Tag Archives: blog

Picture of the Day

Throwback Thursday to accidentally on purpose finding sweetness at a classic spot in Burlingame. Royal Donut has been around longer than many of the eateries on famed Burlingame Avenue. Grab yourself a chocolate old-fashioned today!

What I’ve Learned Living the Confused Expatriate Life

What I’ve Learned Living the Confused Expatriate Life
by Ms. Hala

Click here to read an exclusive version written for ILoveQatar!

As you may or may not know, I’ve said “salam” to Qatar earlier to this summer, a place I’ve called home for the last five-plus years. If you’re a fan of the rant series, you’ve read on how my expat life didn’t start off so easy.

I’ve documented some of my experiences from explaining my identity in the most diverse country in the region to the hassles of apartment hunting as a single lady. I arrived in Qatar confused and left a little less confused, grown and enlightened. I’m sure if I had known then what I know now, it would’ve been a little bit easier.

So long story short, let me share with you some tips I’ve learned living the confused expatriate life in Qatar.

Expect the Unexpected: When I first came to Qatar, I had a plan in mind: stay for a year, save a bunch of money and head back home. I had never planned to stay for as long as I did, but as they say, “God is truly the best of planners.” I promise you, whatever plans you have coming into Qatar or elsewhere for that matter will fly out the window, quick! You must expect the unexpected, nothing is like how it’s done back home and no one is going to hold your hand through the process. Have a plan, yes, but be prepared and stay open-minded, that’s how spontaneous an expat life can be.

Learn the Language: It’s wonderful that English is widely used in Qatar and most parts of the world. However, I’ve had my fellow English speaking friends complain when someone doesn’t speak English to them, be it a professional or private capacity. I’d have to remind them that the official language of Qatar is Arabic, thus no one is obligated to speak your language. Make an effort to learn Arabic, even if it’s the basics. You can start by joining language exchange groups as well as checking out language learning programs in Education City and Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center – formerly known as Fanar.

Try Everything Once: Being an expat is an adventure to be had! While an expat in Qatar, there’s so much you should try at least once. Head with a group to the sand dunes by Sea Line. Eat a bowl of chicken majbous in Souq Waqif. Enjoy an evening in a dhow boat. Volunteer to walk the shelter dogs at a lovely farm off Shamal Road. Spend the day in the Museum of Islamic Art, it’s free! Enjoy an evening of classical music by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in Katara. And you must have a cup of hot karak from any of the amazing tea shops all around town.

Befriend a Qatari: In the time you’ve stayed in Qatar, how many Qatari friends have you made? Don’t know where to meet Qataris? Start with everyone’s friendly neighborhood Qatari, Mr. Q (aka my buddy Khalifa). When I first came to Qatar, it was ILQ’s active forums that introduced me to him and many Qataris as well as new expats in Qatar. I’ve connected with Qataris active on social media and learned about their culture, language, and food. I consider many of them now my lifelong friends. So don’t be shy to ask a question, start a conversation and befriend those that have welcomed us into their country.

Share Your Blessings: Realistically speaking, it’s easy for many of us to live a comfortable life in Qatar but that doesn’t mean we forget to humble ourselves. There are many in Qatar living on so little to better provide for their families back home. There are things you can do in your daily lives to keep you grounded. When you eat at a restaurant, any good, untouched leftovers can be given to someone in need. When you buy large amounts of water, leave a bowl of cool water outside your building for stray animals. When shopping in a mall, give a little to the many charitable organizations’ kiosks supporting initiatives in Qatar and beyond.

Professionalism is Sometimes Unprofessional: Being the first and only female manager in my division at one of my jobs in Qatar, I was warned that “we don’t do things here the way you do it in America”. I didn’t understand that until I had to deal with an incompetent agent costing my division delays and lost sales. I was as professional as possible until I couldn’t anymore. I learned with time to stay professional but stern, stand my ground and make sure my team had my back. Again, things aren’t done the same way back home, and one has to adapt, fast.

Do What You Love: My advise to anyone of my peeps thinking of expatriating out of the US (or repatriating for that matter), do it for something you know you will enjoy. A passion to travel and work with a company you know (or at least researched well) will do right by you in the long run. Anything that sounds too good to be true, is too good to be true! Don’t fall these gimmicks, including paying any recruiting or relocation company. If possible, visit the country you are considering before deciding to live there for a long period of time. Don’t move for a high salaried job that you already hated at home. I promise you, you’ll be miserable if you are not passionate about the work, the company or even the country you are deciding to move too.

Dating Is a Hit or Miss: I didn’t expect dating in Qatar would be much different from back home but it was an odd experience. Because Qatar’s population is 80% male doesn’t necessarily mean there are quality men. Trust me, slim pickings. However, it’s taught me that dating while a single expat is a coin toss. You can get lucky or you can feel icky. I did appreciate that chivalry wasn’t dead and even when I had a bad date, it wasn’t as bad as some I’ve had back home. Being a single expat can be tough, especially as a single lady in a conservative country. There’s more on that here.

Nothing Stays the Same: I learned this the hard way after my first visit home. Expect things to change when you visit or repatriate home. As I now try to rediscover my city, playing tourist at times, I’m slowly learning to adapt to the changes. Repatriating is not easy, and in some ways can bring back feelings of culture shock and learning curves you experienced when you first became an expat in a new country. It’ll take time and before you know it, it’ll truly feel home. It took me almost a year to feel at home in Qatar, hopefully, it won’t take me that long now that I’m back home.

To close out this five-year rant series, I’m blessed to have left with more than what I came with. I’ve gained great friendships, career growth, and wonderful memories.

And I’m a little less confused.

Living the Confused Expatriate Life

Living the Confused Expatriate Life
Has It Been Five Years Already?
By: Ms. Hala

On June 30th, 2012, I landed in Qatar thinking I knew what to expect. I had never lived in another city in America before, let alone another country so… of course, I was wrong! I thought I was only going to be expat living for a year, a year and a half tops. Of course, I was wrong. I thought I was going to make a dollar out of 15 cents, gold out of dirt, something out of nothing. Of course, I was wrong.

 

It has been five years –FIVE YEARS– since I got off that plane and was hit by the summer’s humid air, freaked out when the cold water taps were boiling hot and learning to sleep with the AC on full blast. I have learned to expect the unexpected and struggled through those last five years to make something out of myself.

 

Along this journey, I’ve made life long friends, laughed my heart out and experienced things I don’t think I would have staying at home, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the world is so grand but our bubble is so small. If I learned anything, anything at all, from being living the expat life, it’s to go beyond the bubble, even for just a moment and live a little in this grand world. Despite it all, for the things I’ve learned, it’s so worth it.

 

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“Qatar” – image courtesy of @ftmalthani

Qatar has an odd charm to it, flaws and all. The expat life here is not perfect but it’s a blessing to experience. As I start packing, not knowing how much longer I’m staying in Qatar (more on that later), I’m at peace. Alhamdulillah, I worked hard, surrounded myself with good people, ate some delicious food and discovered as much of the region as I could.

 

My time in Qatar will always be unforgettable. I can’t image having the experiences I’ve had else where. I’ll always pray for God to continue blessing this beautiful nation and the people within it that make it up it’s beauty. Qatar may be small but mighty and come to think of it, so am I.

Iftar @ Streets of Arabia – A Snapchat Story

Streets of Arabia Ramadan Tent - Doha Marriott Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Inspired by the success of Street Food Doha, the lovely Doha Marriott is at it again for the second year with Streets of Arabia. Dishes from all corners of the region, such as Sudan, Morocco and Qatar, are the stars of the streets. I started with the Moroccan harira soup and was tempted to go for seconds but there was much to discover throughout the restaurant gallery turned street food galore.

Headed to Sudan for stew, Egypt for hawashy, Lebanon for grills, Qatar for majbous, Turkey for kavurma and India for dahi vada. I was not disappointed in the least bit! Desserts were good, the qatayef were a hit for me. I just wish they had them in serving sizes rather than “serve yourself” type setup, people get a little too excited around desserts. #JustSaying

Service, as always, was professional and friendly. I just wish some of the serving staff were more knowledgable of some of the dishes they were serving. The setup is simple, nothing over the top, but nothing plain either. It’s a very chill and casual space for iftar, my kind of chill to be honest. It’s so chill, even the famous Ramadan camels, Bashoosh and Sahara were just chilling in the warm breeze outside the hotel with their new baby girl, Samara. Yep, it’s a girl! Woohoo!

A Fresh Take on Goal Planning

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Happy 2017 peeps! Here’s to a successful, rewarding, joyous and blessed year ahead Insha’Allah!

As I went through my previous rants, I found one I had written some eight years ago for my career development blog on goal planning. Now as you have your resolutions set for the year, let me ask you, “when was the last time you actually went passed February with your resolution in mind?” Assuming probably minimal to oh dang, right?

Here’s my fresh take on goal planning and what you can take from a habit done eight years ago to apply it in 2017.

Is your new year’s resolution to lose weight? Finish college? Travel the world? That can be your resolution but with no real set goals, it’s never going to happen.

I think what many of us forget to do when we talk resolutions is coming up with tangible ones. We need to talk goals, break it down and work our way towards it. Remember, resolution technically means to solve a problem not achieve a milestone. We want to focus on achieving milestones, hence you want to focus on goal planning.

For example, If you have a weight problem, then your resolution is to lose/gain weight. Yet, if you have a weight you’d like to achieve, then your goal is to reach that weight.

Here’s an example I use often. I’m a bookworm, I love reading. Yet because of my hectic schedule, I’m not reading as much as I’d like. My new year’s resolution is to read more. Done, nothing tangible, nothing structured, nothing really to motivate me to read more books.

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My new year’s goal is to read twelve books. How will I do so? Here’s a copy of what I drafted for this year, a monthly and weekly goal plan to achieve my reading goal and resolution.

So take out a clean sheet of paper, write out your goal plan and post it somewhere you’ll see it. Also, highly recommend using that calendar on your phone and posting reminders for yourself. Every day, every week, every month. You’d be surprised come December 2017, and pat yourself on the back.

Happy New Year peeps!!

New Chapter in Life, Flight Required

“إنت تريد وأنا أريد، والله يفعل ما يريد”

“You want and I want, but God reflects what He wants.”

It has been an exciting, stressful, joyful and challenging last couple of years. You think you have all your bases covered, plans A, B and C set in order but a moment in time truly changes it all. If I knew last year, last month, last week the adventures I would’ve had and continue to have, I may not have been able to appreciate these blessings being bestowed upon me as much as I do right this instant… Alhamdulillah (Praises to God)!!

I still stand by my many beliefs and convictions but I know today that I’ve grown to come a long way then where I was just in the past two years. Being in our 30s, as my wise cousin Nora tells me, is truly where the adventures begin. Nora, thanks! You’re advice has gotten me to realize what a blast I’m having thus far! You are without a doubt one of my inspirations!

With that said, I’m going to be embarking on a new chapter in my life. To those with their fingers crossed, NO I’m not getting married! hehehe This chapter had been thought out for a while but God had me waiting patiently until the opportune moment for it to be written. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way honestly.

Insha’Allah (God willing), I’ll be relocating from San Francisco, CA to Doha, Qatar where I’ll be working with an American-Qatari company. I plan to live out there for the next year with ample time to travel across the Middle East, parts of Asia and Europe. I personally couldn’t be happier, especially when the most important people in my life are even more happier for me and the decision I’ve so suddenly taken.

Suddenly as in leaving the country in less than two weeks!

Yes, it all happened that fast! Like I said, it literally takes a moment to realize that your plans must change so that God’s more perfected plan takes place. For those upset that things don’t go their way, please give it time. I promise you, the best will come forward. You’ll realize, as I am right now, that had you known then what you know right now, you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Have faith in God and He’ll never give you a chance to doubt Him.

It’s funny that my Baba wants me to stay put despite being so proud of me because he’s worried about my comfort. Yet I keep thinking about it, had he not taken that big step 45 years ago and relocated to America from Egypt, stepping out of his comfort zone, would he or his family be where they are today? My Mama couldn’t be happier despite hating that I’m leaving so soon. My siblings are acting like I’m not going anywhere by not being around as I frantically pack my things. However, they’ve already made travel plans to visit me and Mama is coming with me to Los Angelos to see me off.

To my parents, my siblings and family… I thank you for teaching me that life indeed is too short to not take on new adventures and to step out of my own comfort zone. To my close friends and confidants, you know who you are… THANK YOU! I love you and already miss you!

I do solemnly promise to continue blogging on this new chapter in my life while continuously posting pieces of my Egyptian Summer journal. Until next time, back to frantically packing.

Until next time, from Doha! =)
Ms. Hala

Egyptian Summer – Update?

I’m two months into my Egyptian summer now. I know, I promised to post blogs on my adventures here but with extremely slow internet in the country side where I’m spending most of my time, I opted to update via Twitter & Facebook. I’m still getting the hang of blogging via my Blackberry phone so please bare with me. (I’m extremely tempted to purchase a Blackberry Playbook. I know, I’m getting sucked into the tablet market but what can I do, I’m a nerd!)

In the meantime, everyone’s been asking me, how’s Tahrir Square? Sadly, I haven’t been allowed to go as of yet. Yes, for safety reasons, my father and cousins have not encouraged my passion to be part of the Egyptian protests. However, my other cousins and I have a plan of our own… let’s just hope it works.