By Diego Maloney
Top 3 places to visit in Doha
Qatar has worked diligently to provide several different options when it comes to entertaining the football masses during the FIFA World Cup with its Fan Festivals. The largest of these is set to take place in Al Bidda Park in the Rumaila area of central Doha.
The festival will be open to fans daily from 10:00-02:00 local time during the group stage, 15:00-02:00 during the knockout stages and 17:00-02:00 on rest days with alcohol available for sale daily from 18:30-01:00. (The sale of alcohol is otherwise banned at all venues.) The festival can easily be reached from Doha Metro’s Al Bidda and West Bay stations on the Red Line and White Palace on the Green Line.
Other notable Fan Festivals include one at Lusail Marina Promenade, which will open daily from 12:00-01:00 and include attractions such as a drive-in cinema and ice rink. The other notable festival will take place on Qetaifan Island North and will have the longest operating hours, daily from 10:00-04:00.
It will also transform into a concert venue every night during the tournament. Several smaller watch party events will be hosted at hotels and restaurants across Qatar for the duration of the tournament and information on these can be found on local media sites such as Time Out Doha.
The city centre’s shopping and cultural hub, Al Souq is home to the world-famous Souq Waqif market that combines long-held goods like rugs and falconry with newer services like high-end jewellers. Several cafes and coffee shops can be found throughout the narrow streets of Al Souq in addition to Souqe Al Dira mall that hosts a number of Arabic-style fashion stores and boutique shops.
Al Souq also lays claim to several of the city’s top cultural attractions. Most notable of these is the Museum of Islamic Art which has recently reopened following renovations in preparation for the FIFA World Cup. The museum hosts a collection of galleries that cover the progression of Islamic art across the region as well as pieces that focus on the importance of the Qur’an and science and technology during the rule of several caliphates.
Other important attractions include the Pearl Monument that overlooks Doha Bay and the Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center which offers language courses, educational trips and various lectures from leading academics.
The upscale West Bay district is home to a number of international hotel chains and national embassies and will host a wide array of public and private events during the FIFA World Cup. The district is also home to the Doha Corniche, an ornate, seven-kilometre promenade that lines the shores of Doha Bay. The area will transform into a street carnival during the tournament complete with several art exhibitions, food and beverage stands, live entertainment and more.
Travel risk tips
With the many options available when it comes to enjoying what Qatar has to offer, it is important to be aware of the potential risks travellers may face in the small Gulf nation.
Schools will close and most public offices will operate remotely during the tournament to ease traffic congestion. Heavy traffic delays are possible during rush hour and around match times. Vehicle flow in Doha is heavily reliant on traffic tunnels, which in October 2018 experienced severe flash flooding due to torrential rainfall.
Despite low levels of crime by regional standards, visitors to Doha during the FIFA World Cup should exercise general safety precautions while in-country. Petty theft such as pickpocketing and bag snatching may occur and heightened security awareness is advised at transport hubs, tourist hotspots, all crowded areas and on all forms of public transport.
Fraud can not be ruled out either and visitors should only use credit cards when an electronic transaction is possible and when the transaction can be completed directly in front of them. When exchanging currency or drawing cash at ATMs, opt for banks with indoor space rather than those on the street.
Travellers are advised to avoid outlying and low-income neighbourhoods such as the Industrial Area and Labour City, whose predominantly migrant populations are heavily policed and segregated from the rest of the capital.
With regards to the security presence in Qatar during the FIFA World Cup, police are generally reliable, cooperative and courteous. Owing to a high level of professionalism, visitors are unlikely to come across corrupt gestures, such as the solicitation of bribes from police. However, public drunkenness and displays of affection or expression will attract attention from officials who may detain individuals suspected of violating local laws.
This is particularly important for LGBTQ+ and female travellers to Qatar who are afforded fewer rights than other types of travellers. All visitors should be aware of the potential for harsh penalties for behaviours regarded as benign in their home countries, including kissing or hand holding.
Diego Maloney is a US-based political and security risk analyst.