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Housing in Qatar
 
 
 

General

There’s a wide range of apartments and villas available in Qatar, both within and outside enclosed compounds, but it should be noted from the outset that expatriates cannot own land or property in Qatar and therefore you will have no choice but to rent.

Most accommodation is in urban or suburban areas; the desert is for camels and the Bedouin. Most visitors are pleasantly surprised when they see the cities of Qatar for the first time, their modern architecture co-existing with traditional houses and ancient wind-towers. New buildings are often spectacular, as oil has provided the money for the best architects, builders and materials. Indeed, there’s competition between developers, who tend to be wealthy merchant families, to build the most impressive structure.

Many construction projects are under way and, when you’re choosing accommodation, you should check whether further construction is planned on surrounding land, as the resulting noise, dust and general inconvenience can be intrusive, sometimes for 24 hours per day. Although programmes are continuing, however, fewer lower priced properties are being constructed, as the demand for unskilled workers in the region is declining.

Relocation consultants are most frequently used by multi-national companies and larger institutions moving into the region.

Some consultants provide practical and cultural help to those new to the region. Culture shock is a real condition that affects many people unused to being outside their home country or culture. It can badly affect you in both your working and your family life.

Companies already operating in Qatar don’t usually require the services of consultants. (In a region whose workforce is largely foreign and transient, many companies and workers have long experience of moving and setting up in a new location.) However, employers are generally aware of the danger of culture shock and are ready to help when required.

The sensible newcomer spends the first few weeks of his contract settling in alone and doesn’t commit his family to a move to Qatar until he has obtained all the necessary permits, has completed his probationary period, if any, and is able to judge whether he’s going to enjoy the working and living conditions and whether his job is all that was promised. Note, however, that it can take three months or so to acclimatise to life in Qatar, where it’s normal to feel somewhat disorientated for the first few weeks.

Arab Homes

The indigenous and expatriate populations tend not to live together. The Arab culture of extended families calls for large houses, and affluent families usually own detached villas.

With up to three generations to accommodate, groups of two or more villas are common. The less well-off still prefer houses to apartments. The indigenous population in Qatar is well provided with housing. Young newly-married couples are given low-cost loans and in some states these turn out to be gifts if the loans aren’t repaid within a particular time limit.

Foreign workers tend to live in either compounds or apartments. The rapid development of the economy and the sudden influx of foreign workers meant that accommodation had to be constructed quickly, which meant that apartment blocks rather than individual houses were built. The term ‘compound’ refers to a group of houses or small, usually low-level, apartment blocks within a walled enclosure, rather like a private estate.

Some compounds are huge, and accommodation is usually available because of the continual movement of expatriates. Different compounds have different combinations of nationalities. Some have a cosmopolitan mix, others contain people from one nation only or perhaps from one social group or caste.

Depending on the size of the compound, the facilities may include a communal swimming pool, a restaurant and shop, tennis and squash courts and a gymnasium. Children might be catered for with a play area and there might be a form of community hall known as a majlis – the traditional Arab meeting area for visitors. Many compound houses are built in majlis style, with an area opening immediately from the front door where the men meet visitors and sit with them. The rest of the accommodation is to the sides or rear. (In Arab houses, women aren’t seen unless the visitors are close relatives.)

In Qatar there’s a mixture of villas and compound dwellings, the latter comprising mainly villas and townhouses, with a few low-rise apartment blocks.

Separate apartment blocks, which tend to be higher than those within compounds, usually contain a high proportion of expatriates. A disadvantage of these is that they generally lack the extensive facilities found in most compounds and there may be fewer English-speaking people to ‘show you the ropes’ than in a compound. On the other hand, compounds can be rather ghetto-like, with a claustrophobic ‘clubbiness’, isolation from the local community and a lack of privacy.


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