Tag Archives: Travel

Seven Things I Like About Living in the Middle East

So often when I come back home to the US the number one question people ask is “how do you like living over there?” My response is always, “I really like it!”  Which I really do.  Like any place on earth, there will be pros and cons, but for the most part, I’m pretty content with my life here in the Middle East.  Reflecting on this has prompted me to write and share the things I like most about living in the Middle East.  Now, there are many more things I could add to this list, but these are just a few I thought I would share with you.  See my top seven reasons below.  Enjoy!

Not Having to Pump my own Gas

Here in the Doha, we do not pump our own gas…at all…ever…never!  We simply pull up to the gas station and wait in line.  All gas stations have attendants that will pump the gas for you.  Now, this can get tricky when I come home to the US, as sometimes I forget I’m not in the desert anymore. Needless to say, there have been several times that I’ve waited at the pump in the US for the little man to come and serve me…SMH.

 Working with Other Expats

Living in the Middle East where 80 % of the population are expats means that the majority of people I work with are from different countries.  I literally work with people from every continent.  As I learn more and more about my fellow expats and their languages, there is really never a dull moment when we get together.  Learning new slang words and differentiating an Australian accent from an Irish accent use to be so difficult when I first moved here.  Now, I rarely have to ask someone “where are you from? Or to repeat themselves or ask what does that mean.  I find that the more we spend time together, the more we begin to understand our unique languages and cultures.  I often find myself using those terms when I’m communicating with some of my colleagues.  For instance: Elevator=Lift, Vacation=Holiday, “is this your lot? = “are you paying for this?” and Cheers=goodbye.  Yes, the British influence in my life here in Qatar is represented well, LOL!

 Car Wash Attendants at the Mall

Ok, this maybe weird, but I believe the US should adopt this one.  Here in Doha, you can go to just about any mall, park your car and get an attendant to wash your car for 15 Riyals ($4USD).  Yep, just look for the man in the red and black jump suit who’s waving at you.  Don’t be alarmed, he’s just letting you know there’s an empty parking spot on his row; and while your shopping he’ll wash your car as well.  Yep, it’s just that easy.

Food

There is a variety of food here in the Middle East and I must say my palate has grown. One of my favorite things to eat would be lamb chops and shawarma.  To me, lamb chops here in the Middle East taste nothing like they do in the US.  The Middle Eastern seasoning are so good and the lamb has a milder taste.  Shawarma, I can best describe as shaved meat.  It could be lamb, beef, or chicken.  It literally rolls around on a rotisserie and they use a knife to shave it off.  The meat is moist and I love it with Basmati rice.  I’ve also grown to love Thai and Indian food as well.  From Chicken Tikka, Butter Chicken, Mutton, Curries with naan or roti and Biriyani.  I find that after almost 3 years of living here, I have craving for some of these dishes from time to time.

 Travel

The Middle East is the perfect spot to travel from to get to just about anywhere and I have a personal goal to visit each continent before I leave Qatar (I have 3 more to go before I reach this goal).  You can get to Europe, Asia and Africa within 6-8 hours from here.  Therefore, these places are closer and way cheaper for me to visit than if I flew from the US.  As expats, when we get bored, we travel, travel, travel.  Which brings me to my next favorite thing…. the religious holidays.

Religious Holidays

Ramadan and Eid Holidays are perks as well.  During Ramadan, we work 6 hours instead of 8.  Although it can be challenging, having to go into to work late and having shorter work days for 30 days is a plus.  We also have two Eid holidays in addition to Ramadan.  Many expats take their vacations during this time as the Eid holidays guarantee us at least a week off with pay from work.  Now, just to be clear, the purpose of these holidays is not solely to be off from work.  Being off with pay is just an added benefit.

Experiencing a New Culture

The last thing I would like to mention is that living in Qatar allows me the opportunity to experience different cultures here and in other countries close by.  I believe having the opportunity to experience a different way of life allows us to see the world from a different lens.  I can’t express how important this is especially in today’s world to be able to relate and connect with one another.  For instance, not everyone eats eggs and grits for breakfast.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking southerners, but it’s true.  Some people have never even heard of grits.   In some countries women get a year of paid maternity leave, in others, health care and college is free.  We are all living, but experiencing life in very different ways.  At the same time, we are very similar as well.  No matter where I go and who I meet, everyone is hustling for a better life.  Some are paying college tuition for their children, others are working on a college degree, maybe starting a business, or planning that next family vacation.  Most of us worship some type of higher power and seek strength from it during despair. Hey, no matter where I go, everybody’s momma is the best cook around, the single women want to be married, and the men want to provide the best for their families.  These are the common threads that bind us no matter what continent you live on, what color you are or whether your female or male.   I strongly believe that as a human race, we must realize that the world is so much bigger than our own neighborhoods, cities, states and country. I challenge you.  Leap over the barriers and enlighten yourselves.

 

MY TRIP TO INDIA (PART II)

Dhobi Ghat

While in Mumbai, I also had an opportunity to visit Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest outdoor laundry. It was very intriguing to watch the men as they worked in this outdoor laundry. As I scanned over the railway platform, I could see men beside concrete wash pens full of water flogging wet clothes over stones; literally beating the dirt out of each piece of clothing by hand. It reminded me so much of the times when I was young and would watch my granny outside, scrubbing clothes clean in a round tin tub using a washing board. All items that were washed in this outdoor laundry were later hung or laid on the roof tops to dry. As I continued to scan across Dhobi Ghat, I could see school uniforms and everyday clothing swinging on the lines to dry. The white shirts, towels and sheets were scrubbed white as snow as if brand new and had never been used or worn before.

I believe the most intriguing thing about Dhobi Ghat is that they service the residential homes, hotels and hospitals of Mumbai. They can come to your home or place of business and pick up your dirty laundry and delivery it to you once its complete. I was told they never mix up an order as well, how remarkable is that? As more and more people in Mumbai are purchasing washing machines and choosing to do their laundry at home, these men have seen a decrease in their business. However, it hasn’t stopped their dedication and they take pride in offering this service to the people of Mumbai. It is a family owned business and the goal is to pass this art and business on to their children. I think that’s an admirable thing.

The Taj Mahal

The second part of my trip began with a flight to Delhi and a four-hour drive to see the long-awaited Taj Mahal. First, let me say that in living abroad, I spend a considerable amount of time in airports. I can truly say that the airport in Mumbai has some of the best artwork I have seen thus far (see pics below).   As I traveled through the airport I was so excited to see a Burger King and a Pizza Hut, but the excitement quickly faded when I realized that neither served beef. Yep, you heard me right…No Beef! As 67% of the people living in Mumbai are Hindu, beef is not an option that is readily available. Therefore, I opted for chicken Tikka and garlic naan instead and on my way back a Mutton burger.  After my lunch settled, I decided on a relaxing head and foot massage while I waited for my flight to Delhi to depart.

Once I landed in Delhi, Rahil arranged for a driver to pick me up from the airport who also drove me to my hotel in Agra. The drive to Agra was beautiful. It reminded me so much of my hometown in the US. As we drove, I could see fields for miles, just open country as we rode the highway, away from the hustle and bustle. As the sun began to set, so did my eyes and before I knew it, I woke up and had made it to my hotel. The next day, my driver purchased my tickets, gave me my shoe covers and I boarded a golf cart that brought me to the Taj Mahal.

 

To help preserve the site, only battery-operated vehicles can be within close proximity to the site of the Taj Mahal. Some people walk from their hotels, some take a horse ride, and others use the battery-operated shuttles or golf carts that went back and forth. As I entered the gate to the site I was so elated that I had finally made it and was filled with anticipation. However, nothing could prepare me for what I saw as I entered through the entry way and got my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal. I was in complete awe of the beauty of it. As I put on my shoe covers to begin to explore the inside of this masterpiece, I couldn’t help but think about how long it took to build this mausoleum (approximately 20 years) and about the hands that had created such beautiful work. By the way, it is rumored that some of the architects were killed or had their hands severed off so they could never duplicate it anything like it ever again.

After taking my pictures of the Taj Mahal and with a few people who I didn’t even know LOL (this happens when I travel abroad from time to time as a Black American) I shared a bench in front of the Taj Mahal for about an hour with a young lady who was a solo traveler (Anna). As I sat in front of the Taj Mahal, I took the time to truly reflect on my trip to India and the beauty of the art that sat in front of me.

What I appreciated most about my trip to India is this: A little brown girl from John’s Island, South Carolina turned what she saw on a page in a history book into her reality. I made it to India!

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“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love them.” 1Corinthians 2:9

Highlights from 2016

My 2016 began with me graduating from grad school, getting a job promotion and with marriage.  On February 12th, I married my most trusted confidant.  We celebrated our union last September with our family and friends in Orlando, Florida. This was one of the best days in my life.  It was a humbling experience to be in a room with my closest friends and family members who were genuinely happy for us.  Our circle is so small, but Its true, it’s not the quantity but the quality of people you allow to have a front row seat in your life.

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The Second highlight of 2016 would be some of  the trips I took around the world.  In 2016 I visited Dubai and two continents: South Asia and South Africa. Living in the Middle East has allowed my dreams of traveling not only to become a reality, but to also expand my horizons as I’m so close to places I never ever dreamed of visiting . 

Sri Lanka was very relaxing and very hot and humid.  The food was great and to my surprise I did not get sick ( I have a very weak stomach). In Sri Lanka, my husband and I took the time to learn about the culture and to meet some of the native people there as well.  Our accommodations were beautiful and we enjoyed the hospitality and the kindness of the people.  While I enjoyed our trip there and would recommend you visit; I must admit that having been to both Sri Lanka and Thailand, Thailand would be my first choice.   If you are interested in South Asia, look for my post about it Sri Lanka and Thailand where I will share pictures and talk about the places we visited.

 My 2016 ended with a trip to South Africa.  Let me say that South Africa was amazingly beautiful.  Although I didn’t get to sightsee much as I was there on business, I would definitely travel there again and take my time to visit various landmarks and to learn more about the people and culture. One Word to describe South Africa is Amazing!  Cape Town in particular blew me away with its beauty. See some of  my pictures below of the Cape and Johannesburg.

In 2017, I’m looking forward to more Traveling, Increase, Favor and Grace! I had a wonderful 2016 and I know my 2017 will be even better.

My Year in Doha, Qatar

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Me during Ramadan in an Abaya

What led me to go to Doha?

Have you ever heard the saying… “Be careful what you ask for?” Well, I like to believe my journey to Doha started years ago when I applied to Graduate School. As part of the application process, it was required that I submit an essay detailing my plans once I obtained my Advanced Degree. In that essay, I talked about my desire to practice Women’s Health throughout the world. I further described my yearn to educate and bring healing to women in other countries besides my own.  At that time, this was a dream of mine and it felt at least a hemisphere away.  I didn’t realize at the time that I was “writing the vision” and “making it plain” upon paper or that I would run with it (Habakkuk 2:2, KJV).  Flash forward to a couples of years later, the love of my life (whom spent 4 years in the Middle East himself) said 9 words to me: “Have you thought about working in the Middle East?” A seed was planted and to make a long story short, I conducted some research and applied for several nursing jobs in the Middle East. A little more than a year later, here I am in Doha!

What I learned from my year in Doha

From my experience in Doha, I’ve learned many things.  For instance, I’ve realized that small ambers really do become big fires.  Throughout my life, I’ve traveled and lived in many places within the US. Honestly, I didn’t think I would go any farther than California. Now that I’ve lived in the Middle East, I can tell you that traveling or going on vacation means something entirely different to me. I will no longer restrict my travels to the Caribbean or states within the US.  I’ve also learned that we should never rely on the television or news channels as a true representation of what the Middle East is like.  What we see on TV is so limiting. The Middle East is a place that I actually enjoy (besides the extreme heat).  It’s a slower pace of life and for the most part, I do feel like I’m on a very long vacation. When I sit back I think about how it all came together…. How I had a dream/desire; How I put that dream on paper, and how my love planted that seed that would eventually embolden me to move towards those dreams/desires, it seems as if that was all that God required to make my dreams come true even when I thought it to be impossible.

What I learned from my year in Doha is to dream…. and to dream BIG!