Qatar 2022: World Cup fans are getting used to desert accommodation – in tents and caravans


Doha, Qatar
CNN

As fans flock to Qatar, they are understandably in vacation mode as they look forward to the prospect of a desert World Cup.

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

The scramble for accommodation is likely to intensify as Qatar is set to welcome an estimated 1.5million fans during the month-long tournament which begins on November 20.

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

“They built this in a desert,” Jimmy told CNN Sport as he scanned his abode, 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 20 minutes by subway from downtown Doha, but right now it’s a bit like stepping into a dystopian world.

There’s little else around the village — a building site or two and a main road — so staff quickly direct you to reception, which is a 10-minute walk across a large car park.

There are endless rows of caravans, arranged in different colors and charted in alphabetical order, stretching into the distance, with large pavilions containing hundreds of empty tables and chairs.

Basketball courts, outdoor gyms and a giant screen TV are scattered throughout the complex where fans can play and relax.

Only a handful of fans were out when CNN visited on Friday, although many more were expected as the tournament progressed.

Container living in the desert ... World Cup style.

Navigation also proves somewhat problematic – the Leungs admit to getting lost in the seemingly endless makeshift roads that connect the village. However, there are electric scooters to get you around, and the staff will even drive you to your door in a golf buggy.
Working in the media, the Leungs have traveled from Hong Kong to see their favorite team, the Netherlands, at Qatar 2022.

“It’s very quiet at the moment, but there are places to eat and the rooms are nice but a bit small,” adds Kennis.

As fans like the Leungs struggle to find a foothold in Qatar on Friday, they were greeted by the news that world football’s governing body FIFA has made a U-turn and that the eight stadiums hosting the 64th tournament will not be closed Alcohol is sold matches.

For supporters on a budget who can’t afford what hotels offer, eight Fan villages offer casual camping and cabin style options.

However, some World Cup visitors were less than impressed with the offer.

“There are so many cabins and containers and a big screen where we can all watch the games together, but the accommodations, well… What can I say?” Fei Peng from China who is here to support over 30 World Cup to watch games, CNN Sport said.

“It’s the best option we can afford. It’s so expensive in Doha so we can’t expect more.”

A night in the Free Zone’s Fan Village hut costs $207 per night, according to the Qatar World Cup official accommodation agency, but cheaper options can be found in Caravan City for $114 per night.

And if you like camping under the stars, a tent is available in Al Khor village for $423 per night.

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

The cabin container is equipped with beds and air conditioning.

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

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

There will be no baggage handling facilities to expedite transfers and dedicated transport services will be provided to take fans from the airport to the stadiums.

It will also be possible to drive from cities like Riyadh, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all less than seven hours away.
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Anyone coming to Doha will struggle with the heat.

The tournament has been moved to the winter months because of scorching summer temperatures – the average high temperature in Doha is around 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in the second half of November, which is much better than July when the World Cup would normally close when the average high temperature is about 42 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).

Even in winter, the heat is exhausting when you come from colder climes. If you go too far and too fast, you’ll quickly become drenched in sweat and need hydration.

Shade is king and tournament staff scattered throughout Doha are quick to advise you to stay out of direct sunlight.

The heat tends to subside a little, if not much, in the evenings, although nights are humid and stuffy.

Luckily, Doha has full air conditioning in the stadiums and the white wall architecture will also help deflect some of the heat intensity.

With just two days to go before the first game, the nation is putting the finishing touches to its preparations as it braces itself for a World Cup like no other.

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