Since moving abroad I occasionally get emails from my Embassy Warden. These emails mostly contain helpful hints for Americans living in Qatar. The messages have also included information on cultural issues and suggestions on “dressing appropriately.” That message came as Ramadan was beginning and was a reminder to Americans not to wear shorts and tank tops in the 120 degree heat because of the conservative dress standards in the Gulf region which are more strictly enforced during Ramadan.
Over the last week the messages from the warden have increased and become more serious. (Mom and Grandparents stop reading here – or if you keep reading promise you will remember that I am safe and happy and you will not overreact) Today alone I received 3 emails from the warden, in addition to the two previous emails I received this week. In my first three month in Qatar I only received one email. Today’s emails reminded me that there is strong reason to believe that Al-Qaida and other extremist groups may be planning attacks on Americans and westerners in Qatar and the surrounding region. It also contained a laundry list of things I can do to reduce my risk while living in the Middle East. This includes leaving at different times every day, checking my car before getting in, avoiding public places with high populations of expats, and changing my normal routes to work and other common places I visit. These are all very helpful tips, but some of them are unrealistic for many people living abroad, and some of them are unrealistic for me. For one, I get lost too easily to try and change the route I take when going shopping. I appreciate that the Embassy is looking out for all of us, and I do understand the risk of living in the region, but I think the number of the emails may be a little much.
I am aware of where I live and the risk from extremist groups. The truth is this risk exists everywhere, not just for American’s living abroad. I think all of you, everywhere, should follow much of the advice I have been given through these emails. If you would like the full list of advice, please let me know and I will email it to you directly (I don’t want to post it here incase an extremist reads it and finds out about the safety tips Americans will be taking).