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Inside Qatar: What to expect at ‘a World Cup like no other’, from blocked WhatsApps to a flawless Metro

DOHA — “Is it your first time in Doha?” the stranger asks as I step into the road from the Metro station. I nod. “Welcome, I want you a pleasant keep.” Then he continues on his method.

This little alternate was in downtown Doha, the place lots of the nation’s high-end accommodations reside and you’ll find seafront views in direction of the pure paradise Al Safliya island seaside and the Pearl, a man-made island created on one in every of Qatar’s outdated pearl diving websites. Right here, 60ft footballers, from Neymar to Harry Kane to Son Heung-min, tower over pedestrians and the skyscrapers on which they hold dominate the skyline, offering welcome shade from the dry warmth that’s reaching 30 levels Celsius and extra through the center of the day in the meanwhile.

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Doha has the texture of a metropolis that has been gearing in direction of this second for therefore lengthy and, only some days till the primary World Cup to be held within the Arab world begins, it’s nearly prepared for it.

A large “2022 CITY CENTRE” signal curved round a glinting golden soccer hadn’t been positioned the place it was meant to be and was nonetheless resting on the pavement. {A photograph} of the World Cup trophy enlarged on the facet of a Kia dealership was proper in entrance of what gave the impression to be the empty plot of a constructing that didn’t fairly get made, and was functioning as a makeshift automobile park as an alternative. The sounds of drilling and digging, mixing with the final murmur of the inevitable close by twin carriageway, carried over the nice and cozy air, following you in all places.

You positive know a World Cup is about to kick off in Qatar, although. From the second you arrive on the Qatar Airways check-in desks, to the pillows ready on the seat of your Qatar Airways flight with “Soccer is Ardour” printed on them, to the numerous adverts that includes a who’s who of soccer A-listers: Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Figo, Cafu, Neymar — Neymar is in all places!

The Hayya card already checked in England (depart loads of time, even when you’ve already checked in for the flight on-line), arrival at Hamad Worldwide Airport on Monday night was comparatively painless and queues of official Karwa taxis have been ready in a well-signposted space to take you onwards. A 25-minute taxi journey value slightly over a tenner. And there’s a Karwa app, which ought to take a few of the pressure off Uber.

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It’s as if Doha was deliberate on Sim Metropolis. All the pieces effectively thought-out and in neat straight strains. At evening, the town glistens and twinkles like a disco ball.

Step onto one of many driverless Metro trains and they’re so model new it’s as if they have been solely taken out of the bubblewrap that morning. On the stations, there are scores of helpers and officers in all places: safety, occasions assistants, Metro brokers, law enforcement officials in pairs frequenting carriages, the odd large foam hand pointing you to a prepare (is it actually a World Cup if there isn’t a large hand pointing someplace?).

Qatar Airways are playing their part (Photo: Sam Cunnigham)
Qatar Airways are enjoying their half (Photograph: Sam Cunnigham)

And the Metro system is extremely easy to make use of. It has free WiFi (as much as 90 minutes per day) and when utilizing it for a lot of Tuesday when you weren’t greeted by doorways sliding open whenever you arrive on the platform there was at most a wait of a minute or two.

Be warned, nonetheless, when you’re uncomfortable with having the official World Cup app, Hayya, in your cellphone. For any followers preferring to make use of a screenshot of the Hayya card, which entitles you to free journey in Doha, I used to be solely permitted to make use of free entry if I confirmed the app. For journalists, their media accreditation passes will do, however for followers it seems as if you obtain the app or pay.

Nonetheless, everybody was terribly welcoming and pleasant. Once I spilt espresso on the gleaming white data desk whereas I related to the WiFi and downloaded the Hayya app, a Metro agent hurried over with some tissues to wash up (not what you’d essentially count on when you spilt espresso on the Underground).

The agent was one of many hundreds of migrant employees which have made this World Cup doable. In his early 20s, he arrived from the Philippines two months in the past and stated he’ll stay right here afterwards in the identical job, however he does stay out of city.

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All the novelty — all of the white partitions and vibrant, surgical lighting — creates a barely sterile ambiance. And for all of the well mannered friendliness, it’s vital to recollect the therapy of the LGBT+ neighborhood within the nation has put many off travelling to comply with England. “We Fan Collectively” is among the slogans you see round — we fan collectively, until you occur to be homosexual.

Put together to get used to not counting on a few of the stuff you take with no consideration at dwelling. Discovering that I used to be unable to video name or use any sort of web name inside hours of arriving introduced dwelling how restrictive a authorities may be.

Web calls and video calls are blocked by the Qatari authorities so FaceTime, WhatsApp calling, Skype and so on are unusable, until you’ll find a workaround. Qatar is among the costliest nations on the planet to make use of knowledge roaming. The most affordable cell community to pay a payment to make use of your common contracted minutes and knowledge is Vodafone, one of many nation’s two major networks, however even that prices £6 for daily you utilize it. Not low-cost.

It’s well-documented that alcohol isn’t available, and one of many major sources would be the Fifa Fan Pageant at Al Bidda Park. There had been discuss of alcohol served nearly 24 hours per day there, however it will likely be offered from 6.30pm to 1am. So if followers who like a drink had hoped for all-day consuming periods — a standard function of earlier World Cups — whereas catching stay video games on the big-screen TVs, they need to decrease expectations.

Even throughout the previous week, Budweiser — who pay tens of thousands and thousands a yr for the privilege of being one in every of Fifa’s major sponsors — was ordered to maneuver the beer tents exterior the nation’s eight stadiums to much less seen places.

In the meantime, home guidelines in a few of the lodging embrace refraining from shouting, singing or making loud noises in public areas, whereas prohibited objects embrace — alongside swords! — audio system.

For good or dangerous, this can be a World Cup like no different, in some ways.

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