Qatar – Doha Country Overview The peninsula of Qatar projects into the Arabian Gulf and is bounded on the landward side by Saudi Arabia. It is about 100 miles long and 40 miles wide, and consists largely of stony desert with a few oases and areas of sand dunes. The population of Qatar is 625,000, in an area of 11,435 km2. Three quarters of the population lives in the capital, Doha, including some 4,000 British expatriates. Overall, some 60% of the population of Qatar are expatriates (mostly from the Indian sub-continent). Although it is a conservative Islamic state, it is not excessively restrictive and most expatriates settle down quickly to life in Doha and enjoy their time in the country. Job prospects for accompanying spouses are generally good and there is a good selection of expatriate schools, including British system primary and secondary schools. City Overview Doha is a fast developing city, development which this year is accelerated in order to prepare for the Asian Games to be hosted in December. Building sites and road works abound, and journeys for the time being are taking longer than usual. The city centre, however, retains a certain charm, and many of the post-war buildings have been demolished and replaced with souqs and arcades. Local restrictions on employment Getting residence can be a long procedure. If a teacher is recruited in time, a 'no objection' letter can be obtained, and the teacher will enter Qatar with that. If there is not enough time, the teacher will enter on a visit visa, and will have to leave Doha and re-enter once the letter has been obtained. Either way, once the no objection has been dealt with, there is a medical (including HIV test), a fingerprinting session, and then the papers are submitted. One or two months would be a normal length for the whole procedure. Non-British spouses will usually have to wait for their spouse's residence permit to be issued before they enter the country. This can take up to six weeks. Teaching centre The Centre moved into its current premises in December 1995 and has 12 classrooms and a computer room. The front office space has recently been re-organised and includes a children's library, ELT and exams resources for adults, as well as Teaching Centre, Examinations and UK Education information outlets. All classrooms have audio equipment, video player and an IWB. The teachers room has recently been relocated giving more working space and resources. There is a large (though, for security reasons, unused) car park in front of the building, and a covered one at the back for staff use. Most teaching and training takes place in the afternoons and evenings, between 3.30pm and 10.10 pm from Sunday to Thursday. There are occasional off-site courses. In Ramadan evening classes are normally rescheduled to run from 7.00 to 11.00 pm over that month. The Centre has a full-time Registrar, two Assistant Registrars and a messenger; other staff share their time between the Teaching Centre and other Council functions: There are currently 5 full-time teachers, and up to 15 hourly paid teachers. Young learners, which constitute a considerable part of Teaching Centre activity are 80% Qatari, the remainder being mostly from other Middle-Eastern countries. Adults are more varied: 30% Qatari, 50% from other Middle-Eastern states and 20% from elsewhere (largely Europe and the Far East). Junior classes are co-educational, Senior classes may be single sex or co-ed, most adult classes are single sex. Most teaching is at Elementary to Intermediate levels, with a few advanced or Cambridge examination classes. Accommodation For externally recruited teachers 5,500 QRs pcm unaccountable (single) 6,000 QRs pcm unaccountable for staff with accompanying partner and/or children Rents have recently risen considerably and the above allowances are some 50% more than previously. Accommodation isn't particularly easy to find but the Council supports seekers in terms of time and transport, and provides hotel accommodation for a reasonable period until permanent accommodation is found. Unfurnished accommodation is cheaper than furnished, but furnishing is expensive. The Council can provide interest-free loans for this purpose. There is a refundable deposit of QR2,000 to be paid for electricity and water supplies. The Council acts as guarantor for teacher’s telephone lines, asking teachers to provide proof of settlement of telephone bill before leaving. General living costs and conditions Utilities are reliable and cheap. Net2phone PC to phone services are the cheapest way of dialling internationally. Western goods, though widely available are more expensive than in the UK. Local and regional goods are generally very reasonably priced. Normally, FT staff can save a reasonable amount of money over a two year period - especially as they receive a gratuity at the end of their contract under local labour law. However, setting up costs can be expensive. The Council provides a 6000 QR non-accountable settling in allowance to help with this - and interest free loans are available if needed. Transport and communications Local taxis are cheap but availability depends on location. Most expatriates find a car essential, and second-hand cars are readily available and inexpensive. Currently all full timers drive their own cars (but not the Deputy Director). Usually, expect to pay in the region of QR 18,000-25,000 for a reasonable second hand saloon car. 4WDs can be much more. Petrol is, of course, very cheap indeed. Arabic is the official language of Qatar. While knowledge of Arabic is useful, shop assistants, taxi drivers etc are usually from the Indian sub-continent, and English is the lingua franca of Qatar. International calls are easy to make and Internet/ e-mail access is readily available. Mobile phones are common and local telephone calls are cheap. Local landline to landline calls are free. General health, medical and dental care All UK appointed staff on globally mobile contracts, and accompanying family members, are covered by Council's Group Medical Insurance. The scheme is administered by Expacare and covers medical and hospital treatment, repatriation costs, personal liability and other items. Routine dental and optical treatment are NOT included in the policy. Excess to be paid by the Council; full costs to be reimbursed less NHS prescription charge. Chemists are well stocked. Although not covered under the insurance scheme, dental services are available but can be expensive. Any other information Entertainment mostly consists of private parties and club activities. There are a number of clubs in Doha with excellent sports facilities (cost c. QR 5-600 p.a.). Some of these clubs are for family membership only, but there are gyms etc for singles. There are also desert trips in the winter and some local attractions, such as the museum, waterfront, fort, souq, zoo, children’s theme park, beaches, two annual international tennis tournaments, an international golf championship and an annual cultural festival in March. Many expatriates take up activities such as sailing, windsurfing, or diving, generally taking advantage of the sea. Doha has a long and very attractive Corniche). There is a fairly wide variety of restaurants, Lebanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai etc. There are also cafes in which to enjoy a water pipe. Shopping is easy. There are a number of good supermarkets and shopping centres and all household needs are catered for. The souq area is much more modern than other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria or Egypt, and the feel is more Indian than Near Eastern. The import and public consumption of alcohol is forbidden, but the large hotels have discreet licensed bars or restaurants and there is a licensing system that allows each family to purchase QR1000 worth of alcoholic drinks each month. One can join the Rugby Club, where there is a good standard of rugby on display, and perhaps the cheapest bar in town. Regular (monthly) quizzes, too. Pork products are forbidden. TV is piped into homes on cable but this service can be expensive. The Council library includes a video and DVD section and English films are widely available for rent. There are four multiscreen cinemas, all of which show English language films.