As some of you might know that I recently moved to Qatar. All of this happened so quickly that past three months of my life were totally overtaken in packing and moving. Leaving U.S., after spending almost 20 years of my life, was not as easy as I thought it would be and to be completely honest, it hasn’t really “sunk in” yet.
In my short stay of three years in Delaware I made many friends. And I didn’t realize how much I had gotten attached to them until I had to go through the painful process of departing from them. I don’t know if I will ever get to live with them again, but I hope and I pray that Allah azzawajal join us together in Jannat-ul-Firdous.
I had quite mixed feelings traveling to Qatar. As much as I had heard bad stories about this part of the world, I had heard good as well. My husband warned me to get used to a “discriminatory” treatment and forget about the “freedom of speech”.
When the plane landed, I got a dose of desi aunties’ pushing and literally jumping over my luggage and children to make it towards the front side of the plane. Funny when they all left the backside of the plane, the flight attendant opened the back door first. So we ended up getting off before them!
There was a lot of female staff at the airport. All of them had jilbab and hijab on, however, some of them had tons of make up on and were quite “flirtous”. I couldn’t help but notice that all the flirtous men form the staff were buzzing around them, but the same men dealt quite respectfully with the sober ladies.
Alhamdullialh, I got friendly and quite respectful treatment at the airport form the local security crowd. The lady who stamped our passport was nicely covered with no makeup and seemed amongst the conservative ones. Although she had a stern look on her face, when she asked me to pull down my niqaab she reciprocated a friendly smile.
Nature greeted us with a hot breeze as if I had just opened my oven. However, and surprisingly the heat was not “irritating” neither did it make us sweat as much as it used to in Houston. Even the kids didn’t complain as much, especially my daughter who has severe eczema. Normally, I would have to fel ed her Benadryl to keep her from itching herself to bleed. I am not sure if the heat is “different” here or if we had psychologically prepared the kids too much. Nah, kids cannot be prepared enough.
My next venture was a trip to the mall. I don’t have a car and my temporary residence is walking distance from the mall. Apparently the grocery store is inside the mall, and people actually walk around in the mall with their grocery carts!
I was not the only niqaabi in the mall. I sort of missed the “attention” *sight*. I was about to ask the lady in Burger King if the meat was halaal. I ate a double whooper. I even ate tiramisu from star bucks without having to fear of alcoholic ingredients. I am still trying to digest all the food I bought in excitement.
People don’t smile much though, neither do they exchange salaam as much. I suppose seeing other Muslims is not any specialty. I don’t want to lose my habit of saying salam to every hijaabi I see, but a friend warned that I will soon be mistaken for a beggar *roll eyes*
People don’t thank much either. I asked a Philippine worker about another store, she gave me directions, I thanked her but she looked at me as if she was obliged to tell me but I was doing her a favor by thanking her.
Women are usually addressed as ‘ma’am’ which sounds more like ‘m-o-m’ in a mixture of British and Indian accent. I got confused a few times why some of those men kept calling their ‘moms’ only to discover that they were trying to address me!
Based on my own personal observation, niqaabis get special treatment. Firstly, people automatically assume they are locals. Men Arab men don’t make a direct eye contact. I, on the other hand, have a bad habit of looking right into the eyes, but if they are looking down I can look, right?!
Men Arab men not only move out of the way quickly but turn their backs at me. They also hold the door wide open but turn their faces 180 degrees away not leaving any room for me to thank them. And this is when I am still wearing my “American” style colored niqaab and khimar. I need to buy the solid dark black Qatari style niqaab so I can “blend in” LOL.
The other day, when we were walking outside, I found myself lagging behind my husband who was running after our little one. Normally, he is very particular about me not walking behind him. I told him, “Just because you are in Qatar doesn’t mean you can make me walk behind you.” And he replied with a mischievous smile, “of course I can!”
I met some really nice Brit sisters and I enjoyed their English accent as well. I have a little difficulty understanding one particular sister who is from Wales and speaks in pure Welsh. She is very sweet mashaAllah, and I really wish when I talk to her, somehow, I can turn the subtitles on.
Rest later inshaAllah. Right now I am off on a school hunt for my kids, which is yet another story!