The salesperson at the Indian snacks outlet in central Doha longs for more customers, wondering when the ‘World Cup crowd’ will start thronging the eatery where he works. The extra sweets they made anticipating higher demand remain unsold on the cooled glass shelves.
But at this tea and snacks outlet at Souq Waqif, a cultural destination a little away from the waterfront, the Nepalese server is too busy to talk. He barks out orders to his barista colleague who replies trying to be heard above the din created by raucous Senegalese fans.
The African group’s bright green and yellow costumes glow even in the dimly lit souq. Adama, a tall Senegalese woman is arguing with a middle-aged Qatari man about the match between Qatar and Senegal, which led to the hosts exiting the World Cup.
As hundreds of fans in colourful costumes stream towards the Metro station in Doha, a smaller group gawks at the skyline. The daily fireworks show has begun and the Doha Corniche has come alive with blazing pyrotechnics in crimson, yellow and green lending a dazzle to the skyscraper-dotted skyline.
“That’s where my office is,” says Abdurrahman Khalil, pointing to a building in the distance. “It is called Tornado Tower after its design,” says the private sector employee, while his three children’s sights are fixed on the flares glistening above the Persian Gulf.
On the other side, chestnuts, rarely found in Qatar, are flying off the kiosk manned by an Arab man who nods disapprovingly when asked if he knows English. He is busy stuffing the baked nuts in paper cups, which comes for QAR 25 (Rs 525). A roasted corn cob, sold from another kiosk, will set you back by QAR 15 (Rs 315). Pricey World Cup, says a fan from Sri Lanka, not wanting to reveal his name.
International media reports say that pricey hotel and alcohol options in Doha have left fans with no other option than to take shuttle flights from UAE. Qatar has banned the sale of alcohol near stadiums. Alcoholic beverages are only available in fan zones and hotels in the country, which normally restricts the sale of liquor.
However, travel in the public transport on match days for those having Hayya Card is free. The card is mandatory for any fan entering Qatar or accessing World Cup stadiums.
“People generally prefer taking the metro during the day. We limousine drivers only get customers at unearthly hours when fans are too tired to walk to Metro stations,” says Ahtasum Haider, a driver from Bangladesh.