AP

Remote desert camps house World Cup fans on a budget

Nov 23, 2022, 12:07 PM | Updated: 12:53 pm

Canadian Modar Safar of Gilbert, Ontario ties closed his tent at a site in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesda...

Canadian Modar Safar of Gilbert, Ontario ties closed his tent at a site in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. For scores of foreign soccer fans, the road to the World Cup in Doha starts every morning at a barren campsite in the middle of the desert. Visitors who found hotels in central Doha booked up or far beyond their budget have settled for the faraway, dust-blown tent village in Al Khor, where there are no locks on tents nor beers on draft. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

(AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — For scores of foreign soccer fans, the road to the World Cup in Doha starts every morning at a barren campsite in the middle of the desert.

Visitors who found hotels in central Doha booked up or far beyond their budget have settled for the faraway, dust-blown tent village in Al Khor, where there are no locks on tents nor beers on draft.

Others simply wanted an adventure. On Wednesday a DJ blasted electronic dance music around a fire pit as a smattering of fans lounged on beanbags, sipped sodas and gazed up at big screens roughly an hour from Doha.

“I’m here because I couldn’t find anywhere else,” said Haidar Haji, a 27-year-old architectural engineer from Kuwait. He said it was a pain to trek into Doha every morning from the tent village, but he had no other option. “The hotels were just too expensive. It was crazy.”

Even so, Al Khor fan village is not cheap. Haji said he’s paying $450 a night for his sparse makeshift shelter, which authorities advertise as a “perfect destination for a truly enjoyable and lavish stay.” The tents are equipped with plumbing and basic furniture. The site has a swimming pool and upscale Arabic restaurant.

From the moment that Qatar was named host of the World Cup, fears mounted over how the tiny country would find rooms for the massive influx of 1.2 million fans — equal to almost one-third of the population.

Qatar’s frenzied building program delivered tens of thousands of rooms through new hotels, rented apartments and even three giant cruise ships. But soaring prices have forced many thrifty fans into remote desert campsites and giant fan villages in Doha’s outer reaches, including one near the airport consisting of corrugated box rooms.

At Al Khor Village, many fans complained about the isolation, and lack of alcohol.

“Honestly, you can find more alcohol in Tehran,” said Parisa, a 42-year-old Iranian oil worker who declined to give her last name, citing the political situation in Iran. She was gazing into space in the campsite common area, and said she had little idea how to fill her time. Doha’s swanky hotel bars were miles away. “We thought they would open up more for the foreigners to have fun.”

Paola Bernal from Tabasco, southern Mexico, wasn’t sure what to expect from the first World Cup in the Middle East. But she said she’s been surprised by how long it takes to traverse the world’s tiniest host country. The buses from the campsite are a “mess,” she said, and stop running at 10 p.m., forcing fans to fork out large sums for Uber rides.

“There are such long distances, I don’t know how,” she said. Although some stadiums are linked to Doha’s gleaming new metro network, they often require a 2.5 kilometer (1.5 mile) walk from the stations. Other grounds can only be reached by bus, with some drop-off points a trek from stadium gates — and desirable bars and restaurants even further afield.

Al Khor’s arid grounds are no selfie-taker’s paradise. But Nathan Thomas, a site designer, said he was very pleased with the “authentic Arabian” result. The only major worry, he said, is security. Not every tent is in eyeshot of a guard post. Tents have no locks. Their flaps easily untie.

“We keep telling people it’s a safe country, don’t worry,” he said.

From the Free Zone Fan Village, in the desert south of Doha, fans were lugging suitcases across large swaths of artificial turf under the glare of stadium lights. The manufactured cabins are some of the cheapest available accommodation, starting at roughly $200 a night. Every few minutes, low-flying planes roar over the village to the old airport, which has been reopened to handle daily shuttle flights to the tournament. Banners plastered on the trailers urge fans to “Cheer up.”

Just days before the tournament, social media filled with images of toilets that had yet to be installed and wires still coiled on the dirt to hook up water and electricity.

Many complained of excessively long waits to check in. A crowd of guests waiting in line Wednesday night said they couldn’t get their rooms because the reception desk wasn’t sure who had already checked out. “We wanted good vibes, good energy, to be with other people,” said Mouman Alani from Morocco. “This is very disorganized.”

One camper on Twitter lambasted the site as “Fyre Festival 2.0,” referring to an infamous music festival billed as a luxury getaway that left fans scrambling for makeshift shelters on a dark beach.

“When we went to our room, it was all messed up,” said Aman Mohammed, a 23-year-old from Kolkata, India, at the common area on Wednesday. He said he waited two hours under the searing sun for a cleaner to arrive the day before. “It was stinking so bad, like a bad bathroom. It was pathetic.”

But, he insisted, there was no false advertising. The website shows scores of colorful metal boxes side by side in a vast dusty lot. And despite his disappointment, he said, the World Cup was ultimately about the soccer.

“(Cristiano) Ronaldo is playing his last World Cup, I’m here just to see him,” Mohammed said, referring to the superstar competing for Portugal in the tournament. “To attend this is a dream for me since I was a child.”

___

Associated Press reporter Jon Gambrell in Doha contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

2 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

2 days ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

3 days ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

3 days ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

5 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Remote desert camps house World Cup fans on a budget