In the midst of Spring, it was already a stifling 35 degrees Celsius in Qatar as we travelled away from the bustling city of Doha and further towards a dusty horizon. When we reached our destination for the morning – an unsigned location on the side of the road – we were met with a herd of brightly dressed camels who carried us across the dunes before we continued our journey throughout the desert by 4WD. It was just our second day in the Middle East since arriving direct from Australia on Qatar Airways, and already I felt completely immersed in the culture. A cure for the cruel jet lag. Of course, the peninsula of Qatar is well-known for adrenaline-fulled activities – a popular stopover destination before travelling on – but it was the unexpected locations and the welcoming locals that make it an ideal location for football fanatics at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November. The first time a country in the Middle East has had the honour.
At the time of publishing 800,000 tickets have already been snapped up for the upcoming tournament (23.5 million tickets reportedly requested), with Qatar expecting upwards of one and-a-half million visitors at the sporting event. For COO Berthold Trenkel, he hopes that fans of the game will explore further than the eight football stadiums for a trip that will be recalled for years to come.
“We hope all visitors, including those coming for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, enjoy the warm welcome they will receive from Qatar’s friendly locals,” Trenkel told ICON. “We also want them to feel relaxed and looked after at our world class hotels, resorts and restaurants and to soak up our stunning beaches, rich culture and bustling atmosphere.”
He continued, “Qatar is constantly evolving, which has been demonstrated over the last couple years with new stadiums and new infrastructure designed to improve the tourism experience, including new hotels, theme parks, restaurants, shops and major leisure projects.”
HOW TO GET TO AND TRAVEL WITHIN QATAR
“Unlike previous FIFA World Cups, all the stadiums in Qatar are within easy reach of one another,” Trenkel advises. “The longest distance is 75 km by road while the shortest is just 5 km meaning fans will be able to attend more than one match a day during the group stage and stay in the same accommodation. The World Cup in Qatar will also mean no internal flights for fans once they arrive in country, which will help reduce fans’ carbon emissions and costs while also increasing convenience.”
Qatar Airways is known as one of the best airlines in the world and for a pleasant flying experience you need to look no further. We suggest splashing out for Business Class which nowadays features QSuites, which truly has a First Class feel to it.
Public transport never looked sleeker. The Doha Metro – a transit system which spans across three lines and 76km of track – was first opened in 2019 and will assist you getting to and from stadiums across the city with ease. You will need a travel card to ride the train, which can be obtained from any of the pristine underground stations. You can also top up your card and plan your trip, here.
When it comes to convenience (or sheer laziness if you’re us) Uber is popular and inexpensive within Qatar. Beware of the Doha’s peak-hour traffic however, which is often slow and congested.
WHERE TO STAY IN QATAR
To enter Qatar during the FIFA World Cup, you must have booked accommodation in advance. Our pick? The Banyan Tree in the heart of Doha. It is a mere 20 minute drive from Hamad International Airport and a short walk from the Doha Metro Line, connecting you to the city’s eight stadiums.
When you’re not watching a frenzied-fuelled football match, the five-star accommodation offers five restaurants and an immersive spa experience.
If you’re looking for an escape from city’s rat race, may we suggest the unsuspecting oasis of the Regency Sealine Camp. Situated on the edge of the Inland Sea, it is only accessible by 4WD and features beach-front accommodation, sheltered cabanas and desert activities. You’ll think you’ve arrived to the Maldives.
MUST VISIT LOCATIONS IN QATAR
While Qatar promises an unmatched shopping experience by way of modern shopping centres and Western boutiques, the Souq Waqif – the city’s central marketplace – is not to be missed. The Souq serves as a destination for both food and ingredients for locals as well as authentic souvenirs for visitors. For eagle-eyed tourists (pardon the pun), the market also boasts several outlets for falconry, a prized sport in the Middle East. If you visit around dinner time, you can watch the falcons being fed.
Khor Al Adaid
Listed as a World Heritage Site, the Khor Al Adaid – known in English as the ‘Inland Sea’ – is situated in the southeast of Qatar with the border of Saudi Arabia visible on the horizon. It is where the sand dunes meet the water of the Persian Gulf for unending turquoise coastline. During the cooler months (which is only a balmy mid-20 degrees Celsius) flamingos – which migrate from Europe and Siberia to Africa – can be spotted in the water.
If you’re more of a thrill-seeker than nature lover, may we suggest befriending camels for a ride through the desert or, dune bashing for a change of pace.
Katara Cultural Village
A resounding consensus from 20 or so journalists that embarked on this trip was that Katara Cultural Village was a stand-out experience and must visit for any tourist. Overlooking the Pearl and West Bay of the city, Katara is a sweeping amphitheatre of Greek and Islamic architectural influences which houses a roster of workshops, performances and exhibitions across music, literature and art. The area also boasts glittering mosques and art installations. Visit Katara at sunset to really appreciate the sweeping waterfront views.
3-2-1 Olympic Museum
The 3-2-1 Olympic Museum sits across from the towering Khalifa International Stadium in the city’s west and was just opened to the public in March. It boasts seven gallery spaces and comprises of authentic memorabilia from sporting heroes and Olympic events from around globe.
WHAT TO EAT IN QATAR
Behind a dusty sign and an unassuming shop front, Turkey Central is a cult foodie treasure for locals. With outposts across Doha, they’re often very busy and will rival even your best local kebab joint at home with affordable and authentic Turkish food. Post-match meal: sorted.
Damasca One Restaurant
Located in the crowded streets of Souq Waqif, Damasca One Restaurant offers an approachable take on traditional Syrian food. If you eat at dinner, you will also be treated to live music.
On the rooftop of the National Museum overlooking a glittering Doha is Jiwan, a Middle Eastern take on fine dining. If you’re looking for a true Qatari food experience, the refined menu shines a light on traditional Qatari flavours from local produce including Saffron infused beverages and camel. An adventurous yet luxurious offering.
LOOK OUT FOR…
This one is for sporting fanatics and architectural buffs alike. When you book tickets for the FIFA World Cup, be sure to watch a match from Stadium 974 which overlooks the waterfront of West Bay. Not only is 974 the dialling code for Qatar, but it is the exact number of shipping containers used to construct the 40,000-seat stadium. It will be the first fully demountable tournament venue in FIFA World Cup history with a number of plastic seats slated to be donated for use in Third World countries.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT QATAR
When travelling between November 1 2022 and January 23 2023, you will need to be in possession of an approved Hayya Card to gain entry into Qatar. You will need a match ticket obtained through official providers in order to apply and have already arranged accommodation.
Everything you need to know can be found, here.
There is no mandated dress code for visitors of Qatar however it is recommended (and as a respect to the culture) that both men and women dress conservatively, covering their knees and shoulders. This is especially important when visiting government buildings, national museums and throughout the Souq Waqif.
Tile credit: Michael Regan – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images