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Religion and Friendships in Qatar

By: Alice Kangabe

July 1, 2022

While in Qatar, I noticed that religion is integrated into every part of life. Whether in schools, markets, or any other public place, it is common to see various religious signs. Coming from a religious background myself, I wasn’t very surprised to see this. However, the extent to which people take their beliefs seriously here in Qatar is different from my home country, Rwanda. I saw that Muslims observe certain etiquettes that are not common in my own culture. For example, I noticed that some of my friends practiced strict discipline when it came to the way they enter and use the washroom. To enter a bathroom, most Muslims enter with their left foot first and right foot last. Like many other practices, this ritual is done in light of following the example of their prophet. When I saw how people in Qatar take their faith seriously, I felt challenged to understand mine as well. In a way, I saw that the constant desire and pursuit of my Muslim friends to practice and understand their faith opened my eyes and pushed me to learn more about mine. After two years, I gained a lot of information about the faith of my friends, as well as my own.

Furthermore, Qatar challenged my notions of friendship. While I have been blessed to have a lot of friends from various countries, I noticed that sometimes I found myself in opposition with a few of them due to some misunderstandings. When I moved to Qatar, I had no fears about making friends. Being a very social and outgoing person, I was certain that I would find my own circle of friends, or rather, I would get along with each of my classmates. While the latter held true in essence, admittedly, I can say that the former was not as easy. To cut the story short, I come from a culture where we take things like friendships more casually. For instance, back home, I do not need to hang out with my friends all the time to feel connected to what is going on in each other’s lives—just a simple checkup once in a while is enough to keep the bond strong. But while in Qatar, I had to learn some new friendship expectations. These norms included hanging out regularly, maintaining specific friendship groups, accepting that some friendships are, indeed, unrecoverable, and, above all, realizing that I needed to work on myself to be a better friend. Looking back on the past two years, I am so grateful for all the friendships that I was able to maintain during that time. Admittedly, I accept that it hasn’t always been easy to deal with me as a friend, but those who remained are the real ones. In the end, I learned that it is not about who is simply there, but who is willing to walk with you in this life, and the one who is patient enough to see your growth.

To sum it up, I believe that my experience abroad was a rewarding one. From understanding one of the major monotheistic religions to forming long-lasting bonds with people from various cultures, I would never trade this experience for anything else. These past two years have been very educational, and I am very excited to see what these two more have in store for me.