Qatar 2022: World Cup fans acclimatize to desert accommodation — in tents and portacabins

Doha, Qatar

As fans arrive in Qatar, they are understandably on holiday as they look forward to the prospect of a desert World Cup.

But where is the best place to stay in a country that is geographically on a peninsula smaller than Connecticut and is the smallest World Cup host in history?

The battle for accommodation is likely to heat up with Qatar welcoming around 1.5 million fans during the month-long tournament which starts on November 20.

Jimmy and Kennis Leung were among the first fans to arrive at the Fan Village Cabins Free Zone, one of the largest areas available to fans, checking in on Thursday.

“They built this in the desert,” Jimmy told CNN Sport as he scanned his accommodation, which impressed him.

“It’s too expensive to stay in a hotel or AirBnB in Doha so this was a great option.”

The Free Zone fan village is about a 20-minute metro ride from central Doha, but at the moment it’s a bit like stepping into a dystopian world.

There is precious little around the village – one or two construction sites and the main road – so the staff quickly direct you to reception, which is a 10-minute walk across the huge car park.

There are endless rows of porticoes, organized in different colors and mapped alphabetically, stretching into the distance, with large gazebos with hundreds of empty tables and chairs.

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Basketball courts, outdoor gyms and a large television screen are arranged around the complex where fans can play and relax.

When CNN visited on Friday, only a handful of fans were around, though many more are expected during the tournament.

A container living in the desert ... World Cup style.

Navigation also proved somewhat problematic – the Leungs admit to getting lost on the seemingly endless makeshift roads that connect the countryside. There are, however, electric scooters you can use to get around, and the staff will even take you to your door in a golf buggy.
The Leungs work in the media and traveled from Hong Kong to watch their favorite team, the Netherlands, at Qatar 2022.

“It’s very quiet at the moment, but there are food options and the rooms are nice, but a little small,” adds Kennis.

As fans like the Leungs struggle to find their feet in Qatar on Friday, they were greeted by news that world soccer’s governing body FIFA has made a U-turn and alcohol will not be sold in the eight stadiums that will host 64 matches.

For those fans on a budget who can’t afford what’s on offer in hotels, eight fan villages offer “casual camping and cabin” options.

However, some World Cup visitors were less than impressed with what was on offer.

“There are so many cabins and containers and there’s a big screen so we can all watch the games together, but the accommodation, well… What can I say?” China’s Fei Peng, who is here to watch more than 30 World Cup matches, told CNN Sport.

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“This is the best option we can afford. It is so expensive in Doha that we cannot expect more.”

One night in a Free Zone fan village cottage starts at $207 a night, according to the Official Qatar World Cup Accommodation Agency, but cheaper options can be found at Caravan City, at $114 a night.

And if you have your heart set on camping under the stars, a tent at Al Khor Village is available for $423 a night.

If you’re not on a budget, the self-described “eco farm” cabin will give you a more luxurious option for $1,023 a night, while staying on a cruise ship will cost you at least $179.

The cabin container comes with beds and air conditioning.

Many fans are expected to stay in Qatar’s neighboring countries, flying in and out of the Gulf state for the matches.

Qatar Airways announced in May that it had teamed up with regional carriers to launch an additional 160 daily return flights at “competitive prices” to transport fans from Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat and Riyadh.

There will be no baggage check-in facilities to expedite transfers and special shuttle services will be available to transport fans from the airport to the stadium.

It will also be able to drive from cities such as Riyadh, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all less than seven hours away.
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Those coming to Doha will have to contend with the heat.

The tournament was moved to the winter months due to high summer temperatures – the average high temperature in Doha in the second half of November is around 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), which is much better than in July, when the World Cup would normally be held to conclude, when average high temperature around 42 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).

Even in winter, heat loses energy if you come from a colder climate. Walk too far, too fast and you’ll soon find yourself drenched in sweat and in need of hydration.

Shade is paramount and tournament staff scattered around Doha are very quick to advise you to stay out of direct sunlight.

The heat decreases a little in the evening, although not by much, although the nights are humid and sticky.

Fortunately, Doha is fully air-conditioned in its stadiums, and the white-walled architecture will also help deflect some of the intensity of the heat.

There are only two days left until the first game, and the nation is finalizing its preparations as it prepares for a World Cup like no other.


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