In Doha’s popular Souq Waqif, flags of countries, footballers’ shirts, scarves and hats are distributed in shops whose owners hope to become a destination for hundreds of thousands of World Cup fans flocking to the desert emirate, awaiting recovery in its economic cycle and its tourism sector.
In the middle of an earthen basin in the market, two workers dressed in traditional white attire help two customers ride two camels as they tour the grounds. But interested customers can take a larger tour outside the narrow alleys of the souk, known as “the camel caravan”, in an area near the Emiri Diwan.
Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Nama, head of the market stables unit, expects “a large crowd in the coming period which will take place for the first time in Qatar,” adding that visitors “will be interested in riding camels and horses, what as inheritance in the land.”
“If God wills, we are ready,” he claims.
He adds, “I think many tourists will have a passion to see camels because they are not found in European countries and East Asian countries, and they will take pictures with them.”
After a massive fire destroyed large parts of it in 2003, Souq Waqif, which dates back over a hundred years and is one of the most famous heritage sites in Qatar, has been restored. It is said that vendors used to stand at its entrances to sell their goods, which explains the name.
During the World Cup, which starts on November 20 and will last for a month, Souq Waqif will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the pedestrian alleys, visitors walk between low buildings amid a series of arches decorated with windows and wooden beams.
The fans, “They will have a lot of fun, it will be a great experience, a mix of Arab culture and football,” said Yasmine Ghanem, 28, a player in the Qatari golf team, sitting in a market cafe , said.
“You will prosper”
On weekends, the market is packed with visitors of all ages, including children buying balloons from street vendors and families riding a small colorful train, while a group of people stand in front of a Turkish ice cream vendor watching his acrobatic performance.
The football wedding is expected to boost the tourism sector in the country, which expects an influx of more than one million visitors during the World Cup between November 20 and December 18.
“I am now studying a lot to be an ambassador for Qatar and to give information to visitors, to introduce them to the history and attractions of Qatar,” said Hani El-Kreedy, an Egyptian tour guide who was drinking tea . a cafe.
The market sells antiques, handicrafts, fabrics, carpets, furniture, ornaments, jewelery and musical instruments. Souvenir shops are especially prepared, with lanterns, figurines of colorful camels and plates carved into Doha’s skyscrapers.
At night, the sky of the market illuminates the minaret of the Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center (Al Fanar), which has a unique spiral design and can be seen from a distance. The scene is different in the morning when workers are cleaning the empty streets.
In the market for pigeons and birds, chirps and screams rise, while cages of different birds are displayed on a high table fenced with wooden barriers.
Men dominate the scene, mostly dressed in traditional attire, drinking coffee while chatting.
At 07:00 on Friday, an auction of birds begins, led by a bearded man in a white coat, who says: “A cocktail bath. Eight pills for how much? For 40 rial. For 50 rial. For 60?, eight beads for 65 riyals.”
“God willing, Doha will prosper with the arrival of foreigners and business will move,” said Mohammed bin Nasser (75 years old), a retired Qatari paramedic, who watched the auction as he did every week after dawn prayers.
Qatar, which has spent tens of billions of dollars to host the World Cup, expects revenue from the world event to reach $17 billion.
But the gas-rich emirate aims to attract six million tourists annually from 2030, according to Qatar’s 2030 tourism strategy.
Professor Camilla Swart-Ares, professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, says the World Cup “creates a solid foundation for the government in its strategy to attract more visitors by 2030.”
“Qatar can definitely take this opportunity to position itself as a family-friendly tourist destination,” adds the sports tourism expert.
A few weeks before the whistle, the flags of the qualified teams were raised in central Doha and large portraits of world-class players were plastered on the skyscrapers.
Compared to what is usually the atmosphere in other countries that have hosted the World Cup, the atmosphere may seem less enthusiastic in Qatar, as the emirate does not have a long history in football. But that doesn’t mean everyone is eagerly waiting for the whistle to go.
On the beach promenade, where the countdown clock has been installed, home-grown fans, the vast majority of them foreigners from Bangladesh, India, East Asia and Africa, flock to take pictures.
“Come on, Argentina,” said Anwar Sadath (56), an Indian in Qatar and a fan of the Argentine national team, in Spanish. And he adds in English: “I am a fan of Messi, I have a ticket to watch one match, which is the match between Argentina against Saudi Arabia.”
Paul Green, 57, an American who moved to Qatar months ago, says he prefers American football but “is really happy to at least watch a few games. I think it’s good to share it in another to look at the world.”