Moving to Qatar
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Driven by gas and oil, the miniature emirate has emerged as an important global player. As a result of the fossil fuel boom, as well as the relatively liberal policies established under former Emir Hamad bin Khalif Al Thani, Qatar now hosts regiments of Commonwealth and South Asian expats. Increasing numbers of foreigners are moving to Qatar to work hard, save money in the tax-free environment, and maintain a standard of living and wealth relatively similar to that of Western Europe.
While there are plenty of work opportunities for expats interested in employment in the petrochemical sector, Qatar is also working to increase foreign investment in non-energy sectors, such as IT, construction, and – much like Dubai – tourism.
With its successful 2022 World Cup bid, the nation has also been spending vast amounts to improve infrastructure. As a result, it’s likely that more manpower will be required to continue transforming Doha, the capital city often described as half building site, half park, into something whole. Cranes, alongside this desert nation’s suffocating heat, are constants.
Expats and their families can look forward to an emirate that emphasises culture and education. Whereas Qatar used to be the region's backward 'country cousin', it now aims to be the Middle Eastern flagship for social development and intellectualism. In recent years, it has worked hard to create a “knowledge economy”, and to promote ventures like the Museum of Islamic art and a massive Education City.
It seems that the country has been quite successful in this regard – Sheika Mayassa, sister of Qatar's current emir and head of the Qatar Museums Authority, was voted by ArtReview as the most powerful person in the art world in 2013.
That said, the nation still adheres to Islamic law, while censorship is still enforced and foreigners will probably never command a position equal to locals in Qatari society.
Expats considering moving to Qatar should also remember that the peninsula is still fairly new to the global stage, and provincialisms still exist. There are still many non-English speakers in the service sector, the red tape of bureaucracy can still be endlessly frustrating and some sections of its Arab society are not as liberal as its neighbours in the UAE or Bahrain.
Despite these challenges, however, the expat community in Qatar is large and welcoming. Making connections is relatively easy and can ease the relocation process, helping new arrivals to overcome any initial culture shock.