After calling Qatar home for nearly a decade, Nada Hashish had to suddenly leave the country with her family when her father lost his job.
The 24-year-old Egyptian wrote this piece to remind other expats that their time here also comes with an expiration date, one that they may not get to choose.
My family and I lived in Qatar for eight years. I went to school there, graduated from university and then worked in Doha.
Over time, the country became my home and I could see myself continuing to live there for years. But then my Dad’s company underwent a massive and sudden turnover that pushed almost 4,000 employees into unemployment and early retirement.
Upon receiving the news, I started the procedure to transfer my sponsorship from my father to my company.
But my sponsorship couldn’t be transferred and soon after, my father, mother and I had to cancel our visas and were told to leave the country immediately.
Sell the things we’ve acquired over the past eight years, pack up what’s left of it and go. Just like that.
I left without even saying goodbye to any of my friends, because I thought I was going to return.
I thought my work visa would be sorted without issues, after all I had spent a great portion of my life in Doha and it was my home, and home sure wouldn’t keep me out, right?
So now I have been out of Qatar since July 2015, everything has changed overnight and the change still continues to affect every day of my life.
My family and I are confronted with haunting questions of “What now?” and “Where do we go from here?”
My father is worried because he is of retirement age and won’t be able to find a job that easily.
My mother has always been a working woman and can’t stand going day after day just cooking for us and waiting for us to return home from our attempts to take the bull of life by the horns and find jobs and new ways.
My brother returned home months before us, also due to a sudden turnover at work.
We all knew that living outside of Egypt meant a somewhat unstable life, a sense of insecurity hovering over us through the years because we are not citizens of Qatar, nor are we Westerners who can get visas on arrival.
Just like breakups, this kind of separation is hard. It is even harder when you know that the other party doesn’t want you back.
That’s the best way I can explain it to you, because it is difficult to put into words.
I have had to put behind me a very important phase of my life. I have had to leave friends that I made from every part of the world, and now upon trying to go back to say goodbye, I find myself unable to even obtain a visit visa.
That is the most painful part because in months, years, I know that these friends will be in different parts of the world and it will be more challenging to see them all again, to reunite in our clubhouse for old times’ sake.
However, as an expat, it is only expected that all things come to an end and that Doha; painful or not, was after all a temporary station.
This is the ugly truth of the expat life, which is very much like standing on quicksand.
Like holding a sand clock determining your time, your expiration date.
That said, there always comes a time in your life when you need to understand that it is what it is and move on.
Leaving Doha this way was hard, but I have no other option but to do that and look forward to a fresh start, a new beginning.
This is a chance to reconnect with my hometown and be grateful that I have returned after all these years, and to enjoy the company of my family and childhood friends.
I think of Doha often, and looking back at it now it all seems like it was a dream. One that haunts me, but also keeps reminding me to never get comfortable anywhere, and that the only constant thing in life is change.
This is an open letter to reflect, to remember and to reach out to many others that have gone through, are going through, or will have to go through this same experience.
I want you to know that although it may hurt, it is necessary for your growth and for your freedom, because often times even though we get scared to make change happen in our lives, thankfully change finds its way to us.
Perhaps years from now I will be able to revisit Qatar and maybe I won’t. Who knows?
Either way, it has been a great run and I am looking forward to my next adventure. The world is big and time always tells why things happened a certain way.