Ever wonder what it’s like to live in the Middle East? Check out our Day in the Life by an expat mom in Doha, Qatar!
Hi there! My name is Kelly and I live in Doha with my husband and two little boys, Zachary and Declan. We have lived here for 6.5 years now and although the city is small, it is vibrant! It is also very family friendly. In fact, I have rarely been to another city/country where they put more of an emphasis on family than here in Doha. A normal weekend day is usually a week day for us as my husband is an airline pilot here so we tend to do most of our outings during the middle of the week. Really helps with the crowds though when we aren’t limited to the weekends!
Doha, is the capital of Qatar and is the largest city and home to the majority of the population. Qatar sits on the Arabian Peninsula and juts out into the Arabian Sea making it a tiny peninsula of its own. Summers are scorching hot and can reach temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, (anyone want to come visit this July!?) but Winters are absolutely gorgeous with days in the 70’s/80’s and nights in the 60’s. Perfect weather to get the family out and about! A normal day for us will consist of trying to get our boys, 3.5 years and 6 months, outside and tiring them out.
4:30 AM: First wakeup – Morning Call
Today my wake up was not a single event, but occurred twice. The first was when the morning call to prayer from our local mosque went off. The call to prayer ranges in time depending on the time of year, but its early! Many times I wake up with it and see its about 4 in the morning. It was about 4:30 when I heard it this morning and woke, but thankfully our sons and my husband slept through it. Which means I got to go back to sleep. Phew! I’ve actually come to love the sound though as I tend to wake many times throughout the night (as I’m sure most moms do!) and it’s usually very dark and quiet. The sound is a nice reminder to me that other people are awake and starting their day.
6:30AM: Second wakeup
My day then really began around 6:30am when my youngest woke up. My older son woke about an hour later and my husband about 2 hours after that as he got in late from a flight the night before.
Breakfast is usually pretty casual for us. Today, we all ate as we woke up and didn’t do anything fancy. We are a milk and cereal family most mornings (I may or may not have had Lucky Charms with my oldest son).
10:00AM: Head out
After breakfast we headed to our favorite park, Aspire, which has a great little lake in the middle and a jogging path that winds throughout it. We grab our little Pockit stroller for my youngest and let our oldest start running. The park has a man-made hill on one end and a lake in the middle where quite a few ducks are always gathered. We brought bread for our son, Zachary to feed them with. It was a quick stop at the lake though as he proceeded to take the loaf and throw it in rather than break the pieces off. Not sure how the ducks felt about that…
There are also a couple coffee shops and restaurants in the park, so I grab a coffee as my husband takes my oldest to the water fountain bridge to try and dodge the water that shoots up and over it.
We are then told that on no uncertain terms we MUST go to the playground on the other side of the bridge. Our 3.5 year old proceeded to play for about 5 minutes before he decided he really didn’t want to be on the playground after all and dragged us out of the park. Story of our lives!
After our stroll, we head to Villagio Mall across the street for lunch. It’s also where one of the largest indoor amusement areas is located with an ice skating rink and small theme park, Gondolania, inside. Zac loves to watch the rollercoaster roar by and the water flume splash, so we are lucky if we can get in and out without being dragged in to watch and play a few games by our 3.5 year old. No such luck this time, although my husband only put up a small fight before he was also seen happily walking in to play a few games. Fair enough, I got to walk around my favorite shops with our littlest!
Malls in Doha, Qatar tend to be popular places as the heat in the summer can be unbearable, so you can find them in pretty much every corner of the city. This one happens to be one of the largest and also the closest to where we live.
Around 1:00 we grab lunch at the mall at one of our favorite western restaurants, PF Changs. As soon as we sit down a server comes over to pick up our youngest and whisks him away for a few minutes to show him off to the hostess. She begrudgingly gives him back after a few minutes of cuddles, but keeps playing peekaboo with him from afar. Honestly, this is one of the best parts of Doha. The family friendly atmosphere everywhere in the city just can not be beat. Everyone seems to understand that kids will be kids and if a baby cries, well it’s because he is a baby. Whenever I get flustered with the kids someone is there to help me and tell me that everything is fine. The food comes out quickly and we finish up our lunches and head home for some bike riding and a walk on our compound.
We live on a great little compound with a clubhouse, general store, basketball courts, tennis courts, gym, and swimming pool. Our son, Zachary’s favorite thing to do is ride his bike on it. He races through the door and grabs his helmet and bike and is impatiently waiting for us on the sidewalk. I put our littlest, Declan, into the stroller and we head out. Unfortunately, we can only be out about 30 minutes, as the days are starting to really get hot. Most days we do our bike riding and walks either early in the morning or right before sunset when it is a bit cooler. We manage a couple laps around the compound and a quick stop at a friends villa to say hi and then it’s back to our house for some wind down time and cartoons.
Our 5 month old refuses to take naps during the day unless its in a car or being pushed in a stroller, so is usually getting cranky about this time. However, since we’d had a full day, he managed some sleep today allowing us to make it a night out (if you call leaving at 4:00 and home by 7:00 a night out).
We head to Souq Waqif which is a lively outdoor marketplace. My husband is excited he gets to use his Mission Critical “military” baby carrier and we put our son, Zachary, into the little Pockit. The alleys are too small for our double stroller, so this makes it easier to maneuver. The smells of the spices and shisha at the souq are totally entrancing and the music coming from the restaurants and shops makes for a uniquely Middle Eastern atmosphere. It’s a great place to take the kids as there is always some pretty fun stuff for them going on. Tonight there were men selling balloons, toy vendors out on the walkway, and the Turkish ice cream man was doing his tricks with the tourists.
We decide to stop and eat at one of the restaurants, Al Bandar, early. It’s pretty much our go-to restaurant when at the Souk as you can eat outside and people watch from one of their outdoor rooftop terraces. The food is also delicious! My oldest could live off of hummus and bread, (honestly, I’m surprised he hasn’t turned into a chickpea by now) so we order some for him and a few other appetizers for my husband and I. We enjoy the Labneh (a yogurt based dip/spread), Fattoush salad and lemon mints for our drinks. A lemon mint is basically a lemon juice and mint slushy and its one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever tasted. I pretty much don’t go anywhere without ordering one! My son orders the fresh mango juice which is as thick as a milkshake and gulps it down.
At this point, its about 6:00pm and the Souq is starting to get pretty crowded. Most families actually go out pretty late with their kids here. It’s not uncommon to see families out well past midnight! Our boys go to bed pretty early, however, so we decide to head home. I, of course, manage to make a few detours into the little market stalls lining the souq, (which of course my husband is thrilled about), so we end up spending a little more time out than planned. It’s hard though not to get caught up by the vendors selling their wares once the colorful lights turn on, the grape shisha smell is in the air, and the Arabic music is playing in the background. It’s also fun to haggle with the shop owners and see what kind of deal you can get! They actually expect you to offer lower than asking price by at least half. The common reaction is usually one of disgust (don’t be fooled! It’s all part of the game!) and then to offer back only a couple riyals off. Honestly, you could spend an hour haggling for a small trinket, but we usually are just happy with a few minutes spent and a few riyals off.
Finally after winding our way through the crowds and back to the underground parking lot, we realize our 6 month old has had what we parents lovingly refer to as a blowout diaper. Somehow we manage to wrangle his clothes off him in the back of our car, without making more of a mess and get him cleaned up. This took surprisingly long and the entire time we had someone waiting for our parking spot and watching us (I actually peeked over at one point and I’m pretty sure the wife had fallen asleep.) Nevertheless, we finished and put him, diaper only, (as we had forgotten a change of clothes) into his carseat for the drive home. He thankfully fell asleep on the ride as it was an unusually cool night with a light drizzle out, so it was a quick bath and bottle once we got home and he was in bed and asleep by 7:30. Our oldest was then bathed and in bed about 30 minutes later giving my husband and I a whole 1 hour to relax before we both decided that we too were exhausted and headed up to bed as well!
Day complete, ready for tomorrow! =)
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