In the summer of 2001 I boarded a near-empty Qatar Airways flight to Doha. Reuniting with my family who’d recently moved there for my father’s new job, it was my first time living abroad.
My first weeks in Doha were about as pleasant and stress free as I could have hoped for. I lived with my family in an expat compound called Beverly Hills Gardens, a fifteen minute drive from the city’s commercial district. Row after symmetrical row of terracotta villas, it had everything young unemployed me could have possibly needed. There was a gym, saunas, squash courts, a small store selling American snacks and a gargantuan swimming pool complete with wooden bridge and an illuminated waterfall that came on in the evenings.
Then there was our villa, a massive space that comfortably housed my parents, brother, sister, dog and I, without ever feeling restrictive or cramped. It was the most luxurious home we’d ever had and in those first weeks I remember feeling like the guy who’d won the lottery as I lounged about the house thinking about what I was going to do with myself in Doha.