While most 10th graders were grappling with schoolwork, Abdulla Mohammad was taking a step into the real world and starting his career as a salesman.
Now, the 23-year-old Syrian lives in Qatar with his mother and siblings and happily co-owns a small shop in Souq Waqif. He sells traditional Arab items, like swords and bishts, which are cloaks worn over thobes primarily in the Gulf region.
“I am proud of the decision I made when I was younger,” Mohammad said, while looking around at his quaint shop. “I am part of a successful business and I am passionate about Arab culture. I could not have asked for a better job.”
Mohammad cited his late father as his greatest influence while growing up in Syria because he taught him about tradition. He says he aspires to pass on tradition to his customers just as father passed it on to him.
“My father did everything he could to teach me the fundamentals I need to succeed in life until the day he died at age 65,” said Mohammad. “He was a good man and he has made me the serious and successful man I am today.”
After Mohammad’s father passed away, his family needed a new source of financial support. Mohammad and his two older brothers got jobs, and the money they made sustained the family for a short while, but then times became hard.
“There was a time when we realized we really needed a better lifestyle,” he said in his hybrid Syrian-Qatari accent. “We always had our eyes and ears open for good job opportunities.”
One day, Mohammad recalled, a Syrian family that had moved to Qatar contacted his eldest brother with word of a new job offer at a new souq. After they discussed the job for a few days, Mohammad’s family decided to move to Qatar.
After coming to Doha and earning a good amount of money from the traditional shop, Mohammad’s older brothers decided to pursue other career paths. The eldest brother decided to study philosophy and the younger one became a geography teacher.
“I was the only one who stayed at the shop. I don’t think of it as though they’re abandoning their tradition. I am happy we are all doing what we love.” He added, “Besides, I know my father’s words are in their hearts.”
Even though his father and brothers were the main family members with whom he interacted, Mohammad says he also deeply cares for his mother and sisters who all stay at home.
“The main reason I have made work such a big part of my life is that I love being able to support my mother and sisters,” he said with a smile.
In the little time Mohammad spends outside the shop, he says he enjoys going to the cinema and playing football with friends.
“Football is my favorite sport and I always feel happy when I play, but I also feel guilty,” he said. “I feel like I should be using that time to think of ways to improve the shop.”
However, he already has begun making future plans.
“I am content with the shop the way it is right now, but I would like to expand it in the future and maybe open another branch somewhere else in Qatar,” he said. “I want the shop, as well as my career, to flourish.”