Exploring Differences Between Qatar and America

Since this is indeed a Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature course, I’ve decided to tap into the comparative side of things and draw some parallels between Qatari and American life.

Photo credit to fellow trip-goer Karlee Szeliga. Find her on Instagram at @ karleeszeliga

Photo credit to fellow trip-goer Karlee Szeliga. Find her on Instagram at @karleeszeliga

The highly popular drink in the Gulf region, Karak, can only be compared to the American obsession with coffee. Despite the fact that Karak is actually a tea, the way people see to run on this overly-sweet, caffeinated liquid can only be compared to a coffee addiction. And while there are plenty of coffee shops, (Costa, Starbucks, and even my beloved Caribou!) Karak seems to be a drink of choice and lifeline for many people here, including some of my classmates who are already addicted and plotting to bring the drink back home with them. 

For many Qataris, it's more common to walk alone (ha ha ha) until after engagement when relationships become more public.

For many Qataris, it's more common to walk alone (ha ha ha) until after engagement when relationships become more public.

American boys and girls begin the complicated dating process young, but for Qatari men and women, dating doesn’t really begin until engagement. Because of some traditional arranged marriages and the more conservative social interactions between men and women, they don’t really begin their courtship—and in some cases speaking to one another!—until engaged.

Photo credit Karlee Szeliga

Photo credit Karlee Szeliga

Bars aren’t commonly found in Qatar because of the rules of Islam, but that doesn’t mean that people here don’t have other vices. Shisha is extremely popular, especially in my group’s favorite hangout, the Souq Waqif. People sit outside restaurants and in patios drinking tea and smoking while watching soccer or catching up with friends and family. It’s a calm, laidback environment and virtually every restaurant features groups of people out front smoking—often times for less than the cost of a single drink.

LOOK AT THAT PITA.

LOOK AT THAT PITA.

Americans eat bread. Middle Easterners eat pita. Big difference, you ask? Huge difference. While I am admittedly a fangirl of any bread in a breadbasket, the pita bread here is amazing. Doughy yet crispy, and perfect with some freshly made local hummus… I could basically go full-on food journalist! 

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One really tiny thing that I have noticed everywhere is the car detailing. While most cars in America stick to a solid paint job, it seems that almost fifty percent of cars I’ve seen in Qatar feature sporty detailing in this same color scheme.

Grand Mosque, Doha.

Grand Mosque, Doha.

A member of my group drew the comparison that mosques are like coffee shops. Sounds weird, right? But as she went on to explain that mosques are everywhere (which is true! A mosque seems to be found every few blocks and prayer rooms are so wide-spread that they can even be found in shopping malls.) and the number and spacing of them seem similar to American coffee shops, it started making sense. In Minneapolis, for example, you can barely walk two blocks without running into a Starbucks, Caribou, or other place to get your caffeine fix. And because both mosques and coffee shops are intentionally placed in high-traffic areas, this funny comparison is actually pretty accurate.

Gina Van ThommeComment