herself to write it down. I wrote the feature in English and had to translate it to her in Arabic because she doesn’t speak it. She told me that it was perfect and I can publish it. Two days before publication she called me and said that her dad was mad at her because of the interview and she wants to cancel her feature. I told her it wasn’t possible because it is already printed. When the magazine was out I showed it to few girls at work. One of them, lets call her Lamya, said “Mimi, how dare you write such thing about Layla“. I said “what are you talking about?” she said “Read, here. You wrote that she said that our organization is male dominated and work is not challenging? Did she say that?”. I said “yes, what is the big deal“. The girl seemed to be so scared, she lowered her voice and gave me the impression that she was talking about a conspiracy! “You could get in trouble, You could get her fired“. I ignored her. Silly Lamya went and told Layla what she thought. And ungrateful Layla was so scared, she thought she was going to be put in jail, she told the grils “no I didn’t say that. She wrote it herself. She knows I don’t speak English and she didn’t explain that to me. She tricked me its her fault”. Since that day, Layla treated me like her enemy. Even when I say salam, she looks like someone is strangling her throat and forcing her to reply to my salam. The girl stopped pretending to be my best friend. She didn’t come over like she did every day, she stopped nagging about going out, she stopped sending me forwards. At the end, everyone thought I was the mean girl, taking advantage of the poor girl who doesn’t speak English and introducing her to perverted crazy people!
- A girl, who we will call, Lamees, keeps asking me “How come you never drink fizzy drinks? How come you never eat junk food? Wow you look in great shape? Which gym you go to? What is your program?”. And I tell her everything I do, everything I know with complete honesty. I explain to her the many books I have read about the issue. Every time she asks me for advice I give it to her. One day she decided to do my diet and exercise program. So I spent a whole day with her. I woke up very early on a weekend. Went to her house, showed her how to do the exercise, made her a program. Then we went to the supermarket and bought all the things we needed for the diet. I was explaining why she needed this and that. Trying to educate her about health. Then we went home and I cooked her a meal. Showed her how to cook a healthy delicious meal. And gave her different recipes. At the end of that exhausting day. She didn’t eat the meal I prepared. When I asked her if she like it she said “oh no I didn’t eat it, I went out and forgot about it, I threw it away at night!”. A week later I asked her how was the program going. She said that she didn’t use any of the food we bought. Most of the stuff was expired and she told the maid to throw it away. And she didn’t even start going to the gym! I felt very disappointed. I gave her so much time that I wouldn’t usually give to anyone, my throat was dried from talking so much and explaining everything. And at the end she forget about it! So simply! She didn’t even consider my feelings when she said that she threw the meal away!
After spending a fantastic week at the English workshop with Bloomsbury. I told one of my friends who we will call, Lama, who reads a lot in Arabic about it. She said, “why not make something in Arabic“. I told her, “yes we thought of that, we are looking for people who are willing to do it. Are you interested?”. She said “this sounds great, yes I am very interested. I feel strongly for our language and I really think this workshop should happen“. We had several meetings with people in Bloomsbury. We told them how we wanted to do an Arabic workshop and that we will look for professional people. We called a lady who has masters in critique. For some reason she said “I am not qualified and you need a professor to do that“. I thought, how come an educated lady like her doesn’t have something to offer for an hour! What is this masters for then? Anyways. We decided to do the workshop after we come back from summer vacation. When I told Lama that the workshop is going to happen next week and we should prepare she was shocked.
We are not prepared, we didn’t get any training.
I am trained and I will train you. Its very easy don’t worry
- How many people will come
She opened her eyes wide in surprise and shouted, TWENTY !
She went back to her desk, and came again and asked “Shouldn’t we look for someone professional” . “They all declined our request what can we do now? Its not that hard I promise“. She locked her eyebrows and looked down. “But I didn’t prepare“. I said “You have a week start preparing. Its only for two hours”. She breathed loudly and said “Ok“. She looked like she had the weight of the world on her chest! Wasn’t she excited about it? A day later, the girl still seemed sad and worried. She then asked me the ultimate question “Are there going to be Qatari guys?“. I thought, damn, so is this what’s all about! Qatari guys! I told her “yes“. She looked down and said “ya5ty asti7y .. I feel shy“. I told her “Lama, get over yourself! You are 25 years old. You have a BA in politics from the UK. You are an independent woman who works! And you are asking if there will be some guys! So what! Are they going to eat you! You think the quality of people who will attend is the same as those who go to hajj around Landmark! Its nice to be shy but don’t let this control your life. You are the only one between us who didn’t improve her work because you are too shy to talk to the manager. Get hold of yourself girl!” She looked down and said “OK“. But I saw that she was looking worse. So at the end I told her ” you know you are not forced to do this, if you don’t want to its ok“. Her face brightened, the weight is lifted, she said “no its just that I thought we will be trained by a professional, I don’t know how to do this. You know but I don’t”. I told her” I told you I will train you. Believe me I wont let you present anything unless I was sure that you were 100% ready”. She said “ok I will prepare my part and give it to you to present. I will do the Article section ok. I will attend the workshop and maybe bring my sister”. Few days later she gave me a piece of paper with six lines written in it. She asked if this was ok and if I need anything else. I thought, ok for what? It’s a two hours lecture and you have written six lines! That’s all the research you have done. I told her to pull out two different articles for two different authors since she knows Arabic authors and reads articles more than I do. She said ok and didn’t do anything. I see her everyday chatting and drinking tea. I knew she wasn’t going to do anything. So I did the whole thing myself. On the day of the workshop she didn’t show up. She didn’t even send a text to apologize! I completely pretended that nothing happened and didn’t open the subject with her. Few days later she asked me about the workshop and told me she didn’t come because she was not in the mood and tired and decided to stay home. It took me a minute to remember. I old her that it was great. But then I decided to tell her what’s on my mind, I said, in a funny was, as if I was joking “now I know that I cannot depend on you and cannot take your words seriously… 6ila3ty e5ri6y”. She gave me her word. Made me believe that she really wanted to do this. Came with me to all the meetings. And at the end she withdraws without informing me or even apologizing.
My little sister asked me to throw a dinner party before she leaves for her studies. I decided to do a Ramadan Dinner; we had to wear Jallabia, eat traditional food, have some garan ga’oh and play games. I got some candles and “fawanees” to give an old Arabian effect to the place. I invited around 20 people. Most of them confirmed. I went out of my way to get the best food. I made a research of the best ladies who do Qatari food and sent the driver to their houses to get it. Each plate from a different house just to ensure the good quality. I ordered special garan ga’oh wrap in small baskets to give away at the end. I prepared some games. Everything was made for the 20 people who confirmed. When the evening started I received few texts from people saying they wont be able to make it. Some didn’t even bother to inform me that they are not coming. I had to call them and they said “oh, we forgot to tell you that we wont come“. Ten people didn’t show. Who will eat all that food then? Couldn’t they tell me a day before so that I wont order so much food?
The theme was Ramadan, so I told everyone to wear Jallabia. Some people had it and didn’t bother wear it, some people didn’t want to wear it, some people were forced to wear, some people complained about wearing it. But the nice thing is that one of my foreigner friends went and bought one especially for the occasion.
I tried to forget about it, I still have some guests and I shouldn’t be in a bad mood. Later I explained to people how to play the game; you should have seen their faces. It was like I told them lets go weight lifting! What a burden to play a game. Some people were complaining before we even started. They had to write different words on 20 small pieces of paper. “What! All of this, we have to finish all these papers? Baaaaal“. It was like I gave them a homework to do. I said “cant you stop complaining“. Then they looked at each other and said “oh watch out, Mimi is mad“. !! at the end they realized that the game was fantastic and they enjoyed it.
At night I was exhausted. I kept remembering similar situation that happened before. Its always my blame at the end. I have this urge to help people, to want them to shine and show their best. I want them to achieve and know the great feeling of success. But they suck my energy and go.
I will stop pushing people to do their best, to do things better or to find a better way. I wont tell a fat person how to loose weight
I wont tell a lazy student how to study
I wont tell a depressed person how to be positive
I will stop giving advice
I will stop showing people the world from my eyes
I will stop expecting others to be polite, considerate or punctual.
I think being selfish is good sometimes. If I was selfish, non of that would have happened. But I cant help but be myself.
One time I was at my grandmother’s place and one of my uncles and aunties were there. Out of no where, my aunty asked me if I am planning to continue my studies abroad. I told her “yes of course, why not“. My uncle’s face suddenly looked like he just swallowed a disgusting medicine. Then he said “girls who study abroad think that they are doing something good, little they know that they are harming themselves“. I raised an eyebrow and did not want to even know what he meant because I have heard this kind of talk a million time before. My aunty asked him “What do you mean?“. He said “Those poor girls do not know what is good for them. They are misguided and cannot think straight. They think it’s cool and good to go abroad. What good does that bring them? Nothing. They come back very old and liberal. No body wants to marry them and they will end up as spinsters. Who would want to marry them then? They wasted so many years of their lives for a certificate that will be hanged on the wall. What are they going to do with all of this education? They will just stay at home at the end and raise their children. That is of course if they found someone who wants to marry them after all this exposure. Men over here do not like women who went abroad alone, they think that they are too open minded and liberal and not fit for marriage. It is better for girls to stay here in their home country among their family. If they want to study they can go to Qatar University. Why go abroad? As a matter of fact, men would prefer if she only had a high school degree, which is even better”.
I was boiling inside but I decided to keep quiet, there is no point in arguing with such mentality. On top of that, I didn’t want to upset my grandmother. I was surprised to hear such opinion from an educated man who has a very important role at work. Is this the real mentality behind educated highly ranked men in our country! My aunty asked me “what would you say to that?”. I simply said “He has his opinion and I have mine, that doesn’t mean that either of us is wrong or right, each is entitled to live and think as they wish”. Then my uncle said “yes of course, this is just my opinion, it is up to you what you do with your life“. You think! Then my grandmother told me “my child, why would you want to leave your family again. Haven’t you finished your studies already?”. I told her “Grandmother, you only want me to stay here because I am a girl. You didn’t say this to any of your boy grandchildren when they went abroad. On the contrary, everyone encouraged them“. My aunty then told me “take my advice, don’t depend on anyone and don’t expect anything form anyone either. Depend on yourself only and as long you have the opportunity then grab it and do your best. People might stand in your way today but they will envy your tomorrow. Education is your weapon in this world. Don’t let anyone take that from you”.
I was thinking, does my uncle really expect that women would die to marry men who prefer to marry uneducated teenagers! I really cannot understand such mentality. I think that this type of men is afraid of strong, independent and educated women. Wouldn’t they want a partner to depend on; who is mature and responsible and can take care of a household? Or they just want a young body and mind that could be easily controlled and says “Inshallah” to everything! I am not saying that girls who finish their education in Qatar or abroad are better than those who didn’t. What I am saying is that I am so sick and tired of the bad image that is portrayed for girls who study abroad. People look at us differently. They always say this comment with a raised eye brow when they know that we didn’t receive our education at home “oh, banat landan” oh London girls! Damaged good! Then what ever behavior we do, what ever words we say will be linked to the freedom we experienced abroad. A very small and silly example would be the time I went to a wedding and wore a cocktail dress, one of the ladies told me referring to my dress “Is this what you have learnt from London?” I told her “No, I learnt this from Doha“. What was frustrating is that most of the lady’s cousins were wearing similar dresses to mine. But no one criticized them only because they studies in Qatar and are pure and innocent unlike the girl who was too exposed. Please, give me a break! I don’t even want to get started about the horrible things that girls do in Qatar University! People think that because it’s a girls only University it is safe and good for their daughter’s reputation! The stories I hear from my friends who study there about “damaged girls” are nothing compared to what happens abroad.
I think that people look at others in their own eye.
Weddings are very important events in Qatari society; especially for women. It is one of the times they get together without men’s presence and have the opportunity to be themselves and show their beauty. Some might think that the bride is the most important thing in the wedding; but being a Qatari who attended Qatari weddings for almost my whole life, I have to disagree. The attention that the bride gets does not exceed two hours. Before I go any further, I will explain a typical Qatari wedding from the start.
Usually people start to come after ishaa prayer. Both women from the bride’s and groom’s family will be standing in a line at the door greeting guests. Nowadays, there is a new trend of having security at the door to check for cameras or mobile phone with cameras because they are not allowed at the wedding hall. And if you do have one, you would have to leave it at the door and the security lady would give you a card with a number on it so you can come pick it up later. I always wonder what a loser would want to take pictures of girls and spread them in Bluetooth, don’t they have anything better to do? And why people are so paranoid that pictures of them would be taken secretly for bad intentions! Who cares!
Moreover, wedding invitations will always indicate at the bottom of the card that no servants or children are allowed. After congratulating the hosts, the guests would have a look at the wedding hall, admire the stage and the tables and look for a place to sit. The stage would usually be in the middle of the hall, with a cat walk extending from the stage till the end of the hall. The tables would be beautifully located on both sides of the cat walk. Guests would defiantly look for a place facing the cat walk, because it is the best spot to view the dancers; however, mothers have a different reason to want to sit next to the cat walk. For them, it is a good chance to look for a nice girl who might be suitable for her son. And this is a very common way to get engaged in Qatar, as the majority still gets married through arranged marriages.
Back to the events of the wedding. A DJ starts playing until the band arrives. And when I say a band, don’t imagine a band with guitars and piano standing on the stage!. The band would be sitting on both sides of the cat walk with traditional drums. Sometimes, there would be men with the band but they would be sitting behind a curtain so that they don’t see the women. The music they make out of little music instrument is truly strong and beautiful. Yong girls will start dancing in the khaliji way on the music. I must say here that Arabic dancing varies in each country. Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon have different kind of dancing. However, the khaliji dancing is unique for its slow, smooth, feminine moves. Never the less, within the khaliji dancing, there are different styles depending on each song. For example the khammari is a very slow dance where women have to cover their faces while dancing; usually grandmothers like to dance this dance because its an old dance.
Women who are related to the groom and bride pay so much attention to little details; they would probably be the best dressed at the wedding. One would not believe that those women are the same women covered under the abaya, because everyone of them looks like she popped out of a fashion magazine. The hair is amazingly coiffured, the nails are manicured, the dress and the high heals are amazing; however, sometimes, too much makeup.
The bride would usually come down around 10:30. lights are off, the zaffa music is on, spot light on the bride, and she walks slowly with her sisters and friends around her helping her to walk towards the kosha. Most of the time bride’s dresses are very heavy, she would need help with every two steps which makes her entrance not so pretty. However, it is still a magical moment; all eyes are on the bride. Then she sits on her special seat in the kosha waiting for the guests to come and congratulate her. I always wonder if the bride cheeks feel sour after kissing hundreds of guests. And that is it for the bride; the attention goes from the bride to the girls dancing on the stage and catwalk. People will look at the bride again when the groom comes in for few minutes, then it goes back to the dancers. There is a tradition of throwing money on girls who dance as a complement for their dancing, it is called noqoot. But it is the band who takes the money. They usually have a lady at the band just to collect the money on the floor. The deal with the band would either be a big payment before the wedding day if there was no noqoot, or little payment with a lot of noqoot later on. Some people disagree with this tradition and say it is inappropriate to throw money; and some families have actually stopped doing this because they think it is not classy.
The bride will be sitting on her special chair on the kosha for about two hours until the groom comes. The band will announce the arrival of the groom so that women cover up again. And usually the groom will come with his father and brothers accompanied by the bride’s brothers or uncles or alone. All eyes now are on the groom and the men with him. The groom’s zafa is too short, it takes him less than a minute to walk to the kosha. The couple don’t kiss infront of people, maybe he would kiss her on the forehead but its very rare that they initiate any contact infront of people. Both would feel very shy because of the hundreds eyes staring at them. The couple would sit for less than an hour to receive greetings from their families. And usually only women related to the groom are expected to congratulate him. And only his aunties; not even his cousins. Many would assume that a female cousin had a love story with him and want him back! And that goes for any other female appearance in front of him except for his aunties and mothers! It is not accustomed for the bride’s sisters or friends to speak with the groom; forever. I don’t know why? Isn’t he a member of the family now?
This scenario might seem boring for the bride; sitting in one place and smiling for hours. That is why some wedding are different now. One of my friends danced with her friends on her wedding; another decided to make a small party and spend the money on a trip around the world. And I agree with this. I don’t see a point of spending almost 200,000 QR on a one night party and inviting more than 700 guests that you don’t even know half of. Some of the girls of the new generation think it is better to have a smaller party and be comfortable and casual at their wedding party instead of sitting on kosha and smiling for two or three hours. I expect that the style of the Qatari wedding will change with the next generation; it will become simpler and smaller, and definitely much more fun for the bride.