World Cup fans adapt to desert living — in tents and portacabins CNN


Doha, Qatar

As fans enter Qatar, they are understandably in holiday mode as they await the prospect of a desert World Cup.

But where better to be on a geographically smaller peninsula than in Connecticut and host the smallest World Cup in history?

The scramble for accommodation could heat up as Qatar prepares to welcome an estimated 1.5 million fans to the month-long tournament, which begins on November 20.

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

“They built it in a desert,” Jimmy told CNN Sport, as he scanned his living space, impressed by what he saw.

“Staying in a hotel or Airbnb in Doha is very expensive so this was a great option.”

The Free Zone Fan Village is about 20 minutes by metro from downtown Doha, but at the moment it’s like entering a bit of a dystopian world.

There’s nothing of value around the village – a building site or two and a main road – so staff quickly get you to reception, which is a 10-minute walk across a large car park.

There is an endless line of portakabins, organized in different colors and mapped in alphabetical order, stretching into the distance, with large gazebos lined with hundreds of empty tables and chairs.

Surrounding the complex are basketball courts, outdoor gyms and a giant television screen where fans can play and relax.

When CNN visited on Friday, only a few fans milled around, though many more were expected during the tournament.

Navigation is also proving somewhat problematic – the Leungs admit to getting lost on the seemingly endless makeshift roads connecting the village. Although, there are electric scooters to get around and the staff will even take you to your door in a golf buggy.
The Leungs work in 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 bit small,” adds Kennis.

As fans like the Leungs scrambled to find their feet in Qatar on Friday, they were greeted with news that soccer’s world governing body FIFA had made a U-turn and no alcohol would be sold in eight of the tournament’s 64 host stadiums. to match

For supporters who are on a budget and unable to afford what the hotel offers, eight Fan villages offer “casual camping and cabin-style” options.

But some World Cup viewers were less than impressed with what was on offer.

“There are a lot of cabins and containers and a big screen so we can all watch the games together but the accommodation, well … what can I say?” Fei Peng from China, who has been here to watch 30 World Cup games, told CNN Sport.

“This is the best option we can afford. It’s so expensive in Doha so we can’t expect much.

According to the official accommodation agency of the Qatar World Cup, cabins in the Free Zone Fan Village start at $207 a night, but Caravan City offers a cheaper option, at $114 per night.

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

If you’re not on a budget, a self-described “Eco Farm” hut offers a more luxurious option for $1,023 per night., A stay on a cruise ship will set you back at least $179.

Cabins contain beds and air conditioning.

Many supporters are expected to stay in neighboring Qatar, flying to the Gulf state for the match.

Qatar Airways announced in May that it had partnered with the regional carrier to launch 160 additional daily return flights at “competitive prices” that would shuttle fans from Dubai, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat and Riyadh.

There will be no baggage check-in facilities to speed up transfers and dedicated transport services will be made available to get fans from the airport to the stadiums.

It will also be possible 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 have to contend with the heat.

The tournament was moved to the winter months due to extreme summer temperatures – the average maximum temperature in Doha in the second half of November is around 28 °C (82 °F), much better than in July, when the World Cup would normally take place. In conclusion, while the average high temperature is about 42 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).

Even winter heat is sapping energy if you come from a cold climate. Walk too fast and you’ll soon find yourself drenched in sweat and in need of hydration.

Shade is king and tournament staff, spread around Doha, are quick to advise you to stay out of direct sunlight.

The heat subsides somewhat, though not much, in the evening, though the night is humid and sticky.

Fortunately, the interior of the Doha Stadium is fully air-conditioned and the white-walled architecture will also help reduce the intensity of the heat.

With just two days left for the first match, the nation is putting the finishing touches on its preparations as it prepares itself like no other World Cup.