9 October 2017

Shehar Bano Rizvi - Expat in Qatar

Shehar Bano Rizvi - Expat in Qatar

We’ve had the chance to talk to Shehar Bano Rizvi, 36, a Pakistani expat who has moved to Qatar with her husband. Mrs. Rizvi who has been living there for 13 years, now works as a blogger. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I am originally from Karachi, Pakistan.


Q: What made you move out of Pakistan?

A: My marriage to my husband, Mohsin. While working in Pakistan, I met Mohsin who was also living in Karachi at that time. We got engaged and 5 months before our wedding, he took up a job offer from Qatar and moved to Doha. 


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: We live in Qatar. It was a career move for my husband while I had no idea where I was going. I had not done any research whatsoever. For me, all that mattered was being with my husband. 


Q: How long have you been living in Qatar?

A: I moved a week after our wedding with him in Feb 2004. It’s now been 13 years and we are still here.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: We moved as a newly married couple and started our family here. We have 3 kids, who were all born here in Qatar.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Of course we miss family and visit them as much as we can. The advantage we have living in Qatar is the close proximity to home. Karachi is just a 2-hour flight away from Doha, which is a big plus! 


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Qatar has a population of a merely 2.5 million with about only 300,000 locals - the rest are ALL expats. The locals are known for their hospitality. The Qatari locals are more internationalized and very accommodating of expats.   


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Qatar? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: I found friends when I started working at a local bank. But then eventually one thing lead to another and we now have a BIG social circle, mostly expats.


Q: How does the cost of living in Qatar compare to your home?

A: Qatar is expensive in terms of cost of living, but then it is the richest country in terms of income per capita, so that balances it out.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: QAR 15-20.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: QAR 10.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: QAR 500.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I don’t drink or smoke, so really don’t know.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Qatar?

A: I have worked in a bank there and it’s a very simple process.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: It has improved a lot since back when we moved to Qatar. It’s now extremely efficient with everything online and you can do these visa process etc. through a mobile app.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Qatar is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: The Health Care in Qatar is pretty amazing. The Govt. health care through Hammad Hospital and its Health Care Centers (which are established throughout the country) is free/very subsidized for all residents. However, there are good private hospitals as well.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Pakistan or Qatar? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Usually the employers provide a Health Insurance as a part of your salary package. Having said that, the Govt. Health Care is free once you have a permanent resident card anyways.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Qatar? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Our move was with a couple of suitcases because that’s all we had when we started our married life.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: The initial few months in Qatar were very exciting, as we were newly married. making our home together and a lot of firsts for both of us. But as time went by and life started to get into a routine, l started to get bored. We didn’t have a social life nor was I working. That is when I started looking for work and once I started my job, life was back on track. 

To be fair, the challenges I faced initially in Qatar were not only related to the move but also because of such a huge change in my life - getting married. The M&M - Marriage and the Move together, made it quite a challenging year for me but my work and of course my husband’s support helped me survive it. 


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Qatar?

A: Safety! Qatar is amazing when it comes to safety. It ranks as the second safest country in the world according to the World Economic Forum. Other than this, life in Qatar has other perks. We get to spend a lot of quality family time together because of my husband’s working hours.  Also, although the country has progressed and seen unbelievable growth in the last decade, it still has the vibe of a small town where everyone seems to know each other - which I like a lot. The pace of life is a bit slow here, which gives you the opportunity to actually live life…embracing every day of life, making memories with friends and family. 

On the negative side, living in the Middle East, there is a feeling of being settled but still not settled. Home, but still not home, as you are here until you have a job. The feeling of being in a transit is what I dislike about expat life. 


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Qatar has a lot to offer. From beautiful sand dunes and beaches to their wonderful cultural heritage sites along with lots of modern amenities. A few of the MUST visit places to visit are:

Museum of Islamic Art

Souq Waqif

The Pearl Qatar

Inland Sea

Fuwairat Beach

Zekreet Village

Villaggio Mall

Mall of Qatar 


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Not anytime soon. We love it here in Qatar.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Be open to change.

Since I moved from Pakistan and am a Muslim myself, moving to Qatar wasn’t very different. Having said that, there were still some cultural changes between where I come from and the Arab culture. 

What I found different was that local men and women socialize separately but since it is not imposed on us expats, it hardly affected our lives. The Qatari locals are more internationalized and very accommodating of expats. 

The other difference which I felt initially, was the difference in the cuisine. As my taste buds were used to spicy Pakistani food, it took me some time to get used to milder Arabic food, which by the way I have now come to LOVE!

And of course the language, but as I said the locals are internationalized and speak English so fluently, you don’t need to know the language to survive in Qatar. I am a living example of that… living in Qatar for 13 years and only know “Yallah Yallah” (Let’s go!)


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Qatar?

A: QatarLiving.com, ClumsyChic.com, lifeonthewedge.net, and my blog Diary of a PMP Mom.