‘I’ve been in Doha for four years. I came over in 2006 to join Al Jazeera English. I’m originally from a place called Kloof, which is just outside Durban. It is very green, very lush and it rains a lot – pretty much the exact opposite of Doha. Well, usually. When I first got here it actually rained constantly for the first few days. I thought I had been duped.
‘Doha is very exotic and multicultural. I love the idea that you can leave things unlocked, and there is no serious risk of crime. There are things I miss about home, though – like driving around swooping corners on big open freeways, biltong and Pronutro cereal. Also hearing people speak Zulu. I work with quite a few South Africans, however, and my wife and I have Zimbabwean friends.
‘I always tell anyone that visits me in Doha to bring biltong – that’s the golden rule – and I did hear of a lady who made boerewors sausages here, but by the time I discovered her she wasn’t making them anymore, so now I’m a bit stuck. I haven’t found any South African food in restaurants or bars here, but I do like the Sky Bar at La Cigale. I also love Lebanese food, and shisha is a bit of a guilty pleasure.
‘I really enjoy living here, but if I could change one thing it would be the driving. I would like the power to confiscate the monolithic SUVs driven by people who insist on driving about 2 cm away from my back bumper. To relax I race Lasers at the InterContinental sailing club, with a bit of squash, and I run around Khalifa Park.
‘I don’t know how long I’ll stay. Sometimes I think the whole family could be here for another 10 years, sometimes I think we can’t bear another 10 minutes. It depends on the day.
‘We go back about once every 18 months, and with my job I’m actually working during the World Cup, so I’ll be in Johannesburg for most of the time. I think it will be a great event, all the predictable negativity is coming out from the international press, but I’m confident we’ll pull it off. South Africans are very “can-do” people.’
‘I came to Doha directly from Cape Town just over 18 months ago. I worked on the launch of the Six Senses Spa at the Sharq resort, designing signature treatments and assisting with staff training.
‘Cape Town is bursting with life. You can work out your direction by your proximity to the mountain ranges that are always visible. The fresh smell of the sea in the morning means that the weather will be great, and the beach calls you after work to sink your toes into the sugar white sand. Doha is also neighboured by the ocean – but I do miss the sound of the waves, which we don’t have here in the gentle waters of the Gulf. ‘The first thing I noticed of Doha when I arrived, aside from the heat, was the beautiful architecture – the minorettes, the natural textured walls, and the many water features designed to give a cooling impression as you drive through the city.
‘I miss things like trips into the old forests over the weekend, the sound of the creaking trees, and waking up to count the animal tracks from the evening visitors. I also miss butternut soup and fresh trout grilled over a barbecue (we call it a “braai” back home). The best example of South African food and hospitality is the Butcher’s Grill in Villaggio. But whenever there is an important rugby or cricket match, you can hear South Africans supporting their team – it’s very easy to spot them cheering on the Springboks.
‘In Doha I like the Arabic cuisine, and I love the shisha and coffee lounges. I am proudly supporting my country in the World Cup, but I will not be on my home soil. The support will be felt from South Africans all over the world – we are extremely proud, and this pride unites our country. But we have a saying in Africa – TIA, or “This is Africa”. It means there is always a gremlin somewhere, but the charm of the African people will triumph.’
‘I’ve been in Doha quite a while – eight-and-a-half years now. I originally came over to visit my family, and my mum convinced me to try living here. I met my husband, David, just 24 hours after my arrival, and the rest is history.
‘I am an English teacher, originally from Johannesburg (Gauteng as it is now known, or otherwise Egoli, the City of Gold). I found living in Doha really tough in the first couple of years. There was not much happening as far as things to do. In Doha you really have to make it happen yourself. It’s a place that really grows on you, though. The people are very friendly and helpful, which made it much easier. You tend to make good friends here because you rely on them like you would on family.
‘I miss many things, such as family and friends, trees, grass and different places to go for weekends. There’s the usual home comforts too, like biltong, cheese twirls and good old braais (barbecues). Two of my best friends here are South African, and my husband is British, so we tend to mix with lots of different people, and it makes life really interesting. ‘If I feel homesick I just phone my mum and that normally helps. Plus you can get lots of different ingredients in Doha to make some home favourites. The meat is really good, so we do enjoy our barbecues. A lot of South Africans hang out at the rugby club, and the South African Community arranges coffee mornings, trips to the desert and lots of other fun things.
‘I hate the driving here. You really do want to pull out your hair sometimes. The number of cars on the roads has dramatically increased, but the roads have not adjusted to compensate.
‘I play golf once a week and I have a child, so I am involved in lots of playgroups. We try to get home at least once a year. On Freedom Day it is also my friend’s birthday, so we will definitely be having a party.
‘I think it is amazing that we have the World Cup this year, and the event will be a great success. It could be like when we had the Rugby World Cup in 1995. There was an amazing vibe in the streets. Who do I think will win? My husband would say England, but I think Brazil.’
The outside world came to what is today called South Africa when Dutch traders landed in 1652. They established the southern tip as a stopover point on the spice route between Europe and the East, and the city of Cape Town was born.
The Cape of Good Hope was conquered by the British in 1806, whereupon many Dutch settlers (the Boers) headed north and formed their own republics. Diamonds and gold were discovered in the 1860s, leading to more immigration and the repression of Africa’s native inhabitants.
British expansion resulted in the Boer War (1899-1902); the British won, but the two sides ruled together under the banner of the Union of South Africa.
The National Party was voted into power in 1948, and apartheid was developed – the separate development of races. This system ended in 1994 when multi-racial elections were held, ushering in Nelson Mandela as president and black majority rule.
April 27 commemorates the day when, in 1994, the first post-apartheid elections were held in South Africa. Under the apartheid regime, widespread oppression by the authorities meant that non-whites only had limited rights and movement within the country, as well as restricted voting. Freedom Day marks the first non-racial national elections, where everyone of voting age (over 18) from any race group was allowed to vote. Since then it has been celebrated as both Freedom Day and National Day.