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

Doha, Qatar

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

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

The battle for accommodation is likely to increase as Qatar is set to host an estimated 1.5 million 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 sites available to supporters, and check in on Thursday.

“They’ve built this in a desert,” Jimmy told CNN Sport, scanning his accommodation, which he was impressed with.

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

The Free Zone fan village is around 20 minutes by metro from central Doha, but at the moment it’s a bit like stepping into a dystopian world.

There’s precious little else around the village – one or two construction sites 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 lines of cabins, organized in different colors and mapped in alphabetical order, stretching into the distance, with large gazebos containing hundreds of empty tables and chairs.

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

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

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

Navigation also proves a bit problematic – the Leungs admit to getting lost in the seemingly endless makeshift roads that connect the village. However, there are electric scooters to get around and the staff will even drive you to your door in a golf buggy.
Leungene works in the media and has traveled from Hong Kong to watch his favorite team, the Netherlands, in 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 struggled to find their feet in Qatar on Friday, they were greeted by the news that soccer’s world governing body FIFA had carried out a U-turn and that alcohol will not be sold in the eight stadiums that will host the tournament’s 64 matches.

For those supporters who are on a budget and cannot afford what is offered from hotels, eight fan villages offer “casual camping and cabin style” options.

However, some WC visitors were less impressed by the offer.

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

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

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

And if your heart is set on camping under the stars, a tent in the village of Al Khor is available for $423 a night.

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

The cabin container is delivered 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 matches.

Qatar Airways announced in May that it had partnered with regional airlines to launch an additional 160 daily return flights at “competitive prices” that will transport 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 stadiums.

It will also be possible to drive from cities such as Riyadh, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all of which are 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 scorching summer temperatures – the average high 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 conclude, when the average high temperature is about 42 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).

Even in winter, the heat is energy-saving if you come from a colder area. Go too far, too fast, and you’ll soon find yourself drenched in sweat and in need of hydration.

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

The heat tends to drop a bit, but not much, in the evenings, although the nights are damp and sticky.

Fortunately, Doha is fully air-conditioned inside the stadiums, and the white wall architecture will also help to deflect some of the intensity of the heat.

With just two days to go until the first match, the nation is finalizing its preparations as it prepares for a World Cup like no other.


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