“We are moving to Qatar!”
Believe it or not, these five simple words have been met with a range of contrasting reactions. Our friends and family back home were overwhelming supportive of our move to Doha, although understandably disappointed that we were not yet heading back to the States. Friends and colleagues in Dubai were sad to see us go and their outpouring of love pulled at my heart strings again and again.
But for others living in the region, we often received a slightly different response. “Why would you want to move to Doha, when you have ‘everything’ in Dubai?” we heard time and again. Sometimes this comment came with a twinge (or chock-full) of resentment towards Qatar for political alignments or other associations. Whether true or untrue, people had some strong opinions.
Admittedly, these varying attitudes gave me some worry as we packed our belongings and prepared to move our life once again. Was I making a huge mistake? Was I taking us down a path we would regret? I knew the job was a chance in a lifetime, but would it come at the price of everyday happiness? A million questions danced through my mind as I sadly said good-bye to my sweet students and wonderful friends in Dubai.
Fast forward two months later – and I’m happy to report that this was one of the best decisions I could have made. The first few weeks were as expected, the hardest. I was missing everything about Dubai, from friends and students, to restaurants and malls. But the support network of my husband and new colleagues was priceless. Jordon’s encouragement was unfailing, helping to quite the noise of my mind (that never ceases to turn off) with reassuring words. My new colleagues welcomed me with open arms taking us out for meals, sharing the city with us, and coaching me through the responsibilities of my new role.
Within my first month at the University we had two visiting designers from overseas; an exhibition by Fathi Hassan titled “The depth of hope”; a week of workshops with calligrapher and typographer, Mehdi Saeedi; and a field study to the desert to discover Bedouin culture through food, activities and space. I couldn’t have felt more excited to be at a design school filled with life and activities, supporting both the growth of the students and of the faculty.
On top of that (and perhaps contrary to popular belief), Doha has more than enough activities, restaurants, and nightlife to keep us busy. Sure the traffic is terrible, and the city is not nearly as big as Dubai, but it has a feeling of community that brings people together in shared places and spaces.
Doha certainly has similarities to Dubai, with a large expat community, endless construction, blazing summers, and streets peppered with sand. But to be honest, it doesn’t make sense to compare the two. It’s like trying to equate Raleigh to New York City; it’s just not the same.
More importantly, for the designer and art lover in me – Doha has a thriving museum scene with the Mathaf (Arab Museum of Modern Art) and the Museum of Islamic Art showcasing a fantastic array of collections. I’m looking forward to visiting the exhibitions, programs and events throughout the coming year.
Over the next few posts, I will share more photos from VCUQ, Fathi Hassan’s exhibition, Mehdi Saeedi’s workshops, our Departmental field study to the desert, along with life in Doha. Hopefully as I share and learn more, others might also begin to appreciate the charms of Qatar.
Please let me know if there is something you’ve been dying to see and I’ll make sure to grab my camera on my next visit!