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When considering a move to the Middle East, there are various factors to consider. Whether you plan on moving to the UAE or Qatar – or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter – unless you have spent time in this part of the world before, there is likely to be somewhat of a culture shock on your arrival.

As we have extensive experience in both Qatar and the UAE, we’ll be focussing on the aspects of life in these two locations. This should help you understand what to expect if you happen to settle here, while perhaps assisting you in your choice between the two.

It’s worth bearing in mind that while we will talk mostly about Dubai and Abu Dhabi when discussing the UAE, there obviously is more to the UAE than these two states. Five more states, in fact. However, with a greater expat focus on Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it makes sense to concentrate on these destinations here.

Geography and Population

Located on the Arabian Gulf, Qatar shares a land border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the south-west and is surrounded by the Arabian Sea. The UAE is bordered by the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, situated between Oman and Saudi Arabia.

In terms of land size, Qatar has around three times the land mass of Dubai, however, most of Qatar’s development centres around its capital, Doha. While Doha is ever-expanding, it still only covers around 130 square kilometres.

Compare this to Dubai, which occupies almost 1100 square kilometres, and it’s easy to see why life in Doha can feel somewhat smaller than life in Dubai.

As for population sizes, there around 2.6 million people living in Qatar, compared to around 9.2 million people living in the UAE as a whole. Population density between the two locations shows that there are more people per square kilometre in Qatar, but again, it’s worth bearing in mind that majority of the Qatari population choose to call Doha home.

When comparing the landscape of Qatar and Dubai in particular, Dubai seems to have more to offer. In Qatar, outside of Doha, the landscape is somewhat flat and featureless.

Dubai, on the other hand, has the Hajar Mountains on its eastern border, and a more diverse desert landscape, which includes wadis, oases, expansive red dunes and the Hatta pools. Visitors to Dubai can also choose to travel to the other six Emirates, popping over to Oman as well.

Settling into Life

When it comes to life in the UAE and Qatar living, there are many similarities. When travelling between Qatar and Dubai, for example, you will not feel much of a culture shock. Mall life will feel reassuringly similar, with many of the same retail names in both places.

Malls in Doha have plenty to offer, and there is plenty to keep avid shoppers busy. Pearl Qatar is a popular destination, packed with retail and dining opportunities, as well as leisure and entertainment facilities, marinas and beaches.

But, while both Qatar and the UAE offer a vast array of dining, entertainment and retail options, due to its size and concentration within Doha, Qatar doesn’t have quite the same range of choice as the UAE.

For culture seekers, Qatar has some pretty exciting offerings. The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei is sited on its own 260000 metre-square island. Not only is the architecture of this building absolutely astounding, its collection highlights the many cultural achievements of the Arabic language and Islamic art.

While life may be somewhat quieter in Qatar compared to locations within the UAE such as Dubai, for some expats, that might be exactly what they’re looking for. For those looking for the hustle and bustle, Dubai may be the best option, however, outside of Dubai, quieter communities can easily be found.

For families in both locations, there are excellent schools to choose from. Expats can also find social groups to join, to socialise and get involved with. As for finding a place to live, this is simply a matter of checking out what’s out there and asking other expats for advice on forums.

In terms of a dress code, the UAE has varying degrees of tolerance to clothing styles from around the world. There are legal guidelines regarding what not to wear, but they are more liberal than some destinations in the Middle East.

Dubai is perhaps more liberal than the other Emirates, however, it’s best to dress conservatively, and not to show off too much skin. The same applies in Qatar. Foreign women are not expected to wear the abaya (long black robe) or hijab (headscarf), but both men and women should wear clothes that cover their knees, shoulders and upper arms.

When it comes to seeking help from home, both Qatar and the UAE feature an extensive selection of foreign embassies. For UK expats, there is a British Embassy in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Before You Go

Preparing to move to another country is always going to be stressful. Packing up your life to move to the next town or suburb over is difficult enough, without having to think about the visas and permits, culture change and unfamiliar customs that come with a move overseas.

Before you leave, make sure passports and visas are in order, for you and your family. If you’re bringing your pet, make sure its vaccinations are up to date, and you have all the relevant paperwork.

Other paperwork to pack can include insurance and tax info, medical details and bank records. Also ensure all relevant documentation and certificates are properly attested (for Qatar, find out more about that here.

While making the move may seem unsettling – and slightly confusing – having a reliable local partner can make the move to Qatar or the UAE that much easier. Yep, that’s what we’re all about at Fusion Middle East!

If you want to know how to find business partners in Qatar or the UAE, you’ve come to the right place. We offer all the support and guidance you need, helping you settle into your business and personal life with ease.

To find out more about how Fusion Middle East can help as your local partner, contact us today to arrange your free, no-obligation consultation.