The idea of living abroad has been a dream for many. The experience of living and making a life outside of ones home country can appear unattainable. Haute and Muslim sat down with Taifa Naeem, an African American expat in Qatar to gain some insight into living abroad.
Can you tell our readers more about you? I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’ve been married for 21 years and have been blessed with three sons ages 9,13, & 15. I hold an MBA in Healthcare Administration. I’ve worked in education/social service field for 18 years. Recently I’ve launched a personal jewelry consultancy shop, Luxe Collection By Iman.
What inspired your move abroad? My husband and I wanted to give our African American Muslim sons a better opportunity in life than we had growing up as Muslims in America. We want them to live in peace and without fear of being Muslim or Black. We wanted to obtain financial and Islamic freedom while taking advantage of all opportunities living abroad.
Was this always a dream for your family? Yes, we began talking about living abroad from the beginning of our marriage we just didn’t know how or exactly when it would happen. We didn’t know what that would look like however we began our research. Once we started to travel we realized how big this world really is and the many options we could possibly have. Our ideal situation for our family is to live a peaceful Islamic life with western comfort-abilities while maintaining our African American Islamic Culture. During our wedding anniversary vacation to Dubai we realized then that we found what we were looking for, the best of both worlds. Once my husband graduated from medical school and completed his residency we began to implement our plan to move abroad. The original plan was to move to UAE where one of my best friends lived. We ended up in a neighboring country, Qatar a smaller Gulf country with the same sensibilities, and way of life as Dubai.
What are some of the benefits of living in Doha compared to other countries? For myself I don’t have to be a “super woman ” in my day to day life. I’ve been able to become more feminine, relaxed. I’ve embraced all of the opportunities that eliminated me having to do and be all things at all times. My concern for safety is not at an all time high when I walk out of my door each day. Having a clean proper place to pray has become a norm for our family. Eating without thought about consuming haram foods is a blessing. Our ability to travel the world as a family has been ten-fold. Experiencing a sense of freedom with no boundaries/limitations is beyond our imagination.
What opportunities have you seen raising children abroad? My boys don’t have to grow up faster then what is necessary and they aren’t overly exposed to a sexualized society. They can truly act and be their age. My boys are able to learn who they are without societal expectations of what they should be based on external facts that they would be exposed to in a western environment. Our children attend a school with over 70 nationalities this allows them to truly have a global perspective instead of a neighborhood or city perspective. Attending a school where Islam is not looked down upon. To me their school offers a great American public school education as well as an Islamic education without having to go to a private Islamic school like they would if we were in America. They get the best of both worlds. The world isn’t just made up of Muslims so they have to be able to navigate successfully with everyone no matter their religious background, political views, ideology etc.. We have to prepare them to thrive and be successful side by side with everyone from all walks of life and what better way for them to have that experience!
Has the language barrier been difficult? Yes and No! Yes, the first year of living abroad and getting settled in our new environment. But our day to day No because all of the major places we go to everyone speaks English. The only time you really need to speak Arabic is when you go into smaller local shops or if you are in a car accident (you then kick yourself for not learning to speaking Arabic fluently)! It is hard to learn Arabic here because everyone wants to speak to us in English so it’s easy to get lazy when it comes to speaking Arabic.
What lessons have you learned as advice for families seeking to relocate? Have a plan, formal education so that you can get the best package for work and your family. It’s best to move when the kids are younger. It’s very hard for pre-teens/teenagers if they are leaving behind a great environment ie they like and is happy with their school, lifestyle and friends. Come with an open mind and accepting a different way of life. It’s not America it’s whatever country you decide to live so it will be different but you have to asks yourself does the benefits outweigh the costs?
What action steps should one take in preparing a job search or looking for a home?Formal Education, solid work background/experience, research the country (cost of living, cost of education, societal norms, etc) write down goals, expectations, have hard no’s and yes, visit the country and lastly it will only work if you and your family are on the same page with an open mind!
If there was one piece of advice what would that be? Try visit with the entire family if you can and communicate with your children about the move!
Is there a dua or set of duas you make to stay spiritually centered? Yes, I have a list of organized duas I read for myself, family and friends regularly that I have on my phone. I just read impromptu and at set times ie before and/or after Salaat.
What Dua would you like our readers to make for you and your family? Oh Allah bless our family with success in this world and the hereafter and we all live and die as striving believing Muslims, Allahuma Ameen🤲🏽